Robbie Lawler has not posted back-to-back wins since 2007. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
Robbie Lawler (20-9, 5-3 UFC) vs. Bobby Voelker (24-9, 0-1 UFC)
The Matchup: After an extended run at middleweight, Lawler returned to 170 pounds for the first time since 2004 against Josh Koscheck at UFC 157. The move worked wonders for Lawler, who had struggled in recent bouts against wrestling-minded foes at 185 pounds, as he scored a first-round technical knockout against the former NCAA champion wrestler. Despite having Koscheck velcro-ed to him for much of the first frame, “Ruthless” utilized effective guard work from his back before sprawling on a takedown and finishing the fight with heavy punches.
In Voelker, the former Miletich Fighting Systems standout faces an opponent who will likely be willing to engage in a slugfest. Perhaps best known for his Strikeforce Challengers trilogy with Roger Bowling, Voelker dropped a competitive unanimous decision to Patrick Cote in his Octagon debut at UFC 158. The Finney’s MMA representative ate some solid shots on the feet from Cote but was at his best in the third frame, where he scored takedowns and battered the Canadian with ground-and-pound.
Voelker has an established reputation as a finisher, earning 19 of his 24 wins via knockout or submission, but he must proceed with caution against Lawler, an able counterpuncher with good timing on his left hook and overhand right. A fighter as experienced as Voelker is not likely to become flustered when Lawler is throwing bombs, and he might even be able to take advantage of the fact that the Illinois native is sometimes careless when in pursuit of the explosive finish. However, Lawler’s chin has lasted through many a war -- only Nick Diaz has been able to stop him with strikes in 30 professional bouts.
While Voelker has proven to be plenty durable over the course of his career, Lawler’s power can put most anyone to sleep. He would be wise to utilize a varied striking attack to set up takedowns, minimizing the chances of a knockout.
Grounding Lawler is no small task: his tremendous upper-body strength and excellent sprawl allow him to keep the action standing against most opponents, and he is adept at setting up his power punches just outside the pocket. Voelker will have to utilize smart pressure against Lawler to throw off his timing and pick his spots to change levels for takedowns.
The Pick: This one could get wild early, as Voelker might find it too tempting to engage in a slugfest. Lawler does not need much of an opening to unload a kill shot, and he wins via knockout in round one or two.
Next Fight » Liz Carmouche vs. Jessica Andrade