MMA Review: #531: UFC 195: Lawler vs. Condit
-The first show of 2016 then and while it wasn’t garnering anywhere near the hype of the previous two PPVs, it looked like a hell of an action show on paper with a main event that practically guaranteed fireworks and exciting fighters (Abel Trujillo, Brian Ortega, Diego Brandao, Albert Tumenov, and so on) up and down the card. With less name value this was clearly a card more for hardcores but there’s nothing wrong with that.
UFC 195: Lawler vs. Condit
Las Vegas, Nevada
-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
Zuffa must’ve been hoping for a really wild brawl between these two knockout artists to open the show, as while both were coming off losses (Trujillo’s admittedly a bit of an odd one in that fight with Gleison Tibau…) they always come to swing BOMBS and aren’t exactly hot with defensive skills. I’ve always liked Trujillo – dude just comes off as a bad man – so I was picking him.
Round One begins and Sims circles on the outside as Trujillo pushes forward. Both men miss with some strikes in the opening minute before Sims dodges a weird-looking clinch attempt with Trujillo almost falling over. HUGE haymakers from both men narrowly miss. Right hand connects for Sims and Trujillo looks stunned for a second but recovers quickly. Counter right lands again for Sims as Abel pushes forward. Crowd begin to boo for some reason two minutes in as Sims tags Trujillo with a right-left combo. Clinch from Trujillo and he drops for a double leg, but Sims sprawls back to defend. Trujillo switches to a single but Sims remains on his feet, and he shoves Trujillo away but eats a right in the process. Takedown attempt now from Sims but Trujillo grabs onto a guillotine as Sims leaves his neck open. Sims tries to slam him, but it makes the guillotine tighter, and Trujillo rolls and locks it up cleanly at a nasty angle to force the tapout.
Nice win for Abel Trujillo – his first submission win since 2010 – but you’ve got to think that Sims sort-of threw the fight away by going for the takedown as he was winning the stand-up handily to that point and seemed to have Trujillo looking tentative and ready to grapple himself. Still, take nothing away from Trujillo – he saw the opportunity and capitalised. Sims might be in trouble now with a 1-2 record given the roster cuts that are likely coming this year, but we’ll see as Zuffa do tend to like guys who brawl and throw haymakers. This was a decent opener at any rate.
Slick grappler Ortega – fresh off a win in a FOTYC over Thiago Tavares – was taking a bit of a step up here against the ultra-aggressive Brandao, who’d gotten back on track in 2015 with two wins over Jimy Hettes and Katsunori Kikuno. Most people seemed to be taking Ortega as he was the flashy unbeaten prospect, but I worried about his defense after seeing him take a lot of damage against Tavares and as Brandao is one of the most ruthless finishers in the division, I was taking the Brazilian in a mild upset.
Round One and they trade leg kicks with Brandao landing one so hard that it knocks HIM off balance. Overhand right follows. Ortega’s topknot cornrow haircut is insane, like a pineapple. Big haymakers from Brandao set up a clinch and he slams Ortega down, but lands right in an armbar. Brandao avoids it though and escapes into side mount. Ortega spins to guard but he takes some shots before reversing to his feet. Low kick again from Brandao. One-two follows and he lands another hard right that forces Ortega to clinch. He muscles the TUF winner into the fence but Brandao reverses and trips Ortega down into guard. Body triangle from the bottom from Ortega and it looks like he’s trying to hold Brandao in place. Couple of thudding elbows get through for Brandao and that’s enough to make Ortega go back to butterfly guard. Brandao decides to stand back up, forcing Ortega to join him. Beautiful counter right hook lands for Brandao. Left hand glances for Ortega in an exchange. Head kick misses for Ortega and he takes a one-two. Another hard one-two connects for the TUF winner. Ortega is firing back but he clearly doesn’t have the same punching power as Brandao. Nice combo from Brandao ends in a leg kick. Left to the body lands for Ortega. Seconds to go in the round and Brandao ends it with a counter right. Good opening round; 10-9 Brandao I’d say.
