Former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler return to action for the first time since losing his title to Tyron Woodley last July and he didn’t pick an easy fight as he faced off with perennial contender Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 214.
Lawler made a lot of changes since his last fight including a new camp after leaving American Top Team to begin training with head coach Henri Hooft, who previously led the rival Blackzilians team in South Florida. Meanwhile, Cerrone was also looking for a fresh start following a stunning TKO loss in his last fight to Jorge Masvidal in January.
After being gone for the past year, Lawler looked like he was trying to make up for lost time as he came firing out of the gate looking for the knockout from the first moment the referee unleashed the fighters from the corners.
Lawler went on the attack with a barrage of punches and knees from the inside, immediately opening a small cut under Cerrone’s left eye. To his credit, Cerrone was able to survive the swarming attack from Lawler before firing back with a couple of nasty elbows that blasted the former champion directly on the jaw.
Late in the round, Cerrone was able to secure a takedown off a kick from Lawler but he wasn’t able to advance his position much before they returned to the feet in the center of the Octagon.
Cerrone took over in the second round with an offensive onslaught that Lawler struggled to counter as he backed away and circled around the cage trying to find an opening to land a counter strike.
— #UFC214 (@ufc) July 30, 2017
Unfortunately, Lawler struggled to get his timing down thanks to Cerrone staying on the attack with wide variety of strikes including several hard, thudding kicks and quick boxing combinations.
Perhaps the second round served as a chance for Lawler to reset because he came out aggressive again in the third by attacking the body almost immediately and then looking for the head kick at the end of his sequence of strikes.
Lawler continued to apply pressure but Cerrone was able to make an adjustment with several counter strikes landed. Cerrone did a good job with straight punches down the middle while Lawler came back over the top with big, looping punches with every shot looking like a potential knockout blow.
The back and forth war finally came to an end after 15 minutes but it was anybody’s guess who would get the win. Ultimately, the judges all agreed that Lawler did enough in the third round to eke out the victory with all the scores coming back 29-28 in favor of the former welterweight champion.
— #UFC214 (@ufc) July 30, 2017
Afterwards, Lawler wasn’t thinking about the welterweight title fight taking place later in the night but instead he just wanted to give a shout out to his friend and mentor Matt Hughes, who remains in a hospital after a serious car accident last month.
“I just want to dedicate this fight to Matt Hughes who is fighting a lot harder than I am,” Lawler said following the win.
It was a classy move from the former champion as he devoted his entire post fight speech to Hughes rather than putting his attention on the title race or his next fight in the Octagon.
Lawler is now 9-2 since returning to the UFC and undoubtedly re-enters title fight conversations following his win over Cerrone on Saturday night.