UFC 181: 3 thoughts surrounding Robbie Lawler’s welterweight title win

The UFC crowned a new welterweight champion when Robbie Lawler beat Johny Hendricks via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46) on Saturday, December 6. Lawler’s victory capped one of the best UFC cards in recent memory.

Here are three thoughts on UFC 181:

The UFC gets it right

I’ve been highly critical of the problems caused by the UFC’s global expansion throughout the last two years, mainly because there has been a lack of quality cards. Mixed martial arts is just like any other sport; it needs high-profile events to thrive. Quite frankly, the UFC has watered down its product so much over the past couple of years that it’s often been difficult for me to look forward to the promotion’s events.

The UFC did it right this time by stacking its last pay-per-view of the year with two worthy title fights and three exciting undercard bouts. All but one of the fights ended with a finish, and the one that went to a decision was one of the better title fights of the year. Cards like UFC 181 are what the promotion used to produce on a monthly basis. The UFC continually put together deep cards with name fighters who had stories to tell. That’s what made the brand special. UFC 181 was a reminder that those cards are still out there. Hopefully, the organization realizes how important it is to stack its cards instead of feeding glorified regional cards to its diehard fans.

The new breed

Gilbert Melendez seemingly had his lightweight fight against Anthony Pettis under control. He kept Pettis at bay for much of the first two rounds by using his superior grappling and physical strength. Pettis struggled to get enough space to damage Melendez in the first round, but his superior speed and quickness finally came in handy when he locked in a guillotine choke to earn the second round victory.

Melendez is one of the best lightweights in the world. However, he couldn’t keep the younger, more athletic champion down for long. There’s no doubt in my mind that Melendez can beat Pettis, but he has a lot of work to do if he’s going to stop this new breed of a champion. Pettis presents a unique combination of striking and jiu-jitsu that many opponents can’t handle. His challengers can’t outstrike him, and on the ground, Pettis has a gift for finding the right moment to cinch a submission. Don’t be surprised if Pettis holds onto the belt for a long time.

Robbie Lawler finally earns a UFC title

It’s been a long time since a 20-year-old Robbie Lawler first competed in the UFC. That version of Lawler preferred a “Rock’em Sock’em” style of fighting that often got him into trouble against more disciplined opponents. The older more experienced Lawler still loves a good brawl, but he’s smart enough to know when to pick his shots.

Lawler’s career is quite the story. He bounced around from organization to organization for nearly a decade before finally returning to the UFC. At that point, it appeared that his career was entering a downturn following a July 2012 loss to Lorenz Larkin. However, Lawler refused to give up on his championship dream, and here he is nearly two and a half years later as the UFC welterweight champion. Few fighters deserve it more than him, regardless of how close the decision victory over Hendricks was. Lawler earned it the hard way.

You can follow Derek Ciapala on Twitter @dciapala or on Facebook.

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Derek Ciapala

Derek Ciapala is an award-winning journalist who brings expertise and passion to West Coast sports. He has years of experience and has been published on many notable sites, such as Yahoo! Sports. Never afraid to explore a controversial issue, Derek’s insight and thought-provoking content consistently generate substantial buzz and plenty of of sound discussion.


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