Round Two and Brandao pushes forward but then backs up and Ortega decides to taunt him Diaz-style. Big right hand connects for Brandao but he hasn’t flipped out as you might expect at the taunts. Good left to the body and a right over the top from Brandao. Takedown attempt follows but Ortega stuffs it. Double jab lands for Ortega. He avoids some haymakers from Brandao and it looks like the Brazilian might be slowing down. Head kick glances against Brandao’s shoulder. Body kick and a counter right do land for Diego though. Wild shots miss for both men. Nice right hook lands for Ortega as he steps forward. Wild swings miss for Brandao again. He connects on a heavy counter right though and that freezes Ortega in his tracks for a second. He soon gets back to moving and jabbing though and he’s beginning to look more comfortable. Right hand lands again for Brandao though. One minute to go and Brandao connects with a combo and follows with a hard leg kick. Right hand answers for Ortega. Nice head movement from Brandao allows him to avoid some punches from Ortega and he counters with a right again. Heavy combination lands for Brandao with seconds to go. High kick is blocked by the Brazilian and that’s the round. Closer round I thought but I’d still go with Brandao for the slightly better strikes.
Round Three and Brandao again comes out swinging. Ortega looks to fire back but Brandao looks fired up and yells at him. Takedown from Ortega but Brandao reverses and gets into top position before standing back up. Takedown from Brandao follows which is weird given he just stood, but whatever. He lands some punches but Ortega reverses back up and connects on a hard right hand. Brandao fires back and they potshot each other before Ortega grabs a front headlock and snaps him down, right into an anaconda choke! It looks tight as Ortega rolls into top position, then steps into mount and switches off to a guillotine! Brandao manages to avoid that, but Ortega rolls RIGHT INTO A TRIANGLE CHOKE and Brandao has to tap out there.
That was insane technique from Brian Ortega as it’s not like Brandao is a bad grappler or anything – he’s a legit BJJ black belt himself with some impressive subs on his record (Dennis Bermudez, Pablo Garza for instance…) and yet the second Ortega got him to the ground in a compromising position it was OVER. Post-fight he also solves a bit of a mystery as he reveals that the ‘T’ in his odd ‘T-City’ nickname actually stands for ‘triangle’. Of course! It must be said though for as exciting a finish as it was, he was losing the majority of that fight and so I don’t think he’s ready for the absolute upper echelon yet like a prospect like say, Mirsad Bektic at 145lbs probably is. Someone like Darren Elkins or Hacran Dias would make a good next opponent rather than like, Ricardo Lamas if you know what I mean. Fantastic fight, however, as both men really went for it and let it all hang out from start to finish.
These two strikers had been on real hot streaks at 170lbs, Larkin reeling off two straight knockouts over John Howard and Santiago Ponzinibbio and Tumenov taking out Matt Dwyer, Anthony Lapsley, Nico Musoke and Alan Jouban in impressive fashion. For the record also he’s actually NOT a Dagestani and is actually just a regular Russian, if that makes any sense! Tough fight to call as both guys had looked so good recently but I was leaning towards Larkin due to his insane speed.
First round begins and they circle and throw some feints before Larkin lands with a low kick. Counter left hand glances for Tumenov off another low kick. Larkin tries to fire out some jabs, but they don’t really land. He does back Tumenov up a little though. Straight right counter lands for Tumenov off a leg kick. Another one follows as Larkin lands with another low kick. Left hook glances for Tumenov. Another good low kick lands for Larkin and he catches Tumenov’s leg as he fires back with one of his own. Larkin’s leg kicks are looking great so far. Beautiful combo from the Russian ends in a head kick and he opens up with a flurry but Larkin does well to survive. Big counter combo lands for Tumenov as Larkin swings at him. Larkin manages to slow him down slightly with a leg kick though. Body kick lands for Tumenov. Right hand counter connects for Larkin. Tumenov is backing him up a little more now. Oblique kick to the body lands for Larkin. Left hand answers for Tumenov. Chopping leg kick from Tumenov and he backs Larkin right into the fence. Leg kick fires back for Larkin though and he’s doing damage with these now. Tumenov backs him up a little more with a right hand, but Larkin circles out and lands another solid leg kick. Glancing combo from Tumenov but Larkin lands the oblique kick to the body again. Very close round and you could go either way. 10-10 would be fair in fact.
