The co-main event of UFC 189 is a five-round title fight between UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and challenger Rory MacDonald. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, MacDonald is a -190 favorite (bet $190 to win $100) while Lawler is a +165 underdog (bet $100 to win $165). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened up MacDonald at -140 and Lawler at +100 and money has come in on the title challenger MacDonald. I disagree with MacDonald being the favorite in this fight, and see value in the champion Lawler as the underdog to get the victory. Here’s why. MacDonald (18-2) is one of the top welterweight fighters in the world. The 25-year-old Canadian is 9-2 overall in the UFC with wins over Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, Tarec Saffiedine and Jake Ellenberger with losses to only Carlos Condit and Lawler. MacDonald, like Georges St-Pierre, is a cerebral, calculate mixed martial artist out of the Tristar Gym in Montreal. Like GSP, MacDonald is an expert at following gameplans from coach Firas Zihabi to exploit his opponents weakness. On the feet MacDonald is a very long striker who uses his jab to keep his distance and set up his power strikes. He isn’t a knockout artist by any means, but as he showed against Saffiedine he can definitely finish fight on the feet. As far as his wrestling goes, MacDonald is a very good wrestler both offensively and, for the most, part defensively. He is good at getting fights to the ground and when he does he has some vicious ground and pound and also some submission ability. He also has very good cardio from what we’ve seen, although something to point out is that he has never once made it the full five rounds in a fight. The one major flaw MacDonald has shown in his career has been his chin, as he’s been hurt and dropped a few times, including in his first fight against Lawler. That’s a concern going up against Lawler in the rematch, so he will have to be careful. MacDonald is going to look to be more technical in this fight and mix in takedowns with his strikes to outpoint Lawler, but as we saw in the pair’s first fight that won’t be easy. MacDonald’s improved a lot since the first time these two met, but at the same time it’s surprising to see him favored as the challenger considering what happened in that fight. Lawler (25-10-1) is the UFC welterweight champion, having won the title from Johny Hendricks at UFC 182. The 33-year-old American has been around the sport for a long time and first competed in the UFC between 2002 and 2004, going 4-3 during that time. After losing a few fights, Lawler was released and he travelled the world to fight, competing for promotions such as PRIDE, Strikeforce, and IconSport, mostly at middleweight. After the UFC bought Strikeforce in 2013, Lawler returned to the UFC as a welterweight, and has since gone on an amazing, unexpected run, going 6-1 with wins over Hendricks, Ellenberger, MacDonald, Matt Brown, Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker with his lone loss coming to Hendricks in the pair’s first fight. Lawler has evolved into a fully-fledged mixed martial artist, but he’s still mostly known for his vicious striking and knockout power. He has 19 knockouts in his career, which shows you just how much power he has. He can knock opponents out on the feet his his hands, his shins, and in the clinch, and is one of the most dangerous strikers in the entire division and probably in all of the UFC. As far as his wrestling goes, Lawler uses it primarily in reverse as he looks to keep his fights standing and for the most part he has very good takedown defence. He doesn’t go for submissions, although training at American Top Team he certainly knows them. Lawler has a very good chin, having only been knocked out once, and as far as cardio goes he’s proven his last three fights he can go five rounds. His biggest issue in the past has been being beaten by better wrestlers, but he has really cleaned up his takedown defence in recent years. He doesn’t have great striking defence, either, so he can be beaten by a busier striker, but with his knockout power no one wants to stand and trade with this guy. He’s an incredible fighter who has turned his career around in incredible fashion, and with another win over MacDonald at UFC 189, he will only keep adding to his legacy in the sport. I don’t really understand why MacDonald is favored in this fight. He might win, but he should absolutely not be the favorite. The first time these two men MacDonald was a big favorite and he lost pretty clearly. I had a bet on Lawler there as I couldn’t believe the underdog odds, and once again I just don’t get it. I know MacDonald is a great fighter, but so is Lawler, and Lawler is the champion. Right now he’s the best fighter in the division and he deserves more respect from the betting public. I know MacDonald has looked great lately, but so has Lawler, and Lawler has been fighting five-round title fights. Everyone is assuming MacDonald has the cardio edge but until he proves it I have to give that edge to Lawler, who has gone five rounds no problem his last few times out. Like the first fight between these two, I’m expecting a very competitive rematch, but ultimately I believe Lawler’s aggression will win him the fight. I think he can catch MacDonald on the chin just like he did in the first fight, and while I don’t know if he finishes him, I do think he can hurt him. I also think Lawler can stop MacDonald’s takedown attempts as well, so I give him the slight edge in most categories heading into this fight. I would not be surprised if MacDonald edged out a decision, but I do not favor him to do so. Given the odds, I see value in Lawler as the underdog and believe he’s worth placing a wager on.
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