In 2002 ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler was described by UFC commentator Joe Rogan as similar to Mike Tyson in the way he threw punches going into UFC 40.
“Every punch he throws is to knock you senseless,” added Rogan after Lawler did just that to Tiki Ghosn bringing his record to 6-0 at the time.
Following the recent sabbatical announced by UFC president Dana White of welterweight champ Georges St Pierre, Lawler will now face Johnny Hendricks at UFC 171 in March 2014.
GSP’s return remains uncertain but one thing is definite: 31-yr-old Lawler, now 22-9 (18 KOs), will be fighting for the belt and not an interim title.
Whilst Vegas odds already have him as an underdog it is still hard to count out the Iowa-based slugger.
Lawler will be the first real puncher Hendricks has faced. The real question is whether his typically aggressive gun-slinging style will work against Hendricks.
Since that night at UFC 40 Lawler’s career endured ups and downs often exposing a weak ground game and also a lack of cardio.
Lawler doesn’t do five round fights. Hendricks doesn’t either for the most part but took GSP all the way to a controversial split-decision in November which many thought he won.
With ‘the People’s champ’ mantra which Hendricks earned that night Lawler is up against it particularly since the fight will take place in Hendricks’ back-yard in Dallas, Texas.
The route towards Lawler’s title shot however has been remarkable with KO victories over Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker adding to a decision win over Rory MacDonald.
Call it sentimentality but there are still flashes of the old Lawler there. This is a man who stops people.
His striking has become more crisp and accurate and adding kicks to his arsenal makes for a scary proposition in the 170lb division.
I am not calling the odds wrong here as Hendricks got rid of Martin Kampmann, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit before giving GSP his toughest match.
Conversely, Lawler had limited success in Strikeforce before entering back into the UFC.
You always feel though with Lawler, more so than with anyone, that the puncher’s chance which has gotten him this far is never beyond the possibility of happening again.
By Nick Jukhoop, London