After an injury to welterweight Tarec Saffiedine forced him out of an upcoming bout at UFC 172 against Jake Ellenberger, matchmakers have made the most of a tough situation by finding a terrific alternative. Ellenberger, has been pulled from the April 26 event in Baltimore, and will now tangle with recent title challenger Robbie Lawler at UFC 173 in Las Vegas. This new matchup for the May 24 card has explosive potential as both “The Juggernaut” and “Ruthless” possess tremendous punching power.
It’s a quick turnaround for Lawler, who was recently involved in a dramatic welterweight title affair in Dallas at UFC 171 against Johny Hendricks. Lawler came out on the wrong end of a unanimous decision after a spirited and gritty five-round slugfest. The two competitors combined to land the most significant strikes in the history of a UFC title fight.
The loss snapped Lawler’s three-fight win streak since campaigning as a welterweight in his second stint with the promotion. However, the exciting nature of the fight had many believing he was deserving of a rematch. He’s currently ranked No. 1 in the 170-pound division and with a victory over Ellenberger would be well on his way to possibly securing another shot at Hendricks when he returns in the fall from recent bicep surgery. Lawler’s recorded 18 knockouts in 22 career wins and has added diversity to his striking attack. He also possesses a tremendous chin which was on full display against “Bigg Rigg.”
While Ellenberger had to be disappointed to see a fight with Saffiedine derailed for a second time due to injury, this is actually a much more attractive matchup. The No. 5 ranked Ellenberger is getting a tremendous opportunity against the division’s top contender. He has the firepower to hang tough with the hard-hitting Lawler as Ellenberger has 18 knockouts to his credit in 29 career victories.
Ellenberger is eager to make amends for a lackluster effort in his last Octagon appearance against Rory MacDonald at UFC on FOX 8. He dropped a unanimous decision in an uninspired performance that drew the ire of UFC President Dana White. He had been scheduled to return in January at Fight Night 34 in Singapore against Saffiedine, but was forced to withdraw because of a hamstring injury.
This is an unexpected pleasant surprise for UFC 173 that truly bolsters the value of what is all of a sudden shaping up to be an entertaining event. Lawler vs. Ellenberger has the potential to be a stand-up war and the winner will have a legitimate case to make for a possible future title opportunity.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.