Second round and Larkin fires off with a head kick that Tumenov just about blocks. Beautiful counter left hand lands for the Russian as Larkin pushes forward. Low kick answers for Larkin. Nice combo from Tumenov backs him up but he takes another leg kick. Larkin’s leg kicks are looking phenomenal and he dodges a combo from the Russian too. Tumenov keeps coming forward though and he does land with a left uppercut. Chopping leg kick lands for Larkin in reply. Nice right hand lands for Larkin too, set up by the leg kick again. Nasty combo from Tumenov backs him up and he counters the leg kick with a one-two this time as well. This is a very good striking match. Beautiful left hook to the body from Tumenov and he follows with a shot upstairs as well. Another left to the body follows. Leg kick from Larkin and Tumenov noticeably limps this time. Leg kick again from Larkin but this time Tumenov walks through it and WAILS on him with two lefts to the body and a crushing left to the head. Jesus that guy hits hard. Larkin takes it though but he’s getting lit up right now. He fires back with a right though and it manages to slow the Russian down a bit. Head kick just misses for Tumenov but he lands the left to the body again en route to the clinch. Larkin shrugs him off, but Tumenov walks him down and lands a right to the body and then a clean left hook. Larkin tries to fire back but Tumenov dodges and goes for a takedown. Stuffed by Larkin but he takes another combo. Head kick glances for Tumenov. Left hook follows but he eats a leg kick at the end of the round. That was a hell of a round and another close one too. I’d say Tumenov edged it due to the big body shots, but you could go for Larkin for the leg kicks too.
Third round and Tumenov opens with a leg kick but he soon takes one off Larkin. Front kick to the body follows for the Monsoon and he throws in a couple of inside leg kicks for good measure. Clinch from Tumenov is quickly broken. They exchange jabs and Larkin then lands another nasty leg kick. He’s doing a better job so far in this round of not being backed up. Spin kick to the leg lands for Larkin twice. Never seen those before! Another one lands and Tumenov is outright limping now, really struggling with the leg. Left hand connects for Larkin. Another leg kick almost buckles Tumenov and he follows with a right hand. Tumenov is trying to be aggressive but his movement looks shot to hell. Spin kick to the leg again from Larkin. Tumenov answers with a hard kick of his own and he swings haymakers, but Larkin circles out. Couple more low kicks from Larkin but he takes the left to the body. Good right over the top from Tumenov. This is anyone’s fight. Nice digging left to the body from Tumenov. Not long to go now and Larkin lands the leg kick again. Flurry glances for Tumenov in reply. Larkin backs him up again though and glances with a step-in elbow. Takedown attempt from Larkin with seconds to go and he drives Tumenov into the fence. Tumenov blocks it and spins him around and the crowd sound restless. Fuck Vegas, man. Good right hand lands for Larkin on the break and that’s it. 10-9 Larkin and I’d call it a 29-29 draw, but put a gun to my head and I’d probably say Larkin won due to the leg kicks.
Judges have it a split decision; 29-28 Tumenov, 29-28 Larkin and 29-28 for Albert Tumenov to edge it. Really close fight and I guess the two judges went for Tumenov’s cleaner boxing technique over Larkin’s superior kicks, which is fine as I mean, both men looked excellent and in a fight like that there’s no loser really. Wasn’t a barnburner in terms of wild exchanges or anything but as a technical striking match it was tremendous, with stuff you don’t always see in the UFC like those digging uppercuts to the body from Tumenov and those spin kicks to the leg from Larkin. I think both fighters are definitely ones to watch in 2016 but as always 170lbs is PACKED with talent so who knows how far they can go.
