Welterweight: Robbie Lawler (#10, 21-9 MMA, 6-3 UFC) vs. Rory MacDonald (15-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC)

UFC 167: St. Pierre vs. Hendricks airs live this Saturday, November 16th, from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Last Vegas, Nevada and features a pivotal welterweight fight between two of the top contenders in the division in “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald. The winner of this fight very likely becomes the number one contender and could end up facing the winner of the main event in their next fight.

MacDonald, 24, comes equipped with one of the most well rounded skill sets in the welterweight division and has all the tools in the world to fight calculated, intelligent fights – much like Georges St. Pierre. Makes sense, as they both train at Tristar with MacDonald making the move there after his first and only loss to Carlos Condit. Both before and after that Condit fight, MacDonald has looked untouchable. MacDonald entered the UFC at 10-0 with 10 straight finishes and following the Condit loss he is a perfect 5-0 with dominant wins over Nate Diaz, B.J Penn, and Jake Ellenberger.

Lawler, 31, is a very seasoned mixed martial arts fighter and has been around the game for a long time. Originally making his UFC debut back in 2002 at UFC 37, Lawler went an average 4-3 in the promotion before being released following back to back losses to Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner. After bouncing between organizations and a brief stint in Elite XC, Lawler found his way into Strikeforce where he would alternate between wins and losses (as well as losing back to back to Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy) until the UFC-Strikeforce merger took place. Inside the octagon, Lawler has gone a perfect 2-0 knocking out both Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker(originally expected to face Tarec Saffiedine) in very impressive fashion.

Lawler’s game plan should be very simple – knock MacDonald out. Lawler will want to avoid a drawn out grappling match against the fresher and more techncially sound grappler in MacDonald, so he should naturally look to what got him in this high profile fight in the first place. His power. And to unload that power, Lawler is going to have to find a way to get past the jab of MacDonald – something another hard hitting welterweight in Ellenberger wasn’t able to do. While Lawler has a strong edge in power, MacDonald has more tools at his disposal and could very well look to use a similar strategy as the one used against Ellenberger while circling away from the power side of Lawler, picking him apart from the outside with rangy kicks and a stiff jab.

Should he feel that even that gives Lawler too much of a chance at success, MacDonald also has the advantage on the ground where he has earned himself six submissions in 15 wins. Lawler has generally used his ground game defensively and to return to his feet. Should this fight hit the ground in the later rounds, the better conditioned MacDonald will have a greater chance at a finish and could find holes in the ground game of his opponent who is 7 years the elder. In his longevous career, Lawler has been finished six times, five of which came by way of submission – it would be wise for MacDonald to try and make it six.

@MikalMMA ‘s Prediction: Rory MacDonald defeats Robbie Lawler via submission (rear naked choke) in round 3.

Only one of Lawler’s losses have come by way of knockout, none have come by TKO. Lawler, as was highlighted in his fight with Melvin Manhoef, can take an insurmountable load of punishment with out quitting and – much of the reason we’ve never seen him lose by TKO – and his power should never be counted out, so a finish from MacDonald by any other way than a submission would be surprising. However, the younger and fresher MacDonald should out work Lawler using much better angles and strikes from the fringe, eventually wearing him down opening him up for easier take downs and submissions. Lawler is defensively capable on the ground when he is fresh, but as fatigue (and frustration) sets him he opens himself up for submissions. Despite all the recent hype of Lawler having reinvigorated his career with his move to welterweight, it was not long ago that he couldn’t even string together back to back wins in Strikeforce – it’s great to see him on a streak and receiving the attention he deserves, but MacDonald will put an end to that streak and capitalize on holes in Lawler’s game that have been exposed numerous times before.