UFC 181 Date: December 6, 2014 Arena: Mandalay Bay Events Center City: Las Vegas, NV Welterweight title bout: Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks (-210) vs “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (+190) Fight Breakdown: The main event for UFC 181 will see Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks make his first UFC welterweight title defense against the man he defeated to earn it, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. The champion Hendricks is the betting favorite heading into this re-match at -210 ($210 to win $100), with the challenger Lawler being an underdog to win at +190 ($100 to win $190) at 5Dimes Sportsbooks. Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks (10-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) captured the UFC welterweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Lawler at UFC 171 nearly nine months ago and after an injury layoff, he is ready to return to action to make his first ever title defense against, again, Lawler, who has since racked up two wins over a pair of top 10 ranked welterweights. The first fight was so close, making this a highly anticipated rematch and Hendricks is set out to make sure that this fight is nowhere near as close as the first. The Oklahoma native is one of the heaviest hitters in the division. He packs incredible punching power in both hands, and has used them to put away the likes of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, respectively. He has recorded 50 percent of his career wins by T/KO. Not only does he pack unreal power, but his boxing is also solid. The southpaw throws a nice looping right hook and is effective with his right hand, but he is most vicious with his left, throwing hooks, straights, uppercuts and overhands that all have bad intentions behind them. To compliment his striking, Hendricks has a great chin, but also noteworthy head movement. He works well inside the clinch, from which position he likes to use his knees to soften up his opponents and look for the takedown. When he doesn’t get the takedown and they break, he likes to throw a hard left upon exiting the clinch. “Bigg Rigg” is a four time Division I All American wrestler out of Oklahoma State University and is amongst the best wrestlers in all of mixed martial arts. His strength on the feet translates to the grappling, as often finds success controlling his opponents with his wrestling. He works powerful takedowns, including a solid single leg and his preferred double leg, but also delivers some beautiful slams. Hendricks is only a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and only owns one submission victory in his professional mixed martial arts career, which came impressively via D’arce choke in the first round of his third professional bout. I think his blue belt only represents his offensive Jiu Jitsu, because I think his submission defense is at the level of a purple or brown belt. Training out of Team Takedown in his adopted home state of Texas, I expect Hendricks’ conditioning to be on point heading into his first title defense. Despite the extended injury layoff, I believe he will be ready for a full five rounds of action in this main event rematch. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (24-10 MMA, 9-4 UFC) has made a splash in the UFC’s welterweight division in his second stint with the promotion, starting off with a pair of knockout victories over Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker, and then a decision over Rory MacDonald, which put him in position for a shot at the vacant UFC welterweight title, after Georges St. Pierre announced his (for-the-time-being) retirement. Johny Hendricks was the top contender for the title, having arguably beaten GSP in their bout just prior to the French-Canadian’s retirement. Lawler, on an impressive three-fight winning streak at the time, made sense as the opponent, so the fight was booked. “Ruthless” was a heavy underdog going into the five round title fight, but proved oddsmakers wrong, as he headed into the fifth round with two rounds already under his belt. Unfortunately, things took a turn when Hendricks went for a takedown and Lawler couldn’t get back to his feet and would go on to lose a decision. “Ruthless” has been active since his loss, fighting Jake Ellenberger and defeating him via third round TKO, then taking a unanimous decision victory over Matt Brown, ultimately snapping his seven-fight winning streak. Needless to say, ring rust will not be an issue for Lawler, which may be a concern for the defending champion Hendricks, who has been out of action since their initial meeting. Lawler has trained out of the Pat Miletich camp (Miletich Fighting Systems) in his Iowa hometown throughout most of his career, with some time spent at Power MMA in Arizona, but since his return to the UFC with the Koscheck bout, he has moved his training camp to American Top Team in Coconut Creek, FL, and the improvements he has made since switching camps has been clear as day. Not only does he train out of Florida now, but recently he decided the Sunshine state was his new home and moved his family down to the Southeast. Lawler is a heavy-handed striker with a good chin, so he isn’t afraid to mix it up. He is also a great sprawler with tremendous takedown defense, often keeping the fight where he wants it. The Iowa native is a well-conditioned athlete who will be prepared for another 25 minutes of action in his second bid for UFC gold. Gabe’s Thoughts: To put it simply, I think Hendricks is going to find more success with his wrestling this time around, which is what I believe will be his key towards getting his hand raised via unanimous decision on the judges’ scorecards after 25 minutes of action. Like the first bout, I think this fight will also play out for all five rounds and rest in the hands of the judges at ringside, so for that reason I favor the OVER 4.5 total -110 over Hendricks straight up at -210. A knockout could come by either fighter, but I think more often than not this fight goes the five round distance, and while I favor Hendricks to pick up the nod, you can’t count Lawler out, so it would not surprise me to see him continue finding success with his takedown defense and edge out the decision win. Not only do I think the over 4.5 at -110 is the best play to make here for sake of value, but I think it is also the safest play. While both of these welterweights are heavy hitters who are very capable of finishing each other, I think they compete for 25 minutes en route to a decision more often than not. Gabe’s Call: “Bigg Rigg” by Unanimous Decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Over 4.5 rounds (-110) 2.2u to win 2u
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