In a summer that has had some anti-climactic main events and so-so undercards, the UFC is hosting a headline bout that is set to be one of the most exciting main events in the history of the promotion. As UFC on Fox 12 hits the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday night, two of the top welterweights in the world meet up to figure out who deserves the next shot at Johny Hendricks’ coveted title.

“Ruthless” Robbie Lawler is a name that UFC fans had become largely unfamiliar with since his UFC 50 fight against the late Evan Tanner. Before his 21st birthday, the longtime Quad Cities resident went 7-0 as a professional, including three wins in the Octagon. After finishing 4-3 in UFC action over a short, two-and-a-half-year span, Lawler left the promotion in 2004 and went on to win middleweight straps in Superbrawl, Icon Sport and EliteXC, before eventually becoming a three-year Strikeforce mainstay. While his 19-10-1 record doesn’t exactly scream title contender, the bulk of his losses came as a Strikeforce middleweight against guys like Tim Kennedy, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Jake Shields and Lorenz Larkin. Saturday night, the world will get to see the new Lawler once again.

In February 2013, Lawler was brought back into the UFC, and he finally made the drop back to 170 pounds. The 32-year-old, California-born Iowan stormed the Octagon like a man on a mission. In just nine months, Lawler knocked out Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker, then notched a split decision win over Rory MacDonald that earned him a title shot. After five hard-fought rounds against Hendricks in March, Lawler lost the fight via a close (but unanimous) decision. He came right back in May with a complete three-round dismantling of Jake Ellenberger that ended in a TKO. He is one fight away from his next title shot, but his next opponent is no slouch.

Matt “The Immortal” Brown has nowhere near the background that Lawler has, but his record speaks for itself. Fighting professionally since 2005, he is a veteran in his own right. In 2008, he entered The Ultimate Fighter 7 and quickly became a fan-favorite. He lost in the quarterfinals to Amir Sadollah, but bounced back to win via second-round TKO over Matt Arroyo at the finale event. The promotion made sure to snag up this exciting fighter, who had only been to decision once in 15 fights. After some good times and some bad, Brown has finally found his groove, going on a seven-fight winning streak, which includes six knockouts, over the last two years. Brown’s last three performances have yielded “of the Night” bonuses, and a win over Lawler will put him next in line for Hendricks.

With Hendricks coming off a knee injury resulting from his last fight with Lawler, and Georges St-Pierre indefinitely on the bench, this is practically an unofficial interim title fight. It gets to the point that it sounds cliché, but the fireworks are really going to fly in San Jose as these two hard-hitting knockout artists face off in one of the most exciting bouts of the year. Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up, and as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Lawler – 10, Brown – 10

It is more than reasonable to assume that this entire fight will take place standing, which will be incredible for anyone watching. Both Lawler and Brown are best when they are on their feet. These two guys combine for a whopping 31 knockouts in 42 victories. Lawler suffered one knockout loss at the hands of Nick Diaz back in 2004, and Brown has never been stopped with strikes.

Stylistically, this one is going to be a brawl for the ages—something comparable to Dan Henderson’s epic fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in November 2011. Both Lawler and Brown come out hard and fast, throwing a ton of heat and varied combinations. Both men use accurate knees, fists, elbows and kicks to inflict as much damage as possible. In their last outings, Brown shredded Erick Silva and Lawler dominated Ellenberger, both en route to brutal third-round TKO finishes. The biggest difference is that Brown ate a lot more significant shots in his last fight than Lawler did in his last outing, and that could pose a big problem for the Ohio native.

On the feet, a lot of folks are assuming that Brown is out of his league against Lawler, but this one is actually really evenly matched-up. Both men press hard, possess a ton of knockout power, and are nearly unstoppable in the striking department.

Submission Grappling: Lawler – 9, Brown – 10

Both of these men are tremendous strikers, but the ground game could prove to be a sticky wicket. Brown is the more formally trained submission fighter, both as a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a member of Jorge Gurgel’s team in Cincinnati. He holds five submission victories, all but one being prior to his time in the UFC, but he also holds nine submission defeats, four of which took place inside the Octagon. Most of Lawler’s five submission losses came early in his career, and the last one was to Jacare, so that one is an outlier.

With Lawler training at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., it’s safe to say that his submission defense is top tier. His submission attack is nothing to write home about—he has only secured one submission finish in 34 fights—but that’s not where he wants to go. Plus, if Brown does get into a guard position to try to set something up, he is at risk of a relentless striking barrage.

If one of these guys is going to win by submission, odds are that it would be Brown. Although the Ohio native has been vulnerable to some high-level BJJ guys, Lawler is not that type of guy. Brown may have a chance to catch an arm and secure a victory on the mat.

Wrestling: Lawler – 10, Brown – 9

Lawler could definitely hang with the middleweights, but he is an absolute beast as a welterweight. He has a large frame for 170 pounds, and even four-time NCAA Division I All-American Hendricks couldn’t exactly ragdoll him around the cage. Lawler was an All-State wrestler in high school and came into MMA through the Pat Miletich camp, which was famous for its deep base of wrestlers.

Brown has no formal background in wrestling, and most of his ground skills come from his BJJ background. This is not to say his MMA-centric wrestling isn’t effective. In his fight against Silva, he displayed superior positions and transitions, but Silva’s build is a far cry from Lawler’s.

Lawler is powerful and tactical with his wrestling in the cage. Brown is a bit quicker with his movements, but the wrestling edge goes to Lawler for his nasty clinch and ability to stuff takedowns.


Lawler is in the middle of an amazing career resurgence. After getting lost in the middleweight division for nearly a decade, the natural welterweight cleared his path to a title shot, was one round away from securing the strap, and is ready to get back in there against Hendricks as soon as the champ is ready. A lot of people have felt that Brown was going to get close to a title shot, and his current run speaks for itself. However, he does not have the same fire in his belly that Lawler does after being one round from glory. That is the x-factor in this contest.

Total: Lawler – 29, Brown – 29

Verdict: Lawler has been there before, and he’s going to stop at nothing to get another shot at Hendricks. Brown hasn’t been there yet, and, after Saturday night, he will probably be getting back in line. Brown may be the better submission grappler and also have a fantastic striking arsenal, but Lawler is going to be too much for him on the feet. Brown will likely get some really nice shots in, because that’s what he does. The fight will open up with a fast pace and relentless attacks from both sides—a ton of non-stop action. However, it will not go the distance. After two and a half rounds of battering each other, Lawler will prove that he is the more durable fighter and turn up the heat to earn a TKO victory.