UFC 157: “Robbie Lawler has some scary power.” – Joe Rogan
Just moments later, he was on top of Josh Koscheck delivering a barrage of ground and pound until Herb Dean stopped the fight. It’s arguable whether or not the fight was an early stoppage, but if one thing is certain, it’s that Robbie is dangerous. His opponent, Koscheck, had just tried to negate Lawler’s striking power by utilizing high-pressure wrestling. But for the most part, Robbie was able to negate Koscheck’s wrestling. As soon as Lawler had an opening, the fight was finished, and Dana White quickly said, “He is back.” This is no simple task- Koscheck is a powerhouse wrestler: a 4 time Division-1 All American in collegiate wrestling. Known as one of the best wrestlers in MMA, his previous two losses were to GSP (Unanimous Decision) and Hendricks (Split Decision).
The importance of watching tape:
Every fighter has habits. Some are good, some are bad. But even a generally good habit can be quickly exploited by the right attack, and that’s the beauty of combat sports. There are so many factors to consider, and one would certainly better the odds by knowing the habits of their opponent.
UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Moraga: Robbie Lawler faced off against Bobby Voelker.
“When he comes in, he ducks down and leans in to each side and I thought I was able to catch him, I saw that on tape, and that’s what he did. I was catching him with hooks on the way in so I thought the (right) hook might set it up- I was thinking he might stay away from my right hook, right into my left (high) kick.”
Combat sport strategy is like a game of chess, and this fight is an excellent example of why it’s a proper analogy. In an open guard matchup, where a southpaw fighter faces an one of an orthodox stance, the dynamics change. The right hand of the southpaw becomes closer to the opponent’s hand, and by effect it makes the right hook more accessible. Given that Lawler is quite competent with his right hook, he establishes it throughout the fight.
30 seconds into round 1 against Voelker: Joe Rogan spoke with certainty, “It’s an excellent technique of Robbie’s, one of his favorites, that lead right hook.” Robbie demonstrated excellent footwork throughout the fight (he has an excellent hop-step). For an idea of what hop-steps are, refer to Connor McGregor : gif 1 ; gif 2 ; gif 3. Or watch this drill on youtube by boxing trainer Luis Monda.
After establishing a series of punch combinations (with emphasis on right hook), rear kicks (mid, high-mid/head), and flying knees (he even drew in his opponent into a flying knee at end of round), he had Voelker flustered. It was clear that Lawler had been dictating the pace, the engagement, and out-timing / out-maneuvering his opponent. By round two, Voelker was overwhelmed, and as soon as Lawler saw Voelker’s head angle to the right, an explosive high kick came towards that very direction. This gave Voelker little to no chance to defend it, resulting in a quick stoppage shortly thereafter.
A habit: Voelker comes in with a jab, angling his head off to his right in order to avoid punches. But this normally useful strategy becomes dangerous when your opponent can read it and particularly so when he can threaten you with the high kick.
Now this isn’t the only time that Lawler has been creative. I present to you Adlan Amagov:
Playing with level change:
An explosive level change to get Amagov to cover up and attempt to mirror level change (to keep center-of-gravity in order to prevent takedown attempts). Lawler’s explosive feint was timed it so well that he was able to shoot the rear knee straight into Amagov’s dome as he leans forward into the knee. Now, feinting and faking movements are things done by any high level fighter, but I must note that it is very difficult to capitalize these opportunities in the way that Lawler does. For a lack of better words, this is some pretty high level stuff.
This third and final creative technique from Robbie is my personal favorite.
A Powerful Hook/Overhand Hybrid in a Squared Stance:
Lawler’s fight against Melvin Manhoef was in my opinion, one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history. Lawler’s legs were getting blown away by Manhoef for most of the fight, and just when the fight was about to finish, we see him land an overhand in a squared stance flush for a knockout. This knockout is particularly intriguing because Lawler showed an exceptional ability to stay composed even when his lead leg was kicked flying.
This allowed him to setup what appears to be one of his unorthodox but effective techniques: when Lawler’s legs had landed on the floor, it was automatically in position to pivot and transfer all his weight towards his left to deliver the powerful, creative, and unorthodox blow.
Many casual fans, or fans in general will opt to call this a lucky punch. But that ought to be considered silly.
I present to you a Robbie Lawler Highlight:
From the beginning to the end, you will see that throughout his career, he has been able to land this unorthodox punch in an unbelievably squared stance. This is truly unique as very few fighters are able to generate power in this type of stance. It’s almost as lateral as it gets, and standing in them usually means defence on the ring ropes or cage. More often then not, getting caught in this stance means Chris Weidman Vs Anderson Silva (GIF). All of this is generally true, yet Robbie Lawler is able to generate knockout blows over and over again from this stance.
This implies several things: outstanding base, outstanding balance (core rotation, pivot, hips), creativity, and power. Facing an opponent in a lateral stance often implies safety from strikes, given that they are normally unable to generate powerful blows.
However, against Robbie Lawler… just when you feel safe, lights go out.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more matchup dissection in the future.