UFC On FOX 8 (Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga)- Robbie Lawler vs. Bobby Voelker Preview, Breakdown, Prediction

Robbie Lawler (20-9 1 NC, 5-3 UFC) vs. Bobby Voelker (24-9, 0-1 UFC)

Lawler and Voelker get a shot to make an impression on the main card on FOX in a battle of two former Strikeforce fighters. Lawler fights for the second time since returning to the UFC, and he will be looking to build on his knockout win over Josh Koscheck at UFC 157 in February. Lawler is just 2-3 over his last five bouts. Voelker takes this fight on short notice as he is an injury replacement. He fights for the second time in the UFC and is looking to rebound from a close decision loss to Patrick Cote at UFC 158 in March. Voelker is 3-2 over his last five fights.

Fight Breakdown- Lawler has gone through a trio of opponents as he awaits his second bout since returning both to the UFC and to the welterweight division. He was originally scheduled to fight former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Tarec Saffiedine, but Saffiedine was forced out due to injury. Siyar Bahadurzada was then tabbed to fight Lawler, but with just under three weeks until fight time, Lawler was again without an opponent as an injury took Bahadurzada out. Fortunately for Lawler, Voelker agreed to step in with just 16 days until fight time, and Voelker will look to make most of a big opportunity on the big stage of FOX. Voelker had just started training camp for a fight against James Head in late August, so he gets an accelerated training camp to fight Lawler.

Lawler looked very solid in his return to the UFC at 170 pounds as he became just the second fighter to ever finish Josh Koscheck with punches. Lawler was able to have good defense for the wrestling skill that Koscheck possesses and ended up using his power to finish Koscheck on the ground. After a run at middleweight that saw Lawler get controlled by big wrestlers, he seems to be back as a potential title contender at a more natural weight class, and a move to the American Top Team camp in Florida helps him hone his skillset. Voelker doesn’t mind engaging in a striking battle, and 19 of his 24 wins have come by a finish, though Lawler has only been knocked out once in his 30-fight career. Voelker is coming off a close battle with Patrick Cote, and he came on strong late in the fight, but it was not enough to get the decision. Voelker’s conditioning will be a key in this fight as he takes the fight on very short notice.

Lawler’s power will help him control the fight, but at the same time, it could also be his biggest detriment in the fight. Lawler tends to get wild when looking for the finish, and Voelker will be able to counter if Lawler gets careless. Voelker is pretty durable, as is Lawler, and Voelker will be needing to look out for the counterpunching of Lawler, who lands solid left hooks and dangerous overhand rights. Lawler is also not afraid to mix in some flying knee attacks as he did when he finished Adlan Amagov in a fight in Strikeforce. Voelker should look to mix in his wrestling and some ground-and-pound as his conditioning may not be at a peak level, and utilizing top control would be a good way to ensure he can go the full 15 minutes should the fight go the distance.

This fight will likely be a brawl on the feet as both are willing to stand and exchange power punches. Voelker will need to use some good timing to throw Lawler off of his striking attack and should look to mix in the takedowns. Lawler has solid wrestling defense and can create scrambles on the ground, and he has vicious striking power on the ground as well. This fight is set up to be a showcase fight for Lawler, but Voelker is very tough and will give Lawler a fight. If Lawler makes any sort of mistake, Voelker should be able to capitalize and change the pace of the fight. Lawler has more power in his hands, and it will make the difference in the fight. Voelker is durable, but the short notice he is getting for this fight will work against him as Lawler finishes him with his punching, likely sometime in the first half of the fight.

Why It Matters- Lawler has gotten title shots while fighting with such promotions as Strikeforce, EliteXC and ICON Sport, but he has yet to secure a title opportunity in the UFC. He came close in his first UFC stint, but Nick Diaz kept Lawler from that title shot. The win over Koscheck put Lawler into the top ten in the UFC’s official rankings, and while a win over Voelker would not be as big as a win over Saffiedine would have been, it is still a win streak, and it will lead to a bigger fight for Lawler down the line.

Voelker has everything to gain with a win, and not really much to lose with a loss. He won’t be cut with a loss due to taking the fight on 16 days’ notice, though it would put him into a must-win situation in his next fight. A win would be huge for Voelker and would quickly move him up the welterweight ladder by defeating a top-ten ranked opponent. Voelker is a game fighter and ready to step up to the challenge, and a win over Lawler would be the biggest win of his career, and he knows it.

Prediction- Lawler

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