At one point this was considered a de facto #1 contender’s match, but that was before Alistair Overeem knocked out Junior Dos Santos and jumped the queue, so going in it was pretty clear that the winner would need a massively impressive performance and probably a knockout to take the spot. Both had obviously been on hot streaks – I still count Miocic’s fight with JDS as a win personally – but I was going for Stipe to win this one as despite his wins, Andrei had really been the recipient of excellent matchmaking and a bit of luck too and Miocic was clearly the best guy he’d fought since his 2014 return, and he’d also looked like a KILLER in his May win over Mark Hunt.
Round One and Arlovski opens with the oblique kick to the thigh. Jab from Miocic backs him up slightly and he’s throwing a lot of feints. Big right hand misses for Andrei and Stipe glances on an uppercut. These guys are throwing pretty heavily early on. Miocic backs him up and a short right hook lands and has Arlovski clearly hurt. Stipe SMELLS BLOOD and wades in with another right, and this one sends Arlovski down face-first! He gets onto all fours but Miocic is on him and he lands some BOMBS that force Herb Dean to step in. Wow, that was vicious.
Post-fight Miocic absolutely SCREAMS at Dana White and the Fertittas that he wants his title shot. Jesus Christ that’s an intense, scary guy. You wouldn’t immediately name Miocic if you were asked about intimidating fighters but he’s definitely up there when you think about it. Post-fight he’s still in kill mode too, looking like he’s ready to smash Joe Rogan as well and outright demanding his title shot. Hard to argue with it really after that. Everyone knows Arlovski’s not got the greatest chin in the world but recently it’d looked fine, as he survived some bombs from Travis Browne, but Miocic just destroyed him in about a minute. The problem and the elephant in the room though is Overeem and his free agent status – I’d say both the Reem and Miocic have just as much a claim to the next title shot (realistically, Stipe should’ve been given the shot at UFC 196 while Velasquez took a rebound fight but that’s another story….) but it might be the carrot that gets Overeem to sign a new deal and so even after a crushing KO like this, Miocic might have to wait his turn again. It’s times like this that it becomes REALLY frustrating that Zuffa have such a hard-on for rematches, but in the words of Dana White, it is what it is. Regardless, Stipe Miocic is a BADASS and this knockout was awesome. Poor Andrei.
If I’m honest this was some questionable matchmaking given Condit had only come back from over a year on the shelf in May, and while he’d beaten Thiago Alves I think you could argue Tyron Woodley probably deserved a title shot more than him. This was clearly the better fight on paper though – both Condit and Lawler are two of the most aggressive fighters in the division and in all of MMA in fact – and it sounded like fireworks guaranteed. Despite Condit being the more well-rounded striker I was taking Lawler – I couldn’t pick against the guy after the insane fight with Rory MacDonald, even though I did have fears that the war would’ve taken a lot out of Robbie ala Junior Dos Santos post-Velasquez. My pick was Lawler by late TKO.
Round One and Lawler begins to back Condit up right away but he takes a body kick in doing so. Few more kicks land for Condit but Lawler seems fine and he keeps pressing forward as Carlos circles along the fence. Really nice body kick lands for Condit. Pair of big right hands glance for Lawler but Condit returns fire with a knee to slow him down. They exchange and a right hand sends Lawler SPRAWLING, but he pops back up and clinches to slow Condit down. They exchange knees and Condit breaks with a short elbow. Lawler seems okay, but Condit backs him up now with a low kick and a knee. Couple of counters glance for Lawler but he takes a pair of kicks. Both men land with body kicks and Condit is definitely the aggressor now. Step-in right hand connects for Condit and a clinch follows but they break quickly after a Condit knee. More kicks from Condit back Lawler up. Spinning attack misses. He pushes forward again but Lawler lands with a counter left hand this time. Head kick misses for Carlos. Nice combo from Condit ends with a left hand and a partially blocked head kick. Sharp leg kick lands for the challenger. Another one follows quickly. Body kick and a left hook land for Condit. He’s definitely getting the better of this round. Right hand glances for Condit as he continues to back Lawler up and walk him down. Round ends there. 10-9 Condit. A replay actually shows it was a very short left hand that dropped Lawler rather than a right as I first thought.
