The main card of UFC 196 features a light heavyweight matchup between #12 ranked Cory “Beastin 25/8” Anderson and “Filthy” Tom Lawlor. Anderson has rattled off three victories in his last four fights since winning season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter. Lawlor, meanwhile, scored a knockout over Gian Villante in his first Octagon appearance in over two years. Cory Anderson (7-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC, -290 favorite) With the relative lack of prospects in the light heavyweight division, Anderson finds himself in a good position to make a run toward the top of the rankings. The former division three wrestler made his name on season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter. After three wrestling heavy decisions in the preliminary rounds, Anderson knocked out Matt Van Buren to become that season’s “Ultimate Fighter”. With very little professional experience coming before the show, he has been making his bones slowly but surely. Anderson has won four out of his five UFC contests, with his sole defeat coming to veteran Gian Villante by knockout. His last fight was a dominant decision victory over Brazilian brawler Fabio Maldonado. The 26-year old physical specimen has a large frame and reach for the division. While he is still a bit green with his striking, Anderson has the luxury of learning from an amazing coaching team led by Mark Henry. The Illinois native works at a quick pace and throws a lot of volume, particularly a 1-2 combination that is sometimes followed by a left hook. He has not yet developed much power and is quite hittable in prolonged exchanges, as was shown in his fight with Villante. However, Anderson is a strong clinch fighter that utilizes sneaky knees and dirty boxing. His athleticism also helps hide the deficiencies in his constantly improving game. The real meat and potatoes of Anderson’s game is his wrestling. The former Newberry College wrestler has a powerful double-leg that he finishes with authority. He also has a serviceable single-leg, as well as takedowns from the clinch. From top position Anderson mainly looks to maintain position and land steady ground and pound. He rarely looks to pass or attempt a submission, but that may change as he continues to work with jiu jitsu coach Ricardo Almeida. Tom Lawlor (10-5 (1 NC) MMA, 6-4 UFC, +245 underdog) Fan-favorite Tom Lawlor returned to the Octagon this past July for the first time in over 27 months. Moving up a weight class and facing heavy-handed Gian Villante, Lawlor scored a devastating second round knockout that earned him his first winning streak under the UFC banner. The professional wrestling aficionado first entered the UFC scene as a competitor on season eight of the Ultimate Fighter. Lawlor has racked up six UFC wins compared to four losses in the seven years since the show ended. He looks to earn his third straight victory with a win over the up and coming Anderson on Saturday night. Lawlor has an effective grinding style that can be difficult to deal with for certain opponents. He is very good in the clinch, where he has strong knees, dirty boxing, and takedowns. Even when Lawlor is unable to drag his opponent to the canvas he is often able to neutralize them in the clinch by using his superior strength and technique. From top position he has heavy ground and pound but is not a great passer and has questionable submission defense. He does, however, have a very strong guillotine that he locks up nicely in transitions. Lawlor’s move to the light heavyweight division is a bit troublesome because his game relies on him having a strength and size advantage, which he will no longer have. Lawlor is pretty basic on the feet but packs good power in his shots and can counter well, especially with his right hook. Volume and technique are not his strengths, which may cause him to struggle against opponents who are more technical, throw more volume, and can avoid his powerful counters. Thoughts The UFC is rightfully taking Anderson on a slow climb toward the top of the division. There are very few up and comers in the light heavyweight division and I am sure they would like to avoid having to throw him in with elite competition until he is ready. Lawlor presents a new and unique test for Anderson, as he hits hard and can win ugly fights. However, Anderson will hold a considerable size advantage, throws more volume on the feet, and is likely the better wrestler. Anderson should win this is he fights smart and avoids eating a big punch from the heavy-handed Lawlor. The Prediction: Cory Anderson defeats Tom Lawlor by unanimous decision.