Former interim UFC welterweight champion Colby Covington will go five rounds against "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler when they clash at UFC on ESPN 5 on Saturday.
The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, will host a main event that has all the makings of a potential classic between former American Top Team training partners.
Covington, 31, still trains at ATT and has called Lawler out for what he felt was a disrespectful departure in 2016:
Before the main event, UFC veterans Jim Miller and Clay Guida will face off in a lightweight duel where the fighters post an average age of 36.
Mickey Gall hopes to bounce back from his loss to Diego Sanchez when he takes on Salim Touahri in the preliminaries, while Antonina Shevchenko—sister of UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina—faces Lucie Pudilova.
Saturday's card features an unusually early start, which Sherdog's Tom Feely explained is due to the event initially being scheduled to take place in Sochi, Russia.
UFC on ESPN 5 Fight Card
Main Card (3 p.m. ET/8 p.m. BST, ESPN)
- Colby Covington -220 (wager $220 to win $100) vs. Robbie Lawler +180 ($100 bet wins $180)
- Jim Miller (-175) vs. Clay Guida (+150)
- Nasrat Haqparast (-250) vs. Joaquim Silva (+215)
- Trevin Giles (-153) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+142)
- Scott Holtzman (-350) vs. Dong Hyun Ma (+280)
- Darko Stosic (-133) vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu (115)
Preliminary Card (12 p.m. ET/5 p.m. BST, ESPN)
- Salim Touahri (-126) vs. Mickey Gall (+104)
- Antonina Shevchenko (-142) vs. Lucie Pudilova (+126)
- Jordan Espinosa (-105) vs. Matt Schnell (+100)
- Mara Romero Borella (-166) vs. Lauren Murphy (+144)
- Claudio Silva (-400) vs. Cole Williams (+310)
- Hannah Goldy (-166) vs. Miranda Granger (+142)
Odds via OddsChecker.com
Lawler Outcome Will Make or Break Covington
After being out of action for more than a year, Covington has landed something of a poisoned chalice with a comeback bout against Lawler. A win would add a notch to his belt and probably the biggest of his career to date, but accepting that opportunity comes with serious risk.
Lawler returned to the Octagon in March after an absence of almost 18 months, losing to Ben Askren via submission in what was one of the most controversial decisions in recent mixed martial arts history.
Despite that defeat, the 37-year-old demonstrated in the first minute-and-a-half what he's capable of even at his advanced age, slamming Askren on his head and looking by far the likely victor early on.
The good news for Covington is that his patience has paid off in waiting for a fight.
Covington has won his last four fights by unanimous decision, most recently dominating Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 225 in June last year when he clinched the interim UFC lightweight belt.
The former NCAA Division 1 wrestler is able to push a relentless pace and proved against Dos Anjos that he can do it for five rounds.
BT Sport recently shared some of Covington's best moments in the UFC:
The concern for Lawler is that he lost to Dos Anjos via unanimous decision in December 2017. Granted, the Brazilian may have been enjoying better form in his career when he fought Lawler, but his meetings against these two fighters were only seven months apart.
That being said, Lawler has emerged as victor in four of the six five-round fights he's had during his career.
UFC fighter Michael Chiesa shared his appreciation for the veteran's ability to perform late in his bouts:
Controversial as his loss to Askren was, Lawler has now lost two in a row and faces the possibility of losing three fights in succession for the first time in his career.
A stamina-driven specimen like Covington doesn't bode well for the elder in that regard, and it seems likely he'll look to ride out Lawler's early power in pursuit of another decision victory.
Prediction: Covington via unanimous decision