UFC 167 November 16, 2013 Welterweights: Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: The Tri-Star gym is bringing more than just its current UFC welterweight champion to Las Vegas for UFC 167; they’re also bringing the young man they hope will be their future champion in Rory MacDonald. Facing MacDonald is a stylistic opposite in Robbie Lawler, who has worked his way back to the UFC after a stint in Strikeforce. In a strange twist, it’s Lawler who is moving up the ranks to face the younger MacDonald, despite Lawler having made his UFC debut at just 20 years old way back in 2002. MacDonald is a big -360 favorite, with Lawler the underdog at +300. Let’s see what the numbers say. Summary Stats:
Tale of Tape Match-up: Lots of differentials on the Tale of the Tape, the biggest of which is the 7-year Youth Advantage favoring MacDonald. Lawler is a Southpaw, but MacDonald counters with a three-inch reach advantage. Lawler is the grizzled veteran of the sport, but while MacDonald is young he is amassing some high profile experience. Overall the Tale of the Tape slightly favors MacDonald. Striking Match-up: The striking stats confirm the opposing styles of these two fighters. Lawler has ridiculous power, causing knockdowns with almost one in every ten landed power head strikes, but the rest of his stats are about average. His accuracy is decent, which is typical for a counter-striker. Lawler only throws ~70% of the volume his opponents use while standing. MacDonald on the flipside is the far more technical fighter. He’s very accurate, extremely long for a welterweight, and he tends to control the pace and cage. His defense is very good, and although Lawler’s defense is good to, it’s a little behind MacDonald. If this feels a lot like the MacDonald-Ellenberger match-up, that’s because it is. A longer technical fighter is facing a powerful counter-striker. That fight went as expected, with Ellenberger not having an answer for MacDonald’s sharp jab, and the fight staying mostly on the feet. Grappling Match-up: Both guys have solid wrestling skills and train with some of the best in the business. Lawler originally hails from the land of Iowa – where men aren’t allowed into bars if they don’t have cauliflower ear – and he trained with guys like Miletich and Hughes before heading south to America Top Team. MacDonald has had an equally capable training partner in Georges St-Pierre. The stats are split in terms of takedown success (favoring Lawler) and takedown defense (favoring MacDonald). But when it comes to the all-around ground control metric, MacDonald has a strong showing at 75% while Lawler lags at 42%. While on the ground MacDonald is more active with submissions. Given his larger frame and daily sparring sessions with GSP, I have to give an edge to MacDonald here, though I’m unsure how much this will come into play in this match-up. Reed’s Pick: MacDonald by Unanimous Decision (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: Lawler is a brawler, and one tough dude, but he hasn’t won a decision in a decade (not since his fight with Chris Lytle at UFC 45) and lately he either wins by knockout or he loses a decision. This fight fits that same pattern. The trouble is that most of the knockout wins came against older fighters or guys with poor defense, not someone younger with a fresh chin and good tools to avoid punishment. And when Lawler has to fight moving backwards, rounds don’t go his way. MacDonald has proven to be a problem for pretty much everyone he’s faced, regardless of the hype. The line on MacDonald is pretty steep at -360. That’s lot of juice to lay against such a dangerous opponent unless you’re throwing MacDonald into some parlays with other strong plays. Because both fighters should be very tough to finish, the Over of 2.5 rounds at -105 provides decent value. If you’re strong on MacDonald, but realize he may have to grind this out with Lawler, MacDonald by Decision at +145 provides much more value than a straight up play – consider splitting your bet between the win and a decision for a better return on MacDonald, and to hedge against a finish. For the risk-seeking, Lawler inside the distance at +300 is the only play you can consider for him, as he’ll be trying to do what Ellenberger couldn’t. A puncher’s chance should run more like +400 or more, so even this line isn’t terribly enticing.