The UFC 173 card is back close to complete, as the UFC announced a new main event of TJ Dillashaw vs Renan Barao for the Bantamweight Title. Now comes the word that the card will also feature a phenomenal welterweight tilt between Robbie Lawler and Jake Ellenberger. The match-up could easily yield a title shot to the winner, as both men are easily top 10 right now. Look for the line to come out favoring Lawler, who is riding high after his colossal title fight effort against Johny Hendricks his last time out.
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Ellenberger is coming off a loss to Rory MacDonald, and he was slated to fight Tarec Saffiedine at UFC 172. Saffiedine reportedly suffered and injury that forced him to pull out, so Ellenberger gets the much more difficult task of facing Lawler.
Ellenberger remains an explosive athlete who is most dangerous in the opening minutes of a fight. Against Lawler he is facing an uphill battle, because Lawler has the physicality to hold off Ellenberger’s rush. He lost the opening 15 minutes of the fight with Hendricks, and still had enough in the tank to mount a furious comeback in rounds 4 and 5.
That last part is the worst news for Ellenberger. If Jake wins big early, with a KO of Lawler, it still will leave questions about his gas tank open. With Lawler likely to withstand his opening rush, Ellenberger is going to have to show he can sustain his high energy output over a long match and not tire. He has tired in the past, and that would be the progress that would be needed for Ellenberger to show he is worthy of top contender status. Without it, he will be in trouble against Lawler.
The danger for Lawler, who deserves all the praise he has been getting for being an excellent fighter, is that he is too cautious and methodical. After all, he critiqued himself immediately after the Hendricks fight, saying he should have pressed more. Assuming he loses the first round on Ellenberger’s explosiveness, he has to win the last two rounds in a three round fight, there is no room to start slow.