Round Two and Lawler goes back to stalking forward, opening with a kick to the body. Head kick misses for Condit. Crowd are chanting for Lawler. Nice left hook from Condit and he slips the combination from Lawler in reply. Low kick follows. Weird moment as Lawler almost jumps over a low kick attempt. Front kick glances for Lawler. Another leg kick lands for Condit. Quick combo glances for Condit ending with a knee to the body. He tries to follow but a wild counter lands for Lawler. High kick glances for Condit at the end of another combo. Superman punch from Condit sets up a body kick and he comes in to follow up, but Lawler counters with a BRUTAL RIGHT HOOK and Condit goes down HARD! Big shots follow as Condit tries to recover by going to full guard, but he definitely got hurt badly there. He ties Lawler up inside the guard but the champ decides to pull free and stand. Condit looks recovered somehow and he throws some more kicks that come up short. Head kick glances for Condit. Lawler is so patient these days and he’s not wading in looking to get Carlos out of there. Hard left hand counter from Lawler and another one follows and backs Condit up. More kicks from Condit back Lawler up but the champ connects on another right hook counter in a brief exchange. Seconds to go and Condit lands with an uppercut, then follows with a missed high kick to end the round. Got to be 10-9 for Lawler based on that nasty knockdown, best shot of the fight thus far.
Round Three and Lawler again leaps away to avoid a leg kick. Condit manages to land some kicks to keep Robbie at distance, although they don’t seem to be doing much damage. Big counter combo from Lawler and suddenly he looks aggressive and comes in swinging. Knee to the body answers for Condit but Lawler clocks him with a head kick and they EXCHANGE WILDLY for a second before Lawler backs off. Big right elbow connects for Lawler as Condit walks forward. Hook kick (!) and a combo miss for Condit. He pushes forward with a couple more glancing kicks before landing an inside leg kick cleanly. Lawler is doing a good job here of staying just out of range of the majority of Condit’s strikes. Crowd seem split between the two now as Condit continues to back Robbie up, but he seems to be catching him right at the end of his shots and not really hurting him. Good leg kick does land for the challenger. Kick is caught by Lawler and he lands a low kick of his own, but Condit comes back with his own low kick. One minute to go in the round and Condit clinches and lands a pair of knees to the body, before he stuffs a takedown attempt and breaks off. Nice right hook counter from Lawler. Beautiful body kick lands for Condit but Lawler answers with a leg kick. Spin kick misses for Condit as does an axe kick. Oblique kick glances to end the round. Tough one to score but I feel like Lawler did more damage with the shots he landed despite throwing a lot less, so 10-9 Lawler by a hair.
Round Four and neither man looks at all tired, which is unbelievable really. Hard leg kick opens proceedings for Condit. Nice right hand counter from Lawler as Condit rushes forward and lands his own right. Knee to the body lands for Condit as they meet in the middle. Spin kick misses for the challenger but a front kick lands and has Lawler quickly checking his nose. Body kick again from Condit. He’s still missing a lot of strikes too but Lawler’s hardly thrown anything in this round thus far. Beautiful inside leg kick from Condit puts Lawler down for a second but he pops right back up. Big combo from the champ and he backs Condit up, but the challenger fires right back with a combo to slow him down. A kick sees Lawler slip and Condit takes advantage with a hard knee to the body. Side kick to the body from Carlos. Another inside leg kick lands cleanly too. Big combo lands for Condit and backs Lawler up and a straight right follows down the pipe. Flying knee misses though. Hard body kick from Condit. He’s pouring it on in this round. Leg kick from Condit. Another combination lands for the challenger. Big counter misses for Lawler and he gets tagged by a right hook to the side of the head. Body kick lands for Condit and Lawler is hurt. Big flurry of punches and knees follows as Lawler tries to cover up and the crowd go wild. Lawler takes it all and tells him to bring it and so Condit channels his inner Mortal Kombat player with a WILD combo starting with a spinning elbow! This is AWESOME. Lawler manages to hang in there but he’s taking a lot of punishment now. He fires back with seconds to go though and slows Condit down before the round ends. Phenomenal round. 10-9 Condit so I’d say the winner of the fifth takes it all.
