Could two fighters possibly be any more different?
When Robbie Lawler takes on Renato “Babalu” Sobral this Wednesday night on Showtime, the main event will showcase two fighters who are complete opposites of each other.
Lawler is the quintessential straight-ahead slugger. Of his 17 wins, 14 have been by knockout. The former EliteXC middleweight champion also has five losses, four by submission.
On the other hand, Sobral is a master on the ground. He has amassed 35 victories and over half of them—18 to be exact—have been by submission. In his eight career defeats, Sobral has only been submitted once.
The phrase “styles make fights” is often overused in MMA. Many times the statement is used as a cop-out for a boring matchup where two fighters are unable to finish a fight. However, when Lawler takes on Sobral, this statement will never be more accurate.
Whoever can implement his style and establish where the fight takes place is extremely likely to get the win.
Lawler states that he is not concerned about Sobral’s mat-based arsenal.
“I just work on my skills,” said Lawler when asked about his preparation. “I’m not too worried about what he’s doing.”
However, Lawler has changed one important aspect of his training. In getting ready for the fight, he has relocated out to Arizona. Lawler is now training with UFC stars Ryan Bader, CB Dollaway, and Ben Henderson.
The main strength of those three fighters is their wrestling skills. Not coincidentally, that is also one of Sobral's key talents.
“They called me to help them get ready for a fight,” Lawler said about how he ended up at the new training facility, “so it has worked out well for all of us. It doesn’t matter where you’re training as long as you’re getting better.”
Working with accomplished wrestlers can only help Lawler prepare for Sobral. Throughout his career, ground fighting has been the weak point of Lawler’s talents.
Since 2006 Lawler has a gaudy 8-2 record, but the two losses were both by submission. He lost once to Jake Shields and another time to Jason Miller.
For Sobral, Lawler’s high-level striking ability represents a similar challenge.
In recent years, Sobral has had his way with ground fighters like Mike Whitehead and Mike Van Arsdale, but knockout artists Chuck Liddell, Jason Lambert, and Gegard Mousasi have all finished the Brazilian star.
Lawler believes his skill set will be a big problem for Sobral.
“I’ve been working real hard, and I’ve been knocking a lot of people out,” Lawler said. “When you’re doing well, you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to fight.”
Sobral and Lawler are now set to headline the unusual Wednesday night show (Showtime, 11pm est / 8pm pst) for the Strikeforce promotion. The card will be a scaled back version of the typical Showtime broadcast.
The purpose of the show is to bring attention to the new EA Sports MMA video game that will be debuting this same week in Los Angeles.
Not surprisingly, Lawler and Sobral will be featured in the video game.
However, before the two fighters can be concerned about the video game, they will have to deal with reality. The reality is a fight inside the Strikeforce cage.
Lawler, however, does not seem overly concerned.
When asked if he was worried about fighting Sobral standing or on the mat, Lawler had a quick response.
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