Perhaps the fight I’m most looking forward to on the entire UFC 167 card is a three-round welterweight bout between top-ranked contenders Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler. The current betting line for the fight at 5Dimes Sportsbook sees MacDonald as a massive -380 favorite (bet $380 to win $100), while the comeback on Lawler is +315 (bet $100 to win $315). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up MacDonald at -190 and Lawler at +150, meaning the bettors are heavily favoring the Canadian MacDonald in this matchup, one that could produce the next No. 1 contender in the UFC welterweight division. To be honest, though, I think the betting public is on the wrong track here, and at +315 I think there is incredible value on the dog Lawler in this match, as I’m picking him to snare the upset victory. Here’s why. There’s no doubt in my mind that MacDonald is a special prospect. Only 24 years of age, the young Canadian has already amassed a solid 6-1 record in the UFC with huge victories over Jake Ellenberger, BJ Penn, Mike Pyle, Che Mills, Nate Diaz and Mike Guymon, and the only loss coming to Carlos Condit in his second UFC fight when he was only 20 years old. After the Condit fight, MacDonald moved from his native British Columbia to Quebec to train with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at TriStar Gym, and so far the results have been splendid as he hasn’t lost a fight since then. However, for as good as he has looked since the move, he’s also shown some flaws. Against Pyle, he was taken down early. Against Mills, he was hit hard in the face. Against Penn, he showed a lack of killer instinct against a much smaller foe. And against Ellenberger, he showed that he may be too patient to a fault, as his performance was ripped to shreds by UFC president Dana White as MacDonald never made an attempt to finish the fight despite the fact he controlled it from bell to bell. While Ellenberger froze up in that fight, there’s no way in hell Lawler will. If you’ve seen Lawler fight, you know he’s one of those fighters who has a ‘killed or be killed’ attitude, meaning he either knocks his opponent out or he himself gets knocked out. In 30 of Lawler’s career fights (ironically, he’s 31 years old), excluding his No Contest against Scott Smith in EliteXC, there have been finishes in 25 of those fights. 19 of those times it was Lawler finishing his opponent, while six times it was Lawler who got finished. Keep in mind though when looking at Lawler’s record that much of his career outside the UFC was fought at middleweight and catchweights above 170 pounds. In fact, between 2004 and 2013, Lawler never fought at welterweight, his natural weight class. And as a welterweight, Lawler has only been finished once in his life, by Nick Diaz at UFC 47. Not bad. Since coming over from Strikeforce and dropping back to 170 pounds during his second run with the UFC, Lawler has looked better than ever, as his trademark power is still there and now he can actually wrestle with guys and keep fights standing like he wants to, as he showed in his TKO win over Josh Koscheck at UFC 157 earlier this year. And he also showed with his head kick KO win over Bobby Voelker at UFC on FOX 8 that he’s evolved his game in the near-decade he was out of the UFC. If Koscheck had a hard time getting Lawler to the mat, there’s no doubt in my mind that MacDonald will as well. And if MacDonald thinks he can just chill on the outside and jab Lawler like he did to Ellenberger, he better think again, because Lawler knows that his career depends on this fight and he’s not going to go down without a fight. When the line for this fight was released, I thought there was slight value in Lawler at +150. But now, at +315? Are you kidding me? This line is absolutely out of whack and it’s all due to the hype on MacDonald. Whether that hype is justified or not, there is no way in my mind that MacDonald deserves to be a -380 favorite over a guy who is as aggressive and powerful as Lawler is. And that’s why, at +315, I’m picking the dog to come through with a big win here that might shock those who think MacDonald is the next big thing in the UFC. But it won’t shock me at all.
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