Of the many talented fighters in the UFC, few have received as much recent love from MMA fans and the UFC brass than Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown. Other than (or, in some cases, including) the promotion’s titleholders, fight enthusiasts’ ears have pricked up most noticeably whenever either of these two workmanlike welterweights has been scheduled to compete. This hasn’t happened for no reason. Both 170-pound contenders have put together extremely impressive campaigns in the last year-plus, especially considering that before 2013 neither would have been considered a serious challenger to his division’s title.

After a so-so start to his UFC career, Brown shored up his resources and began performing like a true championship-caliber fighter. He’s currently in the midst of a seven-fight winning streak dating back to 2012, and most recently put on a display of fighting spirit that I believe had the power to renew people’s love for MMA itself. With that resume, many are of the opinion that Brown deserves the next shot at the welterweight belt currently held by Johny Hendricks.

If not for the presence of one Robbie Lawler, Brown would probably be on his way to a title fight as soon a Hendricks is recovered from bicep surgery. The problem is, the “Ruthless” one has put together an enviable run of Octagon performances worthy of continued title consideration. Since returning to the UFC in February 2013, Lawler has gone 4-1, with three of those four wins coming by knockout or TKO and the one defeat coming via a razor-thin decision loss in his own recent title bout against Hendricks. What’s more, Lawler has fought four times since July 2013, an impressive feat on its own, with his last three bouts all against members (at the time of his fights with them) of the UFC’s welterweight top five. This past Saturday, Lawler maintained his position atop the pile of 170-pound contenders by doing something to Jake Ellenberger that only two other fighters have been able to do in Ellenberger’s 37 professional fights–finish “The Juggernaut” inside the distance.

So, we’ve got one welterweight fan-favorite on a seven-fight winning streak, fresh off one of the most compelling performances in recent memory, and another whose only loss was by one point in a title fight, after which he took another fight two months later and won in convincing fashion. Hendricks has not yet given an indication of when he’ll be ready to compete again, and the rest of the UFC’s top welterweights are either occupied (Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley face each other at UFC 174, Hector Lombard has been slated to face Dong Hyun Kim in August) or coming off contention-halting loss/injury combos (Carlos Condit). In the minds of many fans and members of the MMA media, there was really only one appropriate thing to do.

While sometimes the UFC’s top officials express rather pointed discontent at these two groups (particularly the latter), UFC President Dana White granted their collective wish on Tuesday and announced on Twitter that Lawler will square-off with Brown in the main event of the UFC on Fox card on July 26, with the winner guaranteed the next shot at Hendricks. If Twitter was capable of producing sound, my TweetDeck app would have been cheering loudly for several minutes after the announcement was made, because really, what’s not to like here?

You’ve got two guys who have been more than willing to fight for their pay and prestige (especially Lawler, who, again, will be fighting for the fifth time in a calendar year in his match with Brown), two guys who have become known as much for their mental and physical toughness as for their recent successes, and two guys who have fought to a decision just 11 times in their 64 combined professional bouts. If there was ever a no-brainer of a main-event, it’s Lawler vs. Brown.

This sort of potentially explosive intra-divisional superfight (and I believe Lawler vs. Brown can easily be called that) does not come along often, but the pieces have fallen together just right to give us one of the best match-ups in recent UFC history in July. It’s exactly the sort of fight the UFC can market to more casual fans simply due to the resumes of each fighter and the fact that it’ll be free to watch. If the battle between Lawler and Brown is even half as exciting as many think it will be, it very well could open the door for a new group of MMA fans to bury themselves neck-deep in the sport’s history and future, as many did after witnessing the storied The Ultimate Fighter Finale war between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.

Someone much wiser and drug-addled than I am once said that you can’t always get what you want. Once in a while, though, MMA fans are presented with the sort of can’t-miss battle that’s sure to be a highlight of our summer. Lawler vs. Brown is that battle, and I, for one, can’t wait until July.

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.