One lightning bolt of a right hand was all it took to knock Robbie Lawler from his throne.
Tyron Woodley cut down his American Top Team stablemate with first-round punches to capture the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title in the UFC 201 main event on Saturday at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Stopped by strikes for the first time since Nick Diaz did the honors more than 12 years ago, Lawler succumbed to blows 2:12 into round one.
Speed was the difference. After a somewhat tepid start, Woodley floored the champion with a right hook to the jaw. Lawler came to rest against the cage, where he was met with a series of stabbing right hands that left him incapable of defending himself and forced referee Dan Miragliotta to act on his behalf. It brought an end to a remarkable run that saw the “Ruthless” one rattle off five straight wins, two of them in “Fight of the Year” performances. All this from a man that had been left for dead by the masses following a disappointing 3-5 run in Strikeforce.
In wake of UFC 201 “Lawler vs. Woodley,” here are five matches that ought to be considered:
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson: Once a blue-chip prospect with a seemingly limitless ceiling, Woodley has fulfilled his potential. A two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, the 34-year-old has gone 6-2 since arriving in the UFC in 2013, decision losses to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields his only missteps. Woodley showed no ill effects from an 18-month layoff that was not of his doing, as he recorded his third consecutive victory and reached the summit at 170 pounds. Thompson finds himself on a seven-fight winning streak following his unanimous decision over MacDonald at a UFC Fight Night event on June 18.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk: Poland seems to have the women’s strawweight market cornered. Kowalkiewicz remained undefeated, as she walked away from her co-main event showdown with Rose Namajunas on the right side of a split decision. After a sketchy start, the 30-year-old hit her stride in the clinch, where she batter Namajunas with knees to the body and standing elbows to the head. Though finishes have been hard to come by in her ascent to the No. 1 contender slot at 115 pounds, the quality of Kowalkiewicz’s resume cannot be ignored. Jedrzejczyk retained the women’s strawweight championship with a five-round unanimous verdict over archrival Claudia Gadelha at “The Ultimate Fighter 23” Finale on July 8.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Alan Jouban: Ellenberger rose from the figurative dead -- he had lost five of his previous six bouts -- to stun Matt Brown in the first-round of their welterweight showcase. “The Juggernaut” dropped Brown with an overhand right inside the first 10 seconds, withstood the onset of fatigue and later finished him with a crushing liver kick and follow-up punches. Ellenberger, 31, now owns a 10-7 mark in the UFC. Jouban has posted back-to-back wins over Belal Muhammad and Brendan O'Reilly since his technical knockout loss to Albert Tumenov at UFC 192.
Nikita Krylov vs. Misha Cirkunov: Krylov looks more and more like the real deal at 205 pounds. The 24-year-old Ukrainian knocked “The Ultimate Fighter 3” finalist Ed Herman cold with a head kick 40 seconds into the second round of their light heavyweight prelim. Since being choked unconscious by Ovince St. Preux at UFC 171 more than two years ago, Krylov has finished Cody Donovan, Stanislav Nedkov, Marcos Rogerio de Lima, Francimar Barroso and Herman in succession. Xtreme Couture’s Cirkunov last appeared at a UFC Fight Night event in June, when he disposed of Ion Cutelaba with a third-round arm-triangle choke. The Toronto-based Latvian has won seven fights in a row.
Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit-Demian Maia loser: His reign atop the welterweight division was relatively brief -- it covered 602 days -- but Lawler can sleep easy knowing he brought the sport to unimaginable heights as champion in the absence of Georges St. Pierre. Classic wars with Condit, MacDonald and Johny Hendricks had preceded his knockout loss to Woodley. Lawler turns 35 in March and has accumulated plenty of mileage during a 16-year career that spans 39 fights, leaving one to wonder how much longer Father Time will allow him to compete with the elite fighters at 170 pounds. Condit will face Maia in the UFC on Fox 21 main event on Aug. 27.