Top-five welterweights Robbie Lawler and Jake Ellenberger will look to inch closer to a possible title shot when they square off this weekend at UFC 173 in a matchup that has explosive potential. This clash is tailor-made to produce action with both men possessing aggressive fighting styles and formidable punching power.
Lawler, who lost a very close decision to Johny Hendricks in their thrilling title bout at UFC 171, elected to make a quick turnaround and step into the fray after Tarec Saffiedine was forced out of the matchup against “The Juggernaut” because of an injury. It marked the second time a potential Ellenberger-Saffiedine matchup had fallen through. Lawler believes an impressive showing could land him a rematch against Hendricks when the champion returns in the fall after undergoing bicep surgery.
“Ruthless” has been a much more mature fighter in his second go-round with the organization and seems much more at ease in dealing with the UFC machine. While Lawler has always had tremendous punching power, he has showcased a more diversified striking game, adding dangerous kicks to the mix. As he showed in the title fight against “Bigg Rigg”, Lawler has improved his overall skills and still possesses a granite chin.
Of Lawler’s 22 career wins, an impressive 18 have come via knockout. He’s looked devastating in fights against Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker during his second stint with the promotion, and also registered a decision victory over fellow contender Rory MacDonald. The 170-pound division seems to be a perfect fit at this stage of his career.
Ellenberger can certainly raise his title hopes with an impressive effort against Lawler. The no. 5 ranked contender hasn’t fought since a highly disappointing decision loss to MacDonald at UFC on FOX 8. He was forced out of a January main-event clash against Saffiedine at Fight Night 34 in Singapore because of a hamstring injury, but now returns against the division’s no. 1-ranked fighter.
He gets a chance to make amends for that lethargic effort against “Ares” by hooking up against the dangerous Lawler. Ellenberger has the knockout power to be able to hold his own in a potential firefight, with 18 knockout victories in his 29 career wins.
This is a very meaningful fight in the new UFC welterweight landscape. Both competitors have their sights on a future title shot and will be looking to improve their chances by making an emphatic, explosive statement in Las Vegas.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports