For today’s look back into MMA history we are focusing on one of the sports biggest fan favourites; ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler. It was on this day, 13 years ago, that the former Miletich product lived up to his nickname and took out a former UFC title challenger.
March 31, 2007: Robbie Lawler knocks out Frank Trigg
At 25-years-old Robbie Lawler had already been in and out of the UFC. After four wins on the regional circuit he debuted at UFC 37 in 2002. He beat Aaron Riley in that debut and then got wins over Steve Berger and Tiki Ghosn. After that came his first loss ever, to Pete Spratt (due to a hip injury) at UFC 42. He rebounded to beat Chris Lytle, but back-to-back losses to Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner saw him cut from the UFC in 2004.
It would be nine years before Lawler would return to the UFC, where he would eventually win the UFC welterweight title. Before getting back to the Octagon, though, Lawler toiled at smaller shows.
One promotion Lawler found success in was ICON Sport. In his first appearance for that outfit he KO’d Falaniko Vitale. Then he beat Eduardo Pamplona by TKO. Those wins set him up for a middleweight title fight. His opponent was someone else who had been through the UFC ringer: Frank Trigg.
Trigg was cut from the UFC in 2005 after back-to-back submission losses to Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes. The loss to Hughes came in a UFC welterweight title fight.
Lawler vs. Trigg went down at ICON Sport: Epic at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. The championship fight was a grueling affair that lasted until 1:40 of the fourth round. That’s when Lawler was able to summon up his legendary power reserves to launch an assault that put Trigg out on his feet.
You can watch the final 40 seconds of the bout below, via RawMMA/Youtube:
After this victory Lawler won the EliteXC middleweight title versus Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua (brother to ‘Shogun’ Rua). Lawler then successfully defended the title against Scott Smith before signing with Strikeforce in 2009.
Lawler had mixed results in Strikeforce, where he lost a middleweight title fight to Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza. He was with the company when it was purchased by ZUFFA, paving the way for his return to the UFC. After three fights at welterweight Lawler got himself into the UFC title picture. He finally claimed that belt at UFC 181 in 2014 after beating Johny Hendricks by split decision. After defending the belt two times he dropped the strap to Tyron Woodley in 2016. Since then Lawler has gone 1-3. His last fight was a decision loss to Colby Covington last summer.
After his loss to Lawler Trigg went on a four fight win streak. That resulted in him being resigned by the UFC in 2009. With ZUFFA he lost to Josh Koschek and Matt Sera before being released. Trigg’s last fight was against Jim Wallhead in BAMMA back in 2011. Today he can be seen refereeing MMA bouts in California.
March 31, 2019: Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez debut for ONE Championships
Despite breaking the record for most consecutive title defenses in the UFC, Demetrious Johnson never seemed to garner the same kind of respect as other — larger — fighters on the roster, both from fans and from the organization itself.
When Johnson lost his UFC flyweight title to Henry Cejudo in 2018, a belt he’d held since the division was created in 2012, it didn’t take long for him to be shuffled out of the promotion. In a rare occurrence for MMA Johnson was ‘traded’ to ONE Championships for their dominant welterweight Ben Askren.
Johnson joined ONE Championships after another former UFC champion arrived. Eddie Alvarez, a former longtime Bellator lightweight champion, lifted the UFC’s 155 lb after beating Rafael dos Anjos in 2016. He then dropped the title to Conor McGregor at UFC 205. After that loss he drew and then lost to Dustin Poirier and beat Justin Gaethje. He signed with ONE after his UFC contract expired.
Both Johnson and Alvarez made their ONE debuts on the same night, at ONE Championships: A New Era, held in Tokyo’s iconic Ryōgoku Sumo Hall.
Johnson’s first fight was against Yuya Wakamatsu in the promotion’s Flyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal. Alvarez’s debut was against Timofey Nastyukhin in the Lightweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal.
The former UFC champs couldn’t have gotten off to more different starts in their new home. Johnson was dominant, winning via submission. Alvarez, though, was upset by Nastyukhin, losing via TKO.
You can see those finishes below, via ONE’s official YouTube channel:
March 31, 2017: King Mo beats Rampage Jackson at Bellator 175
Two of Bellator’s bigger personalities first did battle at Bellator 120 in 2014 in the Bellator Season 10 Light Heavyweight tournament. Quinton Jackson won that fight via unanimous decision.
Jackson then beat Fabio Maldonando in the UFC before returning straight back to Bellator to beat Satoshi Ishii.
Muhammad Lawal was far more active after his loss to Jackson. He went 8-2 in Bellator/Rizin between Rampage fighters, losing only to Mirko Cro Cop and Phil Davis.
The rematch headlined Bellator 175 in Rosemont, Illinois’ Allstate Arena. You can watch the highlights of their fight below, via MMA Fighting’s YouTube channel.