Welterweight champion Robbie Lawler seeks his second title defense on Saturday against former interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 195 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena. The matchup has been promoted heavily on the aesthetic clash of styles. The welterweights have a combined finishing rate of 87.5 percent.
In the co-main event, former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will attempt to extend a six-fight win streak against Stipe Miocic, with the winner turning his eye toward a UFC title shot. As always, ESPN is here to break down the main event and offer picks for the main card. Don't agree with the picks? Let me know on Twitter: @bokamotoESPN.
Robbie Lawler (26-10) vs. Carlos Condit (30-8) - Welterweight championship
Odds: Lawler -110; Condit -110
From 2008 to 2013, Georges St-Pierre defended the welterweight crown nine consecutive times -- occasionally making it look downright easy to do so. No welterweight title fight has looked remotely easy since the Canadian stepped away.
Saturday will mark the fourth 170-pound championship bout since St-Pierre vacated and just like the three before it, Lawler vs. Condit looks like a close, grueling matchup. They combine for that extraordinarily high 87.5 percent finishing rate, but also have combined for eight UFC Fight Night awards -- which means these two finish plenty of fights but tend to take lumps in the process.
Condit it a unique title contender right off the bat in that he has a pretty easily identifiable gap in his skill set: takedown defense. His career mark in the WEC (where he held a title) and UFC sits at 39 percent. In his last five fights alone (three of which were losses) he's been taken down 28 times. The reason he's still managed to rise to the top of the division full of elite wrestlers is his very active guard and meat cleaver-like elbows off his back. Taking Condit down might score points with judges, but only a handful of his opponents have enjoyed a meaningful tactical advantage from top position.
Will Lawler, nevertheless, look to make this an advantage? Probably not. Fact is, Lawler just doesn't wrestle much. Almost never, actually. He's learned the importance of winning rounds, so maybe he's more willing to include wrestling into his game plan for Condit, but ultimately Lawler's mentality doesn't hinge on securing points. He probably could help himself in close rounds by scoring a takedown or two, but it's unlikely he'll lean heavily on it -- if at all.
So, let's get to what this matchup figures to be about, which is two guys trading leather. Lawler seemingly came out of the womb with a club for a left hand but in his recent title fights, it's been his right hand jab that's stuck out. He'll throw a left kick to the body and head as well, but if we're categorizing Lawler's standup, he's a boxer and wants to fight in a boxing range. Against a 6-foot-2 opponent who is most dangerous either fighting long or extremely close in the clinch, Lawler's challenge is to use footwork and feints to keep the fight at that middle range he prefers.
Condit is a medley of offense, but when he finds something effective he'll pour it on (i.e. leg kicks against Nick Diaz, standing elbows against Thiago Alves). Lawler is a good enough fighter to make in-fight adjustments though, so Condit will need every bit of his versatility. Ideally though, I think if Condit has his preference, he'll spend as much time on the outside as possible, landing front and side kicks, picking up points and drawing the fight in later rounds. Lawler has proven his mettle in fourth and fifth championship rounds his last two fights, but Condit's endurance is second to none.
PREDICTION: Another back-and-forth welterweight title fight. Result comes in the third round, Lawler by TKO.
Rest of Main Card
Andrei Arlovski (25-10) vs. Stipe Miocic (13-2) - Heavyweight
Only three years apart in age, but those three years feel more like 30. There was a time when Miocic was definitely too green for this fight. That time has probably passed.
Prediction: Miocic by TKO
Scary power for the Russian vs. scary speed for the American. Sleeper Fight of the Night candidate.
Prediction: Tumenov by TKO
Brandao is one of the most dangerous first-round fighters in the game, but Ortega is well-equipped to make it to rounds two and three.
Prediction: Ortega decision.
Trujillo is arguably the better athlete but Sims is more polished. Tossup and a very close betting line reflects that.
Prediction: Sims by decision.