The Sunday Aftermath

Robbie Lawler

It was yet another packed weekend of MMA action as belts were on the line in One FC, Invicta and the UFC. Arguably the best card of 2014 was held at the Mandalay bay in Las Vegas as UFC 181 came to town on Saturday night.

From Manilla to Houston

The weekend’s action all got underway early Friday morning in the mall of Asia as the Filipino capital of Manila hosted One FC and there were wins for some notable names at the event. Roger Gracie picked up the w following a lackluster affair against James McSweeney where the Brazilian knocked out the Englishman in the third when McSweeney seemed to hurt his ankle. Then, Brandon Vera returned to the home of his ancestors and emerged victorious while One FC’s bantamweight title was defended yet again by Bibiano Fernandes in the main event.

Later on Friday night it was the ladies’ time to shine as Invicta visited Houston, Texas with the 10th event in it’s history. It was a fun night of fighting which saw familiar veterans Peggy Morgan, Roxanne Modaferri and Tonya Evinger take home wins. The main event was by far the best and most talked about fight though as defending atomweight champion Michelle Waterson lost her title to gifted Brazilian Herica Tiburcio via 3rd submission to a guillotine choke following two rounds of back-and-forth action which saw the face of ‘the karate hottie’ badly damaged.

Saturday’s action began in England as the back-in-vogue BAMMA put on well-liked event which saw the Freakshow Colin Fletcher stop Martin Brightmon via corner stoppage after the second. Then, the big business started in Vegas and it was a night of thrills and spills. The prelims were notable for stand out wins coming in the direction of firstly, Raquel Pennington using the rarely seen bulldog choke and then Josh Samman who knocked out Eddie Gordon with a huge head kick KO while Urijah Faber choked out Cisco Rivera in a sequence where he clearly landed an eye poke in a fight where he was badly struggling to get anything going. The main card kept the exciting night rolling too as Tony Ferguson choked out Abel Trujillo, Todd Duffee knocked out Anthony Hamilton and Travis Browne beat Brendan Schaub into oblivion late in the first. In between all of that, the UFC announced the signing of WWE superstar CM Punk which you can read more about here.

Showtime Submission

The co-main event, though, was where the real business began. After over a year out of the cage for both Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez neither man showed any signs of ring rust early on. Melendez immediately took the centre of the cage, pushed Pettis against the fence and got the takedown. Pettis, though, was active and returned to his feet but couldn’t get out of Melendez’ grasp. When Pettis eventually did escape Melendez wasted no time in getting another takedown – a repeated sequence in a first round clearly won by El Nino.

Pettis was more elusive to start the second and caught Melendez with a few straight shots as he came in which were answered in kind by the on-point Californian. Melendez was unrelenting in his grappling attempts which, in the end, was the winning and losing of the fight. Melendez dropped for yet another takedown attempt midway through the round but as he did Pettis latched onto his neck and locked on the inescapable guillotine – forcing Melendez to tap out. The lightweight picture is a little hazy now after a year of inactivity with no clear contender lined up. Donald Cerrone fights Myles Jury early next year and with a win will probably find himself the number 1 contender although Rafael Dos Anjos (who beat Cerrone) and the returning Khabib Nurmagomedov also might have a case.

Controversial Champion Crowned

After welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and veteran Robbie Lawler put on a top-5 fight of the year contender back in March, everyone expected this one to be equally as enjoyable with blood and thunder in every exchange and, although, it wasn’t nearly as insane it was equally close. Lawler started at a mad pace and hurt Hendricks with a barrage of knees to the body followed by a left hand in the opening seconds. The champion stayed calm though and weathered the storm before establishing the clinch which gave him control to land strikes against the fence for a large period of the round. When they eventually separated Hendricks landed the better strikes and took Lawler down as the round came to an end. Hendricks landed a hurtful right hand to start the second to which Lawler answered with a head kick as they exchanged further in a fashion reminiscent to the first fight. Hendricks landed a number of hard leg kicks which he put together with shots landing to the head of the challenger. Midway through the round Hendricks again established the clinch and got Lawler down but didn’t inflict much damage before Lawler got back up and landed another big head kick. Another mad flurry of exchanged bungalows ended the period and started the next one.

The combinations of Hendricks were really the story of the fight as he looked on point with his hooks from both hands and kicks to the body and legs. Lawler wasn’t nearly as active in the third and ate a number of shots from Hendricks before being taken down late on in the period. The championship rounds were where Hendricks won the last fight and he again looked good as he started winning almost all of the striking exchanges early in the fourth. To his credit, Lawler wasn’t giving up and landed two more head kicks which were brushed off by the champ. Hendricks was unrelenting, though, and again took Lawler to the mat late in the round but couldn’t keep the position as Lawler ended the period landing ground and pound on the floor. Hendricks immediately tied up in the fifth and pushed Lawler against the cage as he did so often throughout the fight – although Herb Dean broke them up pretty quickly due to inactivity. That didn’t stop the former Oklahoma state wrestler who again established the clinch before again being separated by referee Dean. Lawler tried to push the pace after that but Hendricks grabbed a leg and began to grind again. Lawler did all he could to hurt Hendricks from the clinch and with 15 seconds left got back to his feet, bringing an intense barrage of strikes – it was too late though and the judges got to decide the winner.

Either way it was going to be a tight decision and it was extremely controversial as the judges announced a split decision of 48-47, 47-48 and 49-46 for the new UFC welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler. The fight was a close one where the scorecard of 49-46 for Lawler didn’t reflect what actually happened and was justly widely condemned. Unlike the lightweight title picture, the welterweight strap already had a next suitor lined up with Rory MacDonald waiting in the wings. It is unknown now however whether the UFC will decide to book the rubber match of last night’s contest or have MacDonald take on Lawler. But, with suggestions that a title fight will take place in MacDonald’s home country of Canada next year, it might just be the Canuck’s time to fight for the 170 lbs strap.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook

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