UFC 181: One Champ Loses, Another Defends Crown

 

Robbie Lawler won the welterweight title from Johnny Hendricks via split decision largely due to this "Ruthless" late rally.

Robbie Lawler won the welterweight title from Johnny Hendricks via split decision largely due to this “Ruthless” late rally.

 

Robbie Lawler def. Johnny Hendricks, Split Decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46) rd 5, 5:00 – “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler gained a measure of revenge after his razor-thin unanimous decision loss for the vacant welterweight title to Johnny “Big Rig” Hendricks back in March, after earning an even more controversial split decision victory to capture the belt.  Two judges had it three rounds to two for each of the respective fighters, while the third judge, whose mind must have been elsewhere, inexplicably scored the bout four rounds to one in favor of Lawler.

It appeared judges wouldn’t be necessary as Lawler (25-10) sprang out of his corner with fight-ending urgency.  After refusing to touch gloves to begin the bout, Lawler charged across the octagon and started pelting Hendricks (16-3) with shots.  He quickly wrestled the champ into a clinch and unleashed a series of ferocious knees to the body.  Hendricks initially seemed unsure and confused, but relied on his outstanding wrestling base to control the second half of the round.

Over the next two rounds, Hendricks got into his rhythm and began peppering Lawler with a series of stinging combinations.  Over and over again, Hendricks would throw a combination to the head and finish with a thudding leg kick.  Hendricks displayed the best leg kick attack of his career thus far, and tried to capitalize on the punishment to Lawler’s lead leg by going for multiple takedowns, the majority of which Lawler was still able to stuff.  Still, heading into the championship rounds, Lawler needed to do something drastic to get back into the fight.

In the fourth, Lawler finally found his range and began to press the attack.  Hendricks repeatedly drove Lawler to the fence but did little once there to further the position, as Lawler responded with punishing elbows.  The fifth was Lawler’s best of the night as he came out aggressively, and an exhausted Hendricks appeared to fade as the fight drew to a close.  After receiving some brutal ground-and-pound, Hendricks scrambled to his feet and Lawler savagely battered him for the last minute of the fight.  Lawler stormed forward and landed a series of hard head shots and thudding body kicks until the horn sounded, as Hendricks desperately retreated.  When the ref stepped between them, Hendricks turned toward his corner shaking his head as Lawler followed behind him, burning a gunslinger’s stare into the back of his skull.  After a few steps, Hendricks collapsed to his knees—likely from the devestating kicks to the body—and Lawler raised his hands aloft and began circling the cage.

The controversial decision drew a near fifty-fifty split response from ringside observers, and is speculated will result in an immediate rubbermatch.

 

Anthony Pettis def. Gilbert Melendez, Submission (Guillotine Choke) rd 2, 1:53 – Lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis further staked his claim as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world with a sensational second-round submission victory over gritty number-one contender Gilbert Melendez, who had never previously been finished.  Before the bout, the Melendez supporters felt he had the perfect style to implement the right gameplan to defeat the champion.  The most impressive aspect of Pettis’ victory is those suppositions proved to be correct, but it still simply didn’t matter.  Pettis’ combination of Matrix-style striking and lightning-quick submissions—even off his back—make him the most dynamic offensive fighter on the planet.

Melendez (22-4) had things going his way almost immediately, as he quickly stuffed Pettis (18-2) up against the fence and kept him there for most of the opening round.  Melendez pushed the pace and tried to make the fight ugly with non-stop pressure.  He kept forcing Pettis to the fence and roughing him up, but he couldn’t really land anything significant upstairs while unleashing his trademark brutal bodywork.  When Pettis got even the slightest room to operate he was able to hurt Melendez however, like when he landed a laser-like spinning back kick to the midsection midway through the first.  Pettis added a couple of sharp, head-snapping punches before the bell for good measure.

Early in the second, Pettis rocked the relentless Melendez with a combination, and as he stumbled forward for an awkward shot to take the champion to the ground, Pettis instantly pounced with a guillotine.  Before Melendez could react, Pettis quickly pulled guard to further sink in the choke, then ultimately rolled over to mount and forced the tap.  After a career-long 15-month layoff, Pettis silenced any doubts of potential ring rust with the most impressive victory of his career.

 

Travis Browne def. Brendan Schaub,TKO (Punches) rd 1, 4:50 – Travis Browne (17-2-1) bounced back from his heavyweight title elimiination loss to Fabricio Werdum with a dominant first-round stoppage of Brendan Schaub (10-5).  The 6’7 Browne’s exceptionally nimble footwork and agility immediately caused Schaub problems, and gave him a lot of trouble getting his offense on track.  As Browne floated around popping jabs, Schaub suddenly charged and was met with a counter right uppercut that dropped and hurt him badly.  Schaub was likely still dazed from the shot as Browne completely dominated him on the ground, switching positions seemingly at will and raining down punches from the mount until the bout was stopped.  With Werdum and Cain Velasquez set to fight for the undisputed championship this summer, and Junior Dos Santos fighting Stipe Miocic next week, Browne has now become the logical choice for the winner of one of those bouts.

 

 

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