UFC 201: Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley Full Card Preview and Predictions

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2016

UFC 201: Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley Full Card Preview and Predictions

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    UFC 200 is finally, at long last, a thing of the past. After a year of hype and a decade's worth of drama, fans can finally look past the gargantuan card and get back into the swing of a normal MMA schedule.

    Naturally, the next big event after UFC 200 is UFC 201. The full card is as follows:

    • Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley 
    • Matt Brown vs. Jake Ellenberger 
    • Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz 
    • Ian McCall vs. Justin Scoggins
    • Ed Herman vs. Nikita Krylov 
    • Jorge Masvidal vs. Siyar Bahadurzada 
    • Francisco Rivera vs. Erik Perez 
    • Michael Graves vs. Bojan Velickovic 
    • Anthony Hamilton vs. Damian Grabowski 
    • Cesar Arzamendia vs. Damien Brown

    The bout order is yet to be determined and it is yet to be seen if the UFC will add another fight or two to beef things up following the loss of the flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Wilson Reis.

    For now, though, why not start reading up about the card and start getting excited for the post-UFC 200 world? 

The Undercard

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    Cesar Arzamendia vs. Damien Brown

    A The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 also-ran and a 15-9 fighter from Australia. This is most likely a "loser gets cut" fight and, honestly, it should be.

    Anthony Hamilton vs. Damian Grabowski

    Former M-1 champ Damian Grabowski got (black) beasted in his UFC debut against Derrick Lewis and that puts him into a tough spot. He needs to post a win here over Anthony Hamilton if he wants to avoid a trip back to the European circuit.

    Michael Graves vs. Bojan Velickovic

    Enigmatic prospect vs. enigmatic prospect here! Both men have high finishing rates and strong records cultivated on the regional scene against soft competition. Now they have to prove they're legit in the Octagon.

    Francisco Rivera vs. Erik Perez

    In 2012, Erik Perez was supposed to be the UFC's next Cain Velasquez; a turnkey fighter they could leverage for their push into Mexico. Four years later, he is completely forgotten and looking to right the ship against the exciting, but inconsistent, Francisco Rivera.

    Jorge Masvidal vs. Siyar Bahadurzada

    Jorge Masvidal is 1-3 over his last four fights, with each loss coming via razor-thin split decision. Siyar Bahadurzada ended a two year hiatus and ugly losing streak with a win back in March. Both veterans have a lot to prove, and look to do so at the other's expense.

    Ian McCall vs. Justin Scoggins

    Justin Scoggins is a hot prospect. Ian McCall is a reeling veteran. The winner of this fight will vault directly into the title hunt. The loser will enter into a career tailspin.

    Nikita Krylov vs. Ed Herman

    Nikita Krylov has built up a reputation as one of MMA's best action fighters and that makes him the clear-cut favorite for every post-fight bonus at UFC 201. He has a manageable foe in 10-year UFC veteran Ed Herman, and that could make for an electrifying finish.

Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

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    Division: Strawweight
    Records: Rose Namajunas (5-2), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (9-0)

    The UFC does its prospects no favors. In a better world, fighters like Rose Namajunas and Karolina Kowalkiewicz are groomed for years. Their skills are honed in the gym and then polished in the cage against dedicated enhancement talent. They hit the spotlight as complete competitive packages and must-see contenders.

    In this world, though? They fight each other for no particular reason. That is what's about to happen at UFC 201, and it's a dang shame.

    Namajunas is a known commodity to fans. Initially viewed as a fun submission whiz, she transformed into a 115-pound T-3000 Terminator on The Ultimate Fighter season 20 with dominant submission wins over Randa Markos, Alex Chambers and Joanne Calderwood. While she fell short in the finale, getting submitted by Carla Esparza, she has quickly established herself as a top name with wins over Paige VanZant, Angela Hill and Tecia Torres.

    Kowalkiewicz, unfortunately, remains something of a mystery to all but the hardest of hardcore fans. The former KSW champion has been solid in her UFC career to this point, taking wins over the aforementioned Markos as well as veteran Heather Jo Clark. Her exciting style and success against incredibly stiff competition made her a top-10 name before ever setting foot in the Octagon, and her success since confirms her elite talent.

    The UFC made this fight with the expectation of a Namajunas win, and they will most likely get their wish. It won't be easy, given Kowalkiewicz's technically superior striking, but Namajunas' grappling should allow her to take the win.

    Prediction: Rose Namajunas def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz by Submission in Round 3

Matt Brown vs. Jake Ellenberger

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    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Matt Brown (20-14), Jake Ellenberger (30-11)

    Jake Ellenberger's continued presence on the UFC roster is somewhat odd at this point. Sure, in 2012 he seemed destined for success. A six-fight winning streak with trophies including Mike Pyle, Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez brought him to the brink of title contention. A loss put his golden dreams on hold, but two more wins got him right back into line.

    Then he lost to Rory MacDonald. Then Robbie Lawler. Then Kelvin Gastelum. Then Stephen Thompson. Then Tarec Saffiedine. While that is remarkably stiff competition, Ellenberger hasn't been able to muster up any modicum of offense nor explosiveness during that stretch which almost certainly means, 11 years and 41 fights deep into his career, his days as a high-end mixed martial artist are over.

    That makes this fight with Matt Brown feel like something of an execution.

    While Brown has hovered just outside elite status for the better part of a decade, he is one of the scariest fighters at 170 pounds today. With a frenetic pace, strong cardio and a serious mean streak, he has posted seven finishes in his last eight wins.

    The tired line used to justify this fight is "anything can happen in MMA." That's true, of course. What's also true is that, unless Ellenberger pulls off something that hasn't been seen in four years, this is a slam dunk for Brown.

    Prediction: Matt Brown def. Jake Ellenberger by TKO in Round 2

Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley

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    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Robbie Lawler (27-10), Tyron Woodley (15-3)

    Robbie Lawler's reign as UFC welterweight champion has been defined by excitement. He won the title with an amazing late rally over Johny Hendricks at UFC 181 and has delivered back-to-back all-time great fights since then, beating Rory MacDonald at UFC 189 and Carlos Condit at UFC 195.

    Along the way, he has proven himself to be a top-five pound-for-pound-caliber fighter with steely takedown defense, ferocious striking, excellent cardio and superhuman resiliency. 

    Tyron Woodley's rise to a title shot, however, has been defined by inconsistency. After ending his Strikeforce career with a knockout loss to Nate Marquardt, he debuted in the UFC with an impressive win over Jay Hieron. His momentum was stopped dead after losing a snooze-worthy fight to Jake Shields, but was jump-started with a vicious stoppage of Josh Koscheck. That surge, however, was again halted when he was mauled by the aforementioned MacDonald at UFC 174 in June 2014.

    Woodley has fought just twice since then, posting a quick knockout over the "all spinning elbows, always" version of Dong Hyun Kim and barely edging out the "less than 24 hours after being hospitalized" version of Kelvin Gastelum. Unfortunately, he missed the opportunity to cement himself as an elite welterweight in October when a fight with Johny Hendricks fell apart, and he hasn't been seen in the cage since.

    Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to get excited about Woodley at UFC 201, both in terms of his status as top contender and his chances at victory.

    There are more exciting fights that could have been made in Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz. There are greater threats to Lawler's crown with superior resumes in Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia. 

    Granted, there's a chance this becomes a fun fight. There's a chance that Woodley has developed into the kind of fighter that can take the title.

    In both cases, though...I doubt it.

    Prediction: Robbie Lawler def. Tyron Woodley by TKO in Round 4