If you’re a mixed martial arts fan and you’re not excited about the UFC 181 main event, then you need to be seriously questioning your love for the sport. The UFC welterweight title is on the line in Las Vegas – the fight capital of the world – and two of the division’s most exciting combatants will be going head-to-head.
(UFC.com promotional material)
The first time Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler met for the vacant title back in March, we were treated to a Fight of the Night battle that went right down to the wire. Neither man took a backward step, and the fight was literally won in the dying seconds with a late Johny Hendricks takedown appearing to seal the deal. You can watch the first fight again below to relive all the action, and it’ll help you to remember just how razor-thin that battle was.
Hendricks vs. Lawler I Fight (embed code)
Robbie Lawler’s impressive run was halted and he didn’t get the belt that so many old school fans were hoping for, but he has since put together back-to-back victories over Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown to get another shot.
Conversely, a torn bicep has kept the champion out of action since that bout and he will be feeling the effects of his inactivity. However, the Oklahoma State University wrestling champion can never be underestimated, and if Robbie Lawler comes in thinking that “Big Rigg” might be a touch off the pace, then he will get hit, and hit hard.
Both fighters have shown their chins are up to the task, their power is a real threat, and they’re well-rounded enough to compete anywhere. Now that they have had the chance spend twenty-five minutes locked in a cage together, they’ll also feel like they know the subtleties that the other brings, something that is hard to gauge unless you’ve felt it. Hendricks comes in as favourite on the betting lines this time, but I wouldn’t be confident enough to back it.
Lawler winning the title would be an amazing story. The former Miletich man has been around almost since the dawn of MMA it seems. He was resigned to the second tier, and was losing fights. Though he’s always been exciting, he hadn’t always converted that to success. When he re-signed to the UFC following the Strikeforce acquisition, he has put on career best performances on a regular basis. He says his belief played a big part in that, and he’ll believe he can do the business in Vegas.
Hendricks wants to be known as one of the all time greats though, and he won’t relinquish that belt easily. He came up short to Georges St-Pierre by an achingly close margin, but if he can keep a dominant grip on the 170lbs division then there’s the chance to surpass the Canadian as the best ever.
Regardless of who wins and loses, every fan knows that it’s going to be a fight worth tuning in to. The fighters won’t just want to entertain though, they’ll want to be the one that leaves the Mandalay Bay with 20lbs of gold strapped around their waist, and the title of world champion.