One of the most-anticipated fights at UFC 173 is a three-round welterweight bout between “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler and Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger. The current betting line for the fight at 5Dimes Sportsbook lists Lawler as a -210 favorite (bet $210 to win $100) while Ellenberger is a +190 underdog (bet $100 to win $190). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Lawler at -215 and Ellenberger at +165, and so far there has been back-and-forth action on the bout as the lines have tightened. This is a tough one to call and I can see why there has been some back-and-forth action on both sides, but I’m going to pick Lawler to get the win. Here’s why. Lawler (22-10, 1 NC) is one of the top welterweight fighters in the world. The 32-year-old previously fought in the Octagon 10 years ago, but after bouncing around various promotions throughout the years, he returned to the UFC in 2013 after the fall of Strikeforce and made an immediate bang with three impressive wins over Josh Koscheck, Bobby Voelker, and Rory MacDonald. He then took on Johny Hendricks for the vacant UFC welterweight title earlier this year at UFC 171, but was edged out on points in one of the most gripping fights of the year. Blessed with amazing power in all of his limbs, Lawler is one of the most deadly knockout artists in the sport’s history, having knocked out a who’s who of the best fighters at both 170lbs and 185lbs over the years (18 T/KOs overall). Now permanently at 170lbs, Lawler’s wrestling has looked much better and if he can defend takedowns against his opponents and keep his fights standing he will always have a clear path to victory. Against another powerful striker like Ellenberger, I expect Lawler to do what he does best — stand in the pocket and bang it out, and hope to land the finishing blow in devastating fashion. Ellenberger (29-7) is one of the heaviest-handed strikers in the UFC welterweight division. Just 29 years of age, Ellenberger is 8-3 overall in the Octagon with wins over Nate Marquardt, Jay Hieron, Diego Sanchez, Jake Shields, Sean Pierson, Carlos Eduardo Rocha, Mike Pyle and John Howard and the only losses coming to great fighters in Rory MacDonald, Martin Kampmann, and Carlos Condit. The owner of 18 career knockout wins, Ellenberger is a stocky 170lber who uses his wrestling background to keep fights standing and knock his opponents out on the feet. However, he has a tendency to be inactive in his fights and he also tends to gas out after starting off his fights quick. His gas tank has cost him in the past, such as in his fight against Kampmann, and against a fighter with the ability to go five rounds strong in Lawler that could be a problem. With Ellenberger, there’s always that threat of a one-punch knockout, but if he doesn’t land that knockout blow he becomes a very beatable fighter, and that could cause issues in this matchup against Lawler. I could see either fighter knocking each other out, but either way I don’t think it goes the distance. Look for both men to engage in some memorable striking exchanges on the feet, but I feel like Lawler has more weapons in the standup and I think he has what it takes to knock Ellenberger out and reaffirm his position as the No. 1 contender in the UFC welterweight division. Anyone who has been following my betting articles the last few years knows I like Lawler and have been putting my money on him since he came back to the UFC, but in this situation I don’t like laying juice so I think the moneyline on Lawler is a pass here. However, I do like the fight ending inside the distance, and that prop is only -145, which I believe has some value as I don’t see this one making it the full 15 minutes.
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