How good was UFC 189’s welterweight championship bout between “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler and Rory “Red King” MacDonald!? Five unforgiving rounds that married technical brilliance with brutal punishment, leaving both combatants bloodied, scarred, and victorious.
In case you missed it (or even if you did not, but wish to relive it nonetheless), Round 1 began with Lawler and MacDonald circling the center of the Octagon. The always technical MacDonald measured his opponent with jabs and body kicks, but did not pressure Lawler towards the fence as we’ve seen him do to so many of his victims. More surprising was Robbie’s patience, exploding with short bursts but never overcommitting to his combinations.
Both fighters picked up the pace in Round 2, where Robbie’s 1-2 combinations repeatedly found its mark, bloodying up MacDonald’s nose as Ruthless’s heavy left hand continuously hit home. In between rounds, MacDonald could not have asked for a better cornerman than Firas Zahavi to find calmness amidst the tumult and the seeming trouble that he was in.
Lawler, smelling blood (literally), continued his handiwork in Round 3 with precise combinations that left Rory with a crimson mask. The same Rory, criticized for his tendency to fold under pressure, patiently returned fire, connecting with three head kicks that seemingly left Lawler unfazed; the fourth one, however, turned the tide in his favor. With 30 seconds left and Robbie stumbling, MacDonald turned it on with maniacal combinations on a helpless opponent trapped against the cage. Big John McCarthy was right beside them, ready to step in before the bell rang. In those 30 seconds of beatdown, Rory made sure he returned the favor for the crimson mask Robbie gifted him.
It was Rory’s turn to push the pace, continuing where he left with a barrage of 1-2’s, elbows, and head kicks. Despite retreating to the comfort of the cage once more, Robbie actually told Big John, “I’m okay! Leave me alone!” True enough, come the second half of Round 4, the Ruthless One got his legs back and responded to Rory’s labored pace, giving as much punishment as he was receiving. As the horn sounded, Robbie spat a mouthful of blood and stared Rory down, only to see the black, soulless eyes of “Ares” staring back at him. As far as staredowns go, this is the best one in or out of the Octagon yet!
In Round 5, once more the lion that Robbie Lawler is took over; his uncanny ability to step it up a notch in the last 5 minutes (as seen in Lawler vs. MacDonald 1 and Lawler vs. Hendricks 2) was met by Rory MacDonald combination after combination, blow by blow, until one more left straight from Ruthless shattered MacDonald’s nose 55 seconds into the round. The Red King dropped to the ground and Lawler jumped on him like he would in 2002, sealing the victory for what was one of if not the best fights of 2015!
In the sport of MMA, nothing lasts forever. The streaks, the championships, everything fades once injuries and Father Time catch up. What leaves an indelible mark on fighters and fight fans alike are the one-of-a-kind moments inside the Octagon; moments when fighters prove their doubters wrong, show something extraordinary, become someone superhuman. Without an inkling of doubt, yesterday’s co-main event was all that. Maybe even more. Win or lose, both fighters just gained the respect and admiration of everyone – the millions – who tuned in to watch. As UFC President Dana White exclaimed, “First of all, it was a war. And a complete display of chin, heart, grit, dogged determination, and the will to win from both guys. When you talk about the best fights ever, that’s what I’m talking about.”