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LAS VEGAS -- Robbie Lawler might want to set his alarm clock, as it seems he has a proclivity for waiting until the last possible minute to punch the gas in his Ultimate Fighting Championship title fights. Then again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The welterweight champion dropped the hammer in the fifth and final round of what unfolded into an epic clash with challenger Carlos Condit and eked out by the narrowest of margins yet another come-from-behind win to keep the 170-pound strap at UFC 195 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Like we saw in each of his two fights with former champion Johny Hendricks, Lawler’s bout with Condit came down to a single contested round. This time, the swing round was the third. Condit notched the first and fourth, while Lawler banked the second and fifth.
The story of the fight was Condit’s unrelenting assault being pitted against Lawler’s ability to land with his signature power when he did uncork his much more selective arsenal. Even in the rounds that were unquestionably scored for the champion, Condit was still able to throw more and land more, according to FightMetric.
Lawler put down the challenger in the second round and absolutely battered him in another memorable fifth to secure the fight. Condit was equally good in the rounds he put on his side of the ledger, knocking down Lawler in the first and dominating the fourth. It was the pesky third frame that has led to all the hand wringing after the split decision was announced. That third round was much akin to the other rounds that ended up going for the champion. Condit’s output was triple that of Lawler’s (78-26), while his landed punches doubled him up (22-11). What is difficult to quantify is the power and effectiveness of those shots.
In the other rounds, there were knockdowns and sustained periods of action that were widely viewed in the same light by most people watching the fight. The third round did not really have those moments of clarity. There was a nice forearm shiver from Lawler that, in my opinion, did the most damage, but it did not come close to slowing down the Condit Express. For his part, Condit did not really land anything that stood out.
Honestly, when Bruce Buffer started reading the scores, I was pretty sure he was going to call Condit’s name because of his voluminous output. I really need to take another peek -- I’m sure I will once I get home from Vegas -- but after watching the fight live, I’m content with how things unfolded. It was an amazing fight, with and all-time round five comeback from the champ to hold onto his belt. Sure it was close and could have gone either way, but it was not a robbery.
If you want a robbery, all you had to do was look on the undercard to witness MMA judges perpetrating their special brand of larceny on Kyle Noke and Nina Ansaroff.
Condit was a total gentleman after the bout, but maybe he’ll get back to New Mexico, gain a little perspective and decide he does feel he was done dirty. I have my doubts, but you never know. My intuition tells me he will either gear up to run this fight back or he will call it a career. The man is a contemplative, analytical person who can see the risks this sport brings along with it. He’ll make a rational, reasoned decision about his future. I, for one, think he should go out with his head high, if he does indeed hang up his gloves. He’s a tremendous competitor and a guy who did things the right way. My hat’s off to him either way.
As for Lawler, he told me hours after the fight that he has to stop making things so difficult on himself: “I need to start knocking these guys out early.”
Clock Strikes Midnight on Arlovski
I have to say, I was truly shocked at how many people were picking Andrei Arlovski to beat Stipe Miocic in the UFC 195 co-main event. Less than a minute into what amounted to a heavyweight title eliminator, I’m sure they were all wondering why they picked him, too.
I guess I kind of get it: Who wouldn’t want to root for a guy like Arlovski? It has been an amazing renaissance for the former champion. He has enjoyed a good run, but against a big hitter like Miocic, this seemed like the most likely outcome from the day they announced this fight. Heavyweight MMA is as unforgiving a profession as it gets in the sport’s world, and Arlovski has an Achilles’ heel that reared its ugly head once again. The first big shot he caught put out his lights and any hope of a fairytale return to the UFC heavyweight throne.
Miocic, on the other hand, secured a date for Arlovski’s old belt with the winner of the Fabricio Werdum-Cain Velasquez rematch. Well, scratch that. He was promised a fight for the title, but we have seen how that has gone for other fighters. So until he gets that bout agreement, we’ll just say he’s listed as probable to be the next challenger.
You never know what kind of carrots the UFC might throw Alistair Overeem’s way to get him back in the heavyweight fold after he fought out his contract. Also, what if something freaky happens when Werdum rematches with sea-level Velasquez? All I’m saying, Stipe, is don’t start counting any chickens.
Brian Ortega and Michael McDonald scored impressive submission victories in their respective returns to competition. McDonald, a former title challenger at bantamweight, was coming back after a 24-month layoff due to injury. After a slow start, the former can’t-miss prospect looked like he may be on his way to a shocking defeat when Masanori Kanehara locked up a deep choke early in the second period.
McDonald did not panic, fought his way out and immediately transitioned to the back of his opponent before sinking the fight-ending rear-naked choke. It was an impressive finish but showed there’s some room for improvement for the ultra-talented fighter. At just 24 years old, the future is bright for “Mayday,” and now that he has knocked off some of the ring rust, I’d like to see him get back into the title mix with a top five- type opponent next time out.
Speaking of luminous futures, how about Ortega? Fighting for just the second time in 17-months, Ortega weathered the storm from a motivated and in-shape Diego Brandao before taking the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner to “T-City” in the final frame of their featherweight scrap. Trailing on two of three cards heading into the last round, Ortega remained calm and continued to work his strong jiu-jitsu game to set up a beautiful grappling sequence that led to Brandao’s capitulation. Ortega grabbed his neck while standing, slipped in an anaconda choke and from there fell to his back and transitioned to a guillotine. Brandao defended, but Ortega continued to chain submissions and caught the Brazilian in his patented triangle to elicit the tapout.
Ortega is an interesting prospect whose only blemish came after testing positive for performance enhancers in 2014, resulting in his win over Mike de la Torre being switched to a no-contest. Hopefully, that nonsense is behind him because he brings an exciting style of grappling to the Octagon and could find himself in some pretty big fights in pretty short order should he keep things moving in the right direction.
MMA judging popped out of its shell once again on the undercard. Unfathomable scorecards were turned in for Justine Kish and Alex Morono, as Ansaroff and Noke were left with half a purse and undeserved losses on their records. Joe Soto also lost a controversial decision to Michinori Tanaka, which highlights the problem judging can and will continue to be until steps are taken to improve it.
One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way is the fact that horrible judges are allowed to score after displaying their ineptitude time and again. The old boys clubs … excuse me, the athletic commissions need to figure out who is competent and who is not and remove those serial offenders before they can do anymore damage. Like most places in life, there should be consequences when you don’t do your job effectively. The problem: In a sport like MMA, or any subjectively judged competition, there’s too much cover for the incompetents who invariably infiltrate the ranks of the capable. No one wants to rock the boat in these tight-knit outfits, so the problem persists.
I’m afraid this is going to be something we just have to deal with in perpetuity. I’m not happy about it, but unfortunately, I think we might as well accept the fact that this is our most likely fate.
Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email at email@example.com or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.