As a U.S Army Special Forces operator and winner of the Bronze Star, we knew Tim Kennedy was tough. “Double tough,” as the old army saying goes. But against UFC veteran and former EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler, he got the chance to show just how tough he really is, overcoming a possible broken nose to take home a dominant unanimous decision.
He also showed the evolution of his game as a mixed martial artist, as the arm Ranger outstruck, outgrappled and ultimately outhustled “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler over three competitive rounds.
The fight opened with some outstanding grappling scrambles, as Kennedy shot for takedowns with a pit bull’s determination, while Lawler sprawled and scrambled out of danger. Both men put on a performance grappling-wise that was to their credit, with Lawler showing great hip movement and defense while Kennedy showed a wrestler's outstanding shot and control on the ground.
Once Kennedy was able to secure a takedown, the Army Ranger showed off some great guard passing skills, at one point moving into full mount with seeming ease. Yet seconds later, Lawler displayed equally impressive defensive grappling skills, shifting Kennedy's base and escaping back to his feet.
The first stanza was a closely contested affair, but Kennedy began to take it away in the second round. More dogged takedowns left Kennedy in a dominant position, and he rained down some ground and pound on Lawler, who to his credit returned fire with some choice elbows of his own.
In fact, the second round was almost all Tim Kennedy's—almost, because a power uppercut from Lawler caught Kennedy right on the bridge of his nose as the San Luis Obispo, CA native was dropping for a takedown. The shot appeared to create a vary bad cut at the least—and a possible broken nose—but Kennedy rode out the round and took another 10-9.
In the final frame, Kennedy appeared to be the much worse for wear. His shots lacked the snap they had in the first two frames, and he was unable to secure another dominant position for most of the remainder of the fight.
The moment seemed prime for Lawler to open up with his signature striking and steal the fight, but instead the H.I.T squad fighter sat back on his heels. Aside from a nice flying body kick delivered against the fence, Lawler never really let his hands go. Strikeforce commentator Mauro Renallo criticized Lawler's strategy as “one punch and done” as Robbie sat back on his heels in the final frame. In fact, a late takedown from Kennedy ensured the judges' nod would go his way.
In the end all three officials scored the bout 29-28, giving the unanimous decision victory to the Operation Enduring Freedom veteran.
For Lawler, this fight is another frustrating stumbling block in what should be a promising middleweight title campaign—even though “Ruthless” showed some impressive defensive grappling and scrambling against Kennedy in the opening stanza.
It's tough to see where Robbie might go from here. There are a number of fights that could be fun for him to take in Strikeforce. However, this loss keeps him well removed from the title picture for the time being. And with every Strikeforce fighter potentially fighting for a spot in the UFC in the possible future, this loss could have big ramifications for Lawler's career.
For Tim Kennedy, the sky is seemingly the limit. Sure, he recently lost to Strikeforce middleweight champ “Jacare” Souza, but that's not exactly something to turn your nose up at. When you combine his well-rounded MMA game and easy to sell All-American war hero background, you begin to see the promotional potential for a guy like Kennedy in Strikeforce—or the UFC.