The first of two title fights at UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor was between welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and challenger Rory MacDonald. These two men fought to a split decision in a non-title bout less than 2 years ago, with Lawler coming out victorious. Since then, Lawler has captured the belt, while MacDonald has won his last two. Would the outcome between these two be any different in a five-round championship bout?
Lawler opened things up with a stiff left hand from his southpaw stance. MacDonald responded with a body kick. Both men started things out patiently. Rory landed more punches but not necessarily the harder shots. His one takedown attempt was stuffed. Lawler connected with a few power shots while MacDonald had success with the body kicks. Tight opening round if not intriguing from a tactical sense.
It was a much better 2nd round for the champion, who busted Rory's face up in the 2nd half. He started blocking the kicks and getting into a striking rhythm, and soon enough he had MacDonald bloodied around the nose after getting struck multiple times over with combinations.
Round 3 was mostly Lawler's through his better striking and takedown defense ... but MacDonald partially landed a head kick, and it was enough to send Lawler backwards and go into survival mode. Flying knee, elbows, several punches, and Lawler was in big trouble. But he saw out the round even on wobbly legs.
MacDonald wasted no time going into attack mode and tried to finish Lawler in the 1st minute of the 4th round. He threw a slew of head kicks and body kicks and elbows and punches but Lawler wouldn't go away. John McCarthy even checked to see if Lawler was at risk of a standing stoppage. Lawler recovered and then the two began trading shots evenly again. MacDonald had another takedown stuffed. MacDonald's nose continued to bleed. Lawler continued to soldier on. An astonishing fight.
Lawler found a home for his big left hand to hit MacDonald's busted up nose. And Rory fell backwards to the floor, ate a few punches, and that was all she wrote. Instant classic.
Nothing more needs to be said after an unforgettable showing like that one.
Continue following live coverage here: UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor live results and play-by-play for PPV main card