In the wake of an epic, interesting and controversial mega-card for UFC 200 in Las Vegas earlier this month, the organization stages UFC 201 on Saturday night from Philips Arena in Atlanta, and the main card is headlined by a welterweight title bout between champion Robbie Lawler and contender Tyron Woodley. Lawler is a -215 favourite on Sports Interaction MMA odds with Woodley at +165.
Robbie Lawler Makes Third Defense Of Belt
This is the first major UFC card since the organization was sold for a record $4 billion (U.S.) soon after UFC 200. A group led by talent agency WME-IMG takes over the company, although outspoken UFC president Dana White is staying on in his role. The $4 billion price is the most expensive transaction for an organization in worldwide sports history. Pretty nice return for brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who bought the UFC in 2000 for $2 million.There was to be a flyweight championship fight as well at UFC 201 between champion Demetrious Johnson and Wilson Reis, but Johnson had to pull out due to injury. Saturday’s main card is shown on pay-per-view and is projected to start at 10 p.m. ET.
“Ruthless” Lawler (27-10) is a 34-year-old American who is making his third title defense in the 170-pound class. Lawler won the title in an upset of Johny Hendricks at UFC 181 in December 2014 via split decision. Lawler defended the title the first time in July 2015 at UFC 189 by beating Canadian Rory MacDonald by fifth-round TKO. It was a brutal fight, and Lawler was down 39-37 on all three judges’ scorecards entering the final round. MacDonald was attempting to become the first UFC champion out of Canada since Georges St-Pierre vacated the welterweight title in late 2013.
Lawler was last in the Octagon in January at UFC 195, beating Carlos Condit by split decision. Many thought Condit won that fight, including White. It was Lawler’s fifth consecutive win overall and fourth in a row that went to the fifth round. Still, a total of 20 of his career victories are by KO or TKO.
Underdog Woodley’s First Title Shot
“The Chosen One” Woodley (15-3) is also a 34-year-old American. He lost to MacDonald at UFC 174 in June 2014 but has won two in a row since then: a first-round TKO over Dong Hyun Kim in August 2014 and a split decision over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 183 in January 2015. Woodley set to fight Hendricks at UFC 192 last October but it was called off the day before because Hendricks was having some health issues.
This is Woodley’s first title shot. His 15 wins have been split into three even segments: five by KO/TKO, five by submission and five by decision. The UFC ranks him as the No. 4 contender; MacDonald is No. 2. The over/under rounds for this bout is set at 2.5, with the over a -160 favourite. The result with the shortest MMA odds is Lawler by KO, TKO or disqualification at +120.
Women’s Strawweight Fight
There is also a good women’s strawweight bout between No. 3 contender Rose Namajunas and No. 5 Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The 24-year-old Namajunas (5-2) has won her past three bouts. She fought in the UFC’s first-ever strawweight title bout (115 pounds) in December 2014 against Carla Esparza but lost. Namajunas hasn’t been beaten since. The 30-year-old Kowalkiewicz (9-0) is fairly new to the UFC and is 2-0 since signing with the company. Namajunas is -270 on MMA odds with Kowalkiewicz at +195.
The women’s strawweight champion is Joanna Jedrzejczyk. That’s one weight class below bantamweight, which has the likes of Ronda Rousey, Amanda Nunes, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm.
UFC 201 Predictions
Lawler by TKO in Round 3 and Kowalkiewicz in an upset to potentially earn her a title shot.