Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC 201 as Robbie Lawler defends his welterweight title against Tyron Woodley. Robbie Lawler (Record: 27-10, -200 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A) The welterweight champion has been training in mixed martial arts for nearly 20 years. Living in Iowa as a child, he started training with Pat Milletich at Milletich Fighting Systems. He’s been fighting professionally since 2001 and doing so in the biggest promotions in North America. Since joining the UFC in 2013, Lawler has had a career renaissance. He’s fought some of the top fighters in the world and won. After beating Johny Hendricks to become welterweight champion in 2014, he’s defended his championship two times; a fifth round stoppage over Rory Macdonald and a decision win over Carlos Condit. At UFC 201, he will look to make his third title defense. Longtime fighter Robbie Lawler has had one of the more remarkable runs in MMA history. He certainly was a solid fighter in Elite XC and Strikeforce, but what he’s been able to do in the UFC is really tremendous. He’s fought five round wars with the top fighters in the division several times now. What has set him apart from other champions is that he’s not dominating opponents. He’s fighting toe to toe with them and then taking over when it matters most; in the championship rounds. Lawler, first and foremost, is a striker and a very good one at that. He combines punches and kicks well landing in combination. He’s got fluidity about his game making him very fun to watch. He may not throw with as much volume as someone like Carlos Condit, but he’s accurate and decisive. His ability to turn it on in round five has been the difference between him retaining and losing the title on multiple occasions. He certainly is vulnerable defensively. During his UFC career, he’s absorbed just as many strikes as he’s landed. He’s been hurt in a few of his recent bouts, but he has shown an ability to recover quickly. Tyron Woodley (Record: 15-3, +170 Underdog, Fighter Grade: A-) A two time NCAA Division I All American in wrestling a NCAA Championship runner up, Woodley is one of the best wrestlers in the welterweight division. Entering Saturday’s title fight, Woodley has won four of his last five fights including a finish of Carlos Condit and a decision victory over fellow top ten welterweight Kelvin Gastelum. Tyron Woodley enters his first ever UFC title fight having not fought since January 2015. After beating Kelvin Gastelum by decision, he decided to wait for a title shot which he was offered in 2016. Woodley’s game begins with his wrestling. Over his career in Strikeforce and the UFC, he has a fantastic 91% takedown defense. In his seven UFC fights, only Rory Macdonald has managed to take Woodley to the mat and he was only able to do so once. By defending takedowns, Woodley is able to capitalize on his power striking. The former University of Missouri wrestler has perhaps the most powerful striker in the division. He holds devastating knockouts over Dong Hyun Kim and Josh Koscheck as well as stoppage over Carlos Condit inflicting injury to his knee in that bout. Woodley is very strong in the first couple rounds of his fights, but tends to fade as his fights progress. The one time he went beyond three rounds, he was finished in devastating fashion by Nate Marquardt. Conditioning is certainly a big question mark for him in this matchup. Match-up A terrific match-up in the welterweight division headlines UFC 201. This is a really interesting fight because I can see it go a couple of different ways. This is a battle of contrasting approaches as the champion really turns it on late in fights, while the challenger is at his best early on and has only been beyond three rounds once in his career. Both fighters have good takedown defense, so I expect nearly the entirety of this bout to take place on the feet. Lawler has been through so many physical contests, that one has to wonder at what point does his body fail him and he’s not able to recover from a big power shot. Woodley is most dangerous in the first couple rounds when he is fresh and can really put his whole body into power shots. If Woodley lands one of his big punches, he can absolutely finish the champion. At publication, Woodley by KO / TKO stands at +316; certainly a bet worth considering. If Woodley is unable to finish early on, he’s going to be in for a long night. Lawler can really turn it on late especially in the fifth round. In his last two fights that went to a decision Lawler landed 42 and 53 strikes respectively. Woodley hasn’t proven he can put up anywhere near that type of volume late in fights. It’s difficult seeing Woodley survive Lawler’s late on slot in this bout. A tired Woodley will not be able to protect himself against the volume heavy approach of the champion. Lawler wins in Round 4 (+850) and Round 5 (+1200) are long shot props that are not bad angles to pursue in this fight. The one play I think is a sure fire win is the fight doesn’t go the distance (-215). Both fighters have a way to win, but it’s the same method; a stoppage. The doesn’t go the distance prop is a great parlay piece for this card.
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