MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC on FOX 26’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the main event.
UFC on FOX 26 takes place Saturday at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the main card airs on FOX following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
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Robbie Lawler (28-11 MMA, 13-5 UFC)Robbie Lawler
- Height: 5’11” Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 74″ Last fight: Decision win over Donald Cerrone (July 29, 2017)
- Camp: Combat Club (Florida)
- Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
- Risk management: Fair
Former UFC welterweight champion
EliteXC middleweight title
20 KO victories
1 submission win
12 first-round finishes
Dangerous left hand
Deceptively accurate right hook
Hard left Thai kicks
^ Variates well from the body to head
Strong inside of the clinch
^ Good getup ability
Effective butterfly guard
Deceptive ground striker
– Someitmes subject to acitvity lulls
/- 2-2 against UFC southpaws
Rafael dos Anjos (27-9 MMA, 16-7 UFC)Rafael dos Anjos
- Height: 5’8″ Age: 33 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 70″ Last fight: Submission win over Neil Magny (Sept. 9, 2017)
- Camp: RVCA/Gracie Barra (California)
- Stance/striking style: Southpaw/muay Thai
- Risk management: Good
Former UFC lightweight champion
Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
Multiple Brazilian jiu-jitsu accolades
5 KO victories
9 submission wins
9 first-round finishes
Disciplined pace and pressure
^ Aggressive but intelligent stalker
Hard and accurate Thai kicks
^ Variates well to the body
Good takedowns against the fence
^ 10-2 when scoring at least one
Strong postional grappler
^ Smashes and pashes effectively
Improved getup ability
/- 4-1 against UFC southpaws
Summary: The main event in Winnipeg features a battle between two former champions when Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos collide.
Lawler, a former welterweight champion, is attempting to reassert his position as the division’s warlord with a potential win under the spotlight.
Dos Anjos, a former lightweight champion, looks to continue his successful campaign at 170 pounds en route to his desired goal of another gold belt.
Starting off on the feet, we have a rare pairing of southpaw strikers.
Although this type of matchup typically presents some problems in the form of discomfort and defense (given that most southpaws predicate their games against orthodox opposition), I don’t suspect it will be a sizeable factor for either fighter considering their style and experience.
What I do suspect to be a factor is the fact that both men are pressure-based fighters by trade.
A more traditional pressure fighter, dos Anjos steadily stalks his opponents, working behind feints until finding an opportunity to unleash. Whether dos Anjos is throwing his hard left hands or Thai kicks, the Brazilian usually counterbalanced his attack with a dangerous right hook.
Despite moving up a weight class, dos Anjos is accustomed to having to slip-and-rip on taller opposition. And considering that dos Anjos likes to follow his opponents retractions into the pocket, the Brazilians power will be most potent inside of these spaces.
Still, dos Anjos has some tendencies of his own that may make him vulnerable when looking to strike inside. Often planting his heels to hold his ground, dos Anjos tends to get wide on his strike retractions as he wings his shots from left to right.
And although dos Anjos usually has the upper hand in these equations (being that he is bombing from below), he will still need to be mindful of the potential brutality coming back at him.
Lawler, one of the heavier-handed fighters in the division, has steadily sharpened his craft over the years.
Similar to Anthony Johnson (a former pupil of Lawlers newfound striking coach, Henri Hooft), Lawler will steadily march down his opposition, cutting off the octagon while shifting his weight from left to right.
Fueled by an excellent awareness of angles, Lawler symbiotically moves his head defensively as his feet set up offensive onslaughts. This approach allows Lawler to stay on balance when attacking, while seemingly encouraging head movement as well.
Known for his devastating left hands and power kicks, Lawler’s right hook is usually the quiet killer in exchanges.
Whether he’s coming forward with it or throwing it as a check, Lawlers right hook is a deceptively accurate weapon. And whenever he can get his opposition to back up in between the cage and inner-black octagon lines, you can throw all activity-lulling accusations out the window since Lawler attacks with impunity here.
In fact both men do their best work when able to get their opponents into this zone. Conversely, each fighter has also suffered his worst defeat when being the one who is pressured toward the fence, making this matchup’s dynamic a clear one.
Should dos Anjos get his pressure game going, expect takedown attempts to accompany his strikes anytime he can corral Lawler near the cage. Despite Lawler being the bigger man with underrated takedown defense to boot, I suspect these stanzas to remain competitive from both sides.
If the former lightweight can ground the former middleweight, then we could see a few different developments.
A strong positional player, dos Anjos could surprise some by ceasing control via his high-percentage pressure game and passes. Although Lawler has long possessed a serviceable butterfly guard from the bottom, his last fight was a reminder that he is not beyond being outmaneuvered by a lighter man.
I am not sure if I can see dos Anjos submitting a sober Lawler in these scenarios, but I do see him having his chances whenever Lawler tries to get back to his feet. Typically electing to tripod or turtle to stand, Lawler can sometimes make himself vulnerable to back takes or front headlocks.
Coupled with the recent trend of dos Anjos getting back to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu roots, this could spell potential trouble for the former welterweight champ. That said, if dos Anjos ends up on bottom or against the fence, then he could ultimately be subjected to the harsher weather.
The oddsmakers and public do not seem to feel too strongly one way or the other, and the betting lines are still at a near pick’em as of this writing.
I am somewhat surprised to not see Lawler listed as the slight favorite, given that he is the bigger, stronger and more experienced pressure fighter in a five-round affair. Nevertheless, it can be hard to overlook Lawler’s propensity for activity lulls and lackadaisical kick defense in this particular matchup.
Ultimately, if dos Anjos can survive Lawler’s initial storm and power shots, then I can see his consistent arsenal of attack stacking up points and momentum en route to a competitive decision win.
Official pick: Dos Anjos by decision
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