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An 18-year veteran of the sport and a former Ultimate Fighting Championship, EliteXC and Icon Sport titleholder, Robbie Lawler has compiled a 28-13 professional record since he made his professional MMA debut in 2001. In his forthcoming appearance, he will headline UFC on ESPN 5 opposite Colby Covington on Aug. 3 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Ahead of Lawler’s showdown with Covington, here are five moments that have come to define him:
STRIKING GOLD … Lawler was on the rebound from consecutive stoppage losses when he faced Falaniko Vitale at SuperBrawl “Icon” in July 23, 2005. Both men enjoyed success with their striking in what was a cagy encounter. In the latter stages of Round 2, both combatants appeared to be dealing with fatigue, but Lawler found the energy to back Vitale to the corner of the ring. Once there, he unleashed a knee