UFC 214 gave us all a fight we previously only dreamed about: Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone. Two high-output strikers who love nothing more than to bite down and fight.
It was everything fight fans could have wanted from the two.
Lawler picked up the unanimous-decision victory by taking the first and third rounds. Cerrone tried to answer, but it wasn't enough.
Ruthless came right out and started to put it on Cerrone. Lawler crowded him and started landing heavy haymakers in tight, but Cerrone stood tough to weather the first storm that came his way. Cerrone's eye wore the markings of the first exchange.
Lawler continued to crowd Cerrone against the fence. The southpaw took his time to pick out which shots he wanted to throw: uppercuts, knees and elbows. Cerrone landed a couple solid knees from inside the clinch, but he was on the receiving end of most of the action. It was a firestorm of an opening for the fight.
Cerrone took Lawler down to the mat to change the tone of the fight. Cowboy passed to side control with just over a minute left in the opening round. Lawler got back to his feet, but Cerrone finally began landing his offense. Lawler would take the first, but his opponent settled in at the tail end of the round.
Cowboy looked much more composed at the start of the second round. Lawler allowed him to fight at range. The diversity of Cerrone's attacks kept Ruthless guessing throughout the second, and Lawler paced himself through the round without expending a lot of energy. The round would be Cerrone's and set up a decisive and tension-filled third round.
Lawler touched Cerrone with a high kick to open the third, and he began to up his tempo after it landed. Cerrone's defense was improved from the first and put a stop to the pressure for a moment. Cowboy kept looking for opportunities to take Lawler down, but he defended the weak attempts.
The former welterweight champion attacked Cerrone's body with kicks and forced him to become defensive as he marched forward. The pressure of Lawler proved to be the difference in the third round. Cerrone would try to stop it with takedown attempts but was unable to complete any shot. Lawler's forward pressure and punches would win the round and the fight.
The win has put Lawler back in the title picture, but the performance itself didn't inspire confidence. With Georges St-Pierre waiting in the wings, Lawler will likely have to take one more fight before getting a crack at getting his belt back.
Cerrone loses no ground. He performed admirably and competed against the elite of the division. He will still be an exciting matchup for anyone at lightweight or welterweight. He's a fighter fans will want to see regardless of what's on the line.
Lawler vs. Cerrone was supposed to be a stand-up war, and that is exactly what they gave us. No one should be complaining after that fight.