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13th Jul 2015

OPINION: Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald II is up there with the greatest fights in UFC history


Ben Kiely

In the words of the undisputed UFC welterweight champion, “that’s how you fight championship fights”.

It was a brutal back-and forth slugfest with both fighters landing monstrous shots until the very last round. The younger fighter tagged the veteran numerous times, but his elite wrestling was nullified by a defensive and counter-punching masterclass. A highlight reel flying knee knockout provided a fitting denouement to the captivating contest.

Jeremy Stephens vs Dennis Bermudez was on course to claim the lucrative Fight of the Night bonus at UFC 189, that is until Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald entered the Octagon completely upstaged it.

The general rule of thumb is that sequels are rarely as good as the original, but sometimes it’s obvious that the follow-up is going to live up the hype. Given how technically gifted both Lawler and MacDonald are, this was always going to be more like the Godfather Part II than Teen Wolf Too.

Their first fight at UFC 167 proved to be an adequate teaser-trailer for the big show. On that occasion, it was the Canadian who finished on top, relentlessly pummelling Lawler with ground and pound until he was saved by the final bell.

The judges awarded Ruthless the split decision, but the fact that he was in serious trouble towards the end of the scrap left fans contemplating what might have happened if it went to championship rounds.

MAc Law

As if it was written by some genius screenwriter, Lawler vs MacDonald II gave us exactly what made the original so great, except everything was just that little bit more spectacular.

MacDonald just edged the incredibly intense opening stanza, but Lawler’s new-look patient gameplan paid off in round two. The two slugged it out, but Lawler’s stellar takedown defence, and cinder-block-like hands obliterating the Red King’s nose, saw him level the score on the cards.

Lawler continued to pile on the damage in the third, but the tide turned when MacDonald “dinged” the champ with a kick upstairs with 30 seconds left in the frame. He moved in for the kill, but Lawler’s ludicrous resilience in survival mode saw him absorb the “MacFlurry” and wobble back to his corner.

Lawler MacDonald head seeking kick


If there was one round that encapsulated the five round war, it was the fourth. Both fighters were taken to edge of their respective pain thresholds in this frame. The devastation of the first 15 minutes had taken its toll, and their stances became considerably more flat-flooted.

However, their pursuit of the finish had not waned in the slightest.

Although MacDonald was landing with greater volume, Lawler made a point of refusing to take a backwards step. He plodded forward, continued to eat what his opponent had left and returned fire with some vicious shots of his own.

As the final seconds ticked down, Lawler sprayed blood onto the mat out of every available orifice in his face, including several new ones MacDonald had given him, and the weary warriors engaged in that now iconic post-round staredown.

The enthralling fight ended with a left straight from Lawler that landed flush on the shattered remains of MacDonald’s nose. Ruthless lived up to his moniker by viciously finishing the second best 170 lb-er in the world.

He was on the brink of defeat at the end of the third, behind on the scorecards but but was tougher, meaner and arguably more psychotic than the Canadian and dug deep to secure the victory.

The MMA purists got their ideal battle in the co-main event at UFC 189. There was no trash-talking or beef between the fighters in the lead up to the fight. There was no dramatic storyline outside the Octagon that added to the hype.

Instead, the purists were blessed with two mixed martial artists at the zenith of the sport giving perhaps the best performances of their respective careers.

When people discuss what is the greatest MMA fight ever, they bring up the likes of Henderson vs Rua, Edgar vs Maynard II and Griffin vs Bonnar, but UFC 189 threw another candidate into the mix.

Lawler vs Macdonald II may be the new fight you show a newcomer that gets them into MMA.