UFC 201 features a welterweight title tilt between Tyron Woodley and champion Robbie Lawler. Here we break it down and determine which fighter will cash in our UFC picks.
People will point to Woodley's four knockouts over his last five victories as proof that he has evolved as a devastating striker. But look behind those numbers and you will find that two of those KO's came against a fading star in Josh Koscheck and a fighter named Jay Hieron who had a two-fight stint in the UFC (both losses) with the second of those two coming against Woodley who put him out to pasture for good. His third was a TKO of Carlos Condit who twisted his knee and was forced to retire. Not exactly a bona fide knockout. The last was a legitimate KO of Dong Hyun Kim in the opening round of their match in August of 2014. One impressive knockout in 15 victories does not a striker make.
On the other hand Robbie Lawler has 20 KO's to his credit and the man is pure raging adrenaline that courses directly into a pair of devastating sledgehammers. The champion is a true, blue knockout artist and to compare the two in this category is not nearly as close as many believe.
Woodley has evolved since beginning his MMA career and is no longer reliant on his stellar wrestling which made him an All-American at Missouri and team captain. Inside the cage Woodley has demonstrated an uncanny ability to stay on his feet as evidenced by his 91 percent success rate at defending the takedown. The former D-1 wrestler also has 1.92 takedowns per fight which is more than double Lawler's 0.82 per match.
However, if you are basing your UFC picks strictly on this category then I would caution against it. Woodley is far more comfortable striking and the prospect of him shooting for a takedown against the two-inch taller Lawler, with the two-inch reach advantage, could prove costly. Lawler is apt to make him pay dearly and the champion's takedown defense is better than average at 67 percent.
Lawler has not been submitted in over five years yet half of his 10 losses have come via the tap. The welterweight king has scored only one of his 27 victories by submission and that happened way back in 2005. Submissions play virtually no role in Lawler's game and the same could be said, to a lesser degree, for Tyron Woodley.
Though Woodley is an outstanding grappler, and racked up all five of his subs in his first five fights, he has not employed it recently. Woodley is more comfortable standing-and-trading rather than going for a ground finish. This won't play a role in the fight but if, by some series of events, the fight hits the canvas then look for Woodley to have the edge.
The champion is ferocious but takes a while to get his motor running. Conversely, Woodley is a fast starter and the early action could favor the challenger. But Lawler is tenacious and keeps coming even when there is little to no gas left in the tank. Woodley has never faced an opponent with the same resolute determination as Lawler and the champion also takes a punch like few others in the sport.
The time will come when all that abuse will catch up to Lawler and at 34-years-old I don't see his reign lasting very long. He has miles and miles of wear on his tread which will ultimately catch up with him. But Woodley is not that opponent because he doesn't compare to the opponents that Lawler has met inside the Octagon. This category belongs to the champ.
The ground game is where Woodley holds an advantage but his tactics are no longer focused around that domain. This should be a striking affair unless Woodley's camp has redesigned his approach after 18 months on the shelf. And speaking of which, taking on an opponent of Robbie Lawler's caliber after a long sabbatical might not be the best idea if a victory is your goal.
The UFC odds makers have installed Lawler as better than a -200 favorite but we did find one offshore shop that is dealing the champ at -195. Pinnacle is where I suggest you do your shopping and put your money on Robbie Lawler to retain his title.
UFC Pick: Robbie Lawler -195
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle
UFC Record: 2-0