Round Five and Condit again opens up with his kicks, but Lawler’s wading in this time and he throws some BOMBS, but Condit lands a slick counter combo and gets out of range. Big leg kick from Lawler and he follows with a huge left hook. Condit fires right back with a nice combo but Lawler keeps pushing forward. BIG right hand from Lawler and he’s got Condit on the run a bit although the challenger is firing back. Beautiful combo of punches and elbows lands for Condit and he ends it with a spinning backfist. Superman punch off the cage misses though. Another combo lands for the challenger but Robbie catches him with a hard right hook in the exchange. Big combo again from Condit. Both guys look busted up now. Big right-left combo from Lawler and he backs Condit up into the cage. Body kick from Lawler but Condit sticks him with a left to allow him to circle free. Another good combo from Condit has Lawler on the retreat but he fires right back with the left. Two minutes to go and Lawler needs to do something major quickly. Clinch from Condit and he breaks with a head kick. Another combo lands for Condit but Lawler TAGS him with a right hand! And now Lawler opens up and lands a left hand and we’ve got a SHOOTOUT as Condit fires right back! BRUTAL COMBO FROM LAWLER sends Condit on the run and he’s in trouble! More big shots from Lawler have Condit on rubber legs and he desperately tries to grab the plum to slow the champ down. Holy shit. Right hand and a big knee have Condit hurt AGAIN and it feels like he’s just hanging on now! HAYMAKERS land for Lawler and I have no idea what’s keeping Condit vertical. MORE BOMBS land for Lawler but somehow CONDIT COMES BACK and lands a combo of his own! This is INSANE. Seconds to go now and Condit lands with a combo but Robbie wades right in with more bombs. Big left hand lands for Condit. Couple of punches answer for Lawler and he stuns Condit AGAIN with some more haymakers as the round ends! Post-fight both guys are EXHAUSTED, just slumping on the cage and rightfully so. That was one of the best rounds of all time. I’d call it 10-9 Lawler giving him the fight 48-47, but it’s razor-close.
Judges have it 48-47 Condit……48-47 Lawler…..and 48-47 for RUTHLESS ROBBIE LAWLER!~! Whew. That was perhaps the closest call in a title fight that I can remember since the second Edgar/Henderson fight back in 2012 I think. Basically every single round was close and could’ve been scored either way and in the end it comes down to whether you value Condit’s superior volume and aggression or Lawler’s countering and superior power, as he seemed to do more damage when he did land although until the fifth he certainly didn’t land as many shots. I scored it for Lawler but a score for Condit would’ve been fair too. To call it a robbery either way would be bullshit and the Leonard Garcia comparison for Lawler is completely ridiculous. Regardless, this was one of the best title fights in recent memory and somehow the fourth incredible title fight for Robbie Lawler in a row. He isn’t anywhere near as dominant as GSP was of course but – and as a GSP superfan this pains me to say – his title reign has definitely been more entertaining so far. The fifth round in particular here was one of the all-time great rounds in MMA history. Should they book an immediate rematch? I actually say no. Tyron Woodley’s been waiting in the wings for ages now, he has a win over Condit and I just don’t like the trend of constant rematches in the UFC – sometimes fights will be close but it doesn’t mean the loser should always get another chance, especially when it’s not a robbery. So yeah, I’d go with Lawler vs. Woodley next myself, but I fully suspect that Robbie will meet Condit again somewhere down the road and it should be awesome once again. First show of the year and we’ve got our first FOTYC, dude.
-Show ends with Goldie and Rogan discussing what’s next at Welterweight (they’re pretty torn too) and the show ends with a highlight reel.
This show didn’t have anywhere near the appeal to casuals that UFC 193 or UFC 194 did but it was still AWESOME in execution, with a pair of great submissions, a brutal knockout from Stipe Miocic, and then one of the best title fights in recent memory to cap it all off. The fact that not one of the fights could even be considered slow or a bit dull was a massive bonus too. Easy thumbs up for UFC 195.
Best Fight: Lawler vs. Condit
Worst Fight: None
Overall Rating: ****1/2
Until next time,