Robbie Lawler versus Rory MacDonald is the Fight of the Year for 2015. There isn’t any other fight in consideration, and honestly what candidates could possibly be in the running for this glorious distinction? Cormier vs Gustafsson? No, try again. Jones vs Cormier? Strong, but no. Velasquez vs Werdum? You’re kidding, right? Rousey vs Holm? I won’t even dignify that with a response. Browne vs Arlovski? If you propose this you’re a fan of pub style brawling and sloppiness.
However, if you’re a fan of high level fight strategy and technique, Lawler versus MacDonald takes Fight of the Year because it encompasses so many different aspects of what attracts fans to combat sports. Two elite level fighters exhibiting physical and mental toughness, intelligence, strength, grit, stamina, endurance, perseverance, and vulnerability, mixed in with salient brutality, blood, and carnage.
We witnessed a true war of attrition in this bout. Instead of engaging in a wild barn burning brawl, we witnessed technical destruction and deconstruction by each. The first eight minutes of their epic battle, each fighter is attempting to establish lead foot dominance. Lawler in his southpaw stance, MacDonald in orthodox, they jockeyed for position of their lead foot to establish their respective left/right straight. MacDonald was winning this battle with his stiff jab and push kicks to Lawler’s midsection. At 1:39 of the second round Lawler gained the lead foot advantage and fired a hard jab and straight left, breaking MacDonald’s nose.
Prior to this point, Lawler had relinquished lead foot dominance, instead relying on his hand speed and reflexes to fire off combinations against MacDonald. As a counter to having the dominant lead foot, MacDonald had an opportunity to fire his straight right and elbow as Lawler closed the distance. Rory countered with a glancing right elbow at :37 of the second round before landing a flush elbow at :13 of the same round. It is this inside elbow that will split Robbie’s lip in the fourth round.
Next we head into the third. It’s more of the same, as they continued to fight for position while Robbie was steadily targeting Rory’s nose. In addition, as Robbie steps inside to close the distance, Rory was continuously catching him with a sharp right elbow. However, Robbie was getting the better of these exchanges; then Rory shot for the takedown and got violently stuffed as Robbie made him pay with short hard shots to the head. As Rory stands, his nose is visibly worse. Then it happens, with :38 remaining in the third round Rory throws a high kick which looks as if it’s blocked by Robbie’s arm, but instead wraps around and clips him in the back of the head. Lawler staggered back into the cage and MacDonald closed in with punches and elbows. Attempting to fight his way off the cage, Lawler was soon greeted with a flying knee by MacDonald. A drunk and raucous crowd at Twin Peaks were on their feet cheering and screaming as the round was coming to a close. I remember distinctly thinking “well this is it, Big John McCarthy is going to stop this bout, Lawler’s title reign was short lived.” But McCarthy allowed the match to continue, Lawler persevered, and we were now heading into the fourth round. Buckle up buttercup.
Although I was tired and weary from working on my feet all day and only wanted to sit down, suddenly I was on my feet reinvigorated for the fourth round. Once again MacDonald looked to pick up where he left off, throwing a high kick to Lawler’s dome. Initially, I thought Robbie had suffered that undesirable cleft pallet as he got pinned along the cage at 4:40 of the fourth round and battered mercilessly with a barrage of knees, elbows, and punches. However, it occurs at 2:48 of the fourth, as Robbie circled to his right and threw a looping right hook as Rory stepped forward with a counter right elbow; this my friends results in one the most unsightly gashes in MMA history (it still makes me shiver).
Then it happened, the most dramatic moment of the fight, the moment that any fan who watched UFC 189 can recall in infinitesimal detail. The bell sounded to end the fourth round, and instead of walking to their respective corners they walked toward one another, piercing glares into the eyes of one another. These are the moments that Hollywood attempts to create with their plethora of boxing movies, and they all fail, they fail miserably. No actor has the breadth of knowledge, courage, and other unknown attributes it requires to stand across from another highly skilled and professionally trained hand to hand combat killer and seek to peer into their soul. Name any A list actor and tell me what are they going to draw from, when they were a starving artist waiting tables in Santa Monica to some drunken minor skirmish that happened outside a bar. No, they’re ill equipped to accurately portray the moment that Lawler and MacDonald had in which they had thrown everything in their repertoire at each other and were coming back for more. This is theater at its highest form, and it didn’t involve a single thespian.
I imagine….I imagine Robbie telepathically told Rory he was coming to crush his soul in the fifth round. And apparently, Robbie thought Rory’s soul was located in his nose.
In the opening minutes of the fifth round Lawler threw a hard straight left to the nose of MacDonald. Rory briefly paused, grasped his nose, and then crumpled to the ground. It was at this moment, I thought and possibly yelled out, “oh no, his nose is gone,” although I sincerely doubt anyone heard me in all the chaos that ensued as the fight was ending. There it was, Robbie Lawler had pulled a vintage Robbie Lawler move and knocked out his opponent, finding a way to remain the undisputed Welterweight Champion.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2015 Fight of the Year belongs to “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler and Rory “Red King” MacDonald, period!
[Photo (c) Joe Camporeale via USA Today Sports]
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