When former UFC fighter and Strikeforce transplant Robbie Lawler steeped into the Octagon to face Josh Koscheck at UFC 157, many thought it was just a tuneup fight for Kos, who was coming off of a back injury. Forced to withdraw from the UFC 151 co-main event against Jake Ellenberger, most figured Koscheck would run through Lawler as a 3-to-1 favorite.
However, “Ruthless” had something else entirely to say about the subject. After being controlled early on by Koscheck's well-known wrestling, Lawler reversed the tides by putting his infamous opponent away with a brutal series of punches that left Koscheck staring at the stars.
It was an unlikely victory, and an absolutely huge one for Lawler, who was fighting at 170 after making the move up to 185 with mixed results. Truth be told, the Strikeforce imports have made quite the impact upon the UFC Welterweight division in a very short period of time. First, Tyron Woodley knocked out Jay Hieron in under a minute. Then Nate Marquardt stepped onto the UFC 158 card to fight Ellenberger in what should an exciting battle of power strikers. Now, Lawler knocks out Koscheck to shake up the higher end of the division a bit.
I know that Koscheck is getting up there in age, and was also coming off injury. But the fact remains that he fought surging contender Johny Hendricks to a hard-fought split decision last April. No one has been able to even make it out of the first round with Hendricks lately, evident by his vicious first round knockouts of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann. I don't think Kos won that fight. He didn't. But he definitely gave Hendricks far more a run for his money than anyone else has lately.
With that said, who should Lawler face next? The 170 lb. division is ultra-talented right now, and the top-heavy rankings have most of the best Welterweights fighting soon at UFC 158 from Montreal. Since Lawler escaped unscathed last Saturday night, there could be a litany of great matchups for him to face either the winner or losers of those three high-profile 170 lb. Bouts on March 16th.
He proved that he could shake off top wrestlers this weekend, and he could be a threat to anyone in the division with his relentless striking attack. At the very least, Lawler could provide an entertaining battle for the fans rather than a snoozefest. Lawler comes to fight, and if Hendricks does lose to Condit, or vice versa, a matchup with either of those fighters would be great for Lawler in my opinion.
Or how about a fight against Rory MacDonald once he returns from his neck injury? That could turn out to be highly exciting. No one gave Lawler much of a chance heading into UFC 157, but he defined the oft-used cliche of “A puncher's chance.” When he's on his game, he can knock anyone out. Kos looked in great shape physically, although he probably had some lingering ring rust. Even a bout with Marquardt or Ellenberger down the road has potential for fireworks.
After his great victory on Saturday, Robbie Lawler has options in the UFC, as Dana White loves fighters who come to fight and put on a show. He does just that. I think he would again be an underdog facing any on the names listed above. But as he showed us last weekend, you can never count Robbie Lawler out. Who should he step into the Octagon to face next?