When Georges St-Pierre decided to hang up his gloves in late 2013, a huge void was left in the welterweight division, for the first time in seven years a new champion was to be crowned. At UFC 171, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler were the chosen men to do battle for the belt. The fight went the distance and Hendricks won by decision, a result that many disagreed with, so much so that an immediate rematch was set to take place but due to an injury to Hendricks, it was postponed until UFC 181. Instead of waiting around, Robbie Lawler did what Robbie Lawler does best; brawl, defeating both Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown within two months of one other. By the time the rematch came about, Lawler was in the form of his life and continued it that night as he won by split decision, to become the new welterweight champion. Since then he has twice successfully defended his belt, in a Fight of the Year bout with Rory MacDonald and most recently at UFC 195 against Carlos Condit, his latest challenger comes in the form of ‘American Top Team’ teammate Tyron Woodley. Training partners prior to this bout, Woodley will need no extra motivation in his attempt to take home the gold and defeat his friend. This exciting main event is the climax to an already jam packed card that includes Rose Namajunes taking on undefeated Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the women’s Strawweight division, UFC veterans Matt Brown and Jake Ellenberger collide, new kid on the block Justin Scoggins battles flyweight mainstay Ian McCall and Ross Pearson competes in his second fight in only three weeks, as he tests himself against Jorge Masvidal. UFC 201 promises to be the pinnacle of your weekend with a stellar line up that culminates with, if history is anything to go by in regards Robbie Lawler, an out and out slugfest of a title fight.
As always, I will now break down all the main card fights, give my predictions and of course put my own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
ROBBIE LAWLER vs. TYRON WOODLEY
Why hasn’t someone gaven Robbie the nickname “The brawler” Lawler yet? (I copyright that!) Of course “Ruthless” still does him justice, Lawler has become known for getting into exciting punch ups, it doesn’t seem to faze him to take a punch, if it means he gets to throw at least one back. From his 27 wins, 20 have been by knockout. Lawler possess some of the most vicious hands in the UFC and even his jab is fired with venom. Since the champ made his return to the UFC three years ago, he has been on a tear that has seen him go 8-1, that one loss coming against Hendricks. A new, mature, better-rounded Robbie Lawler entered the Octagon three years ago and the welterweight division hasn’t looked the same since. He has taken out a who’s who of fighters on his rise to the top and this next challenge may be his biggest hurdle yet. Many fans couldn’t understand why Woodley was deemed next in line for the belt, considering he sits number three in the rankings and didn’t overly impress in his last outing, valid questions that only matchmaker Joe Silva can answer but nonetheless Woodley is an extremely dangerous opponent to be facing. “The Chosen One” is a powerful striker and elite wrestler; he has trained for many years alongside the champion so will know his game well. Woodley, more than anyone, should know a hurt Robbie Lawler is a dangerous Robbie Lawler, therefore if he is to succeed in taking the belt he cannot get involved in a stand up brawl, his best plan of action will be to mix up his strikes with takedowns and outpoint the champ to claim the victory. But Lawler’s takedown defence can’t be taken lightly; he has significantly improved his wrestling and his ground game since his return and will be wary of Woodley diving for his legs. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Robbie was to catch Woodley as he attempted a takedown and knocked him out but I expect this fight to go the distance (with a few worrying moments for Lawler) I predict he will weather the storm and remain the champion.
Lawler by decision.
ROSE NAMAJUNES vs. KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ
Two of the Strawweight’s best prospects go toe to toe in what should be an exciting co-main event showdown. Rose “Thug” Namajunes has turned her UFC career around with three straight victories, each as impressive as the last, including a stunning submission victory over Paige Van Zant. At only 24 years of age, Namajunes still has room to grow but looks to be getting better with each fight, she is consistent on her feet and dangerous on the mat and she constantly pushes the pace. But she will have her work cut out for her against Poland’s own Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who is a dangerous Muay Thai fighter. Kowalkiewicz is yet to taste defeat in her 9 professional fights to date and is a tough, gritty fighter for anyone in the Strawweight division to face. She has defeated both Randa Markos and Heather Jo Clark in her last two contests inside the Octagon and although not looking overly exciting in doing so, she has still won unanimously on the scorecards both times. This bout will be all about will and heart, whoever does the most work wins. It should be non-stop action for the 15 minutes, with both women putting everything on the line. For me, I think “Thug” has really started to come into her own of late and I think she will continue her rise up the rankings with a decision win over Kowalkiewicz.
Namajunes by decision.
MATT BROWN vs. JAKE ELLENBERGER
This is a battle of the UFC vets, both men have fought a combined total of 37 times for the UFC, both have been mainstays in the welterweight division and both are currently on bad runs. Matt “The Immortal” Brown has won once in his last four fights while Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger has also only won once in his previous six fights. Both will be eager to stop the rot and return to winning ways and prove that they deserve to continue fighting for the promotion. With neither taking any form into this fight, the only way to choose a potential winner is by looking at what weapons they have at their disposal and what they have achieved in their careers so far. My feeling towards this one is it will be a tense battle with neither man wanting to make a mistake, a fight that will suit Brown more. “The Immortal” has a slight reach advantage and will use it to control Ellenberger, Brown also holds a stronger skill set on the mat and will demonstrate it when the opportunity presents itself. Both men have knockout power but this will be a grittier affair that should go to the scorecards. Any man that holds a victory over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson gets the nod from me and should get it from the judges too.
Brown by decision.
FRANCISCO RIVERA vs. ERIK PEREZ
Rivera comes into this contest on the back of two losses; furthermore he has only won once in his previous five, not exactly stellar results. Regardless of his form Rivera has to be always taken seriously as he has knockout power in his hands and one slip can cause an early night. Known for his wild fighting style, Rivera will try to chase Perez down and back him up, as he looks for that one punch knockout victory. Perez is a man who has never been knocked out in his 21 fight career, but he will need to be on his guard to defend against Rivera’s onslaught. At 8 years his junior, Perez has youth on his side and although he is facing an experienced fighter, he should have enough fight knowledge about him to know how to control this fight. Rivera does his best work on his feet so I expect Perez to exploit that and take him down. From that position Perez should begin to work for an opening to lock in a submission and go on to add an eighth submission victory to his record.
Perez by submission.
IAN McCALL vs. JUSTIN SCOGGINS
After going 9-0 early in his career, Scoggins lost twice on the bounce before turning it around and winning his last two contests in dominating fashion. At only 24 years of age “Tank” is on the rise in the flyweight division and knows a win over Ian McCall will enhance his potential further, but that is a challenge that is easier said than done. McCall is returning after a year and a half absence and has said he is more motivated than ever, “Uncle Creepy” is one of the finest fighters in the flyweight division and his only losses in the Octagon have come against the elite fighters on the roster. McCall has never been knocked out and has an amazing gas tank that helps him to continue with a high tempo throughout the fight. Even with all the progress Scoggins has made so far I think this is too big of a step up too soon; McCall is a different beast than he has faced so far. “Uncle Creepy” teaches the new kid on the block a lesson for 15 minutes.
McCall by decision.
Best of the Rest.
Ed Herman vs. Nikita Krylov
Krylov to win.
Ross Pearson vs. Jorge Masvidal
Pearson to win.
Anthony Hamilton vs. Damian Grabowski
Hamilton to win.
Wilson Reis vs. Hector Sandoval
Reis to win.
Michael Graves vs. Bojan Velickovic
Graves to win.
Ryan Benoit vs. Fredy Serrano
Serrano to win.
Cesar Arzamendia vs. Damien Brown
Brown to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 12 predictions in an accumulator is about 679/1
The conservative bet: Ian McCall at 15/8 is a great bet alone but also add in Ross Pearson and it’s a 7/1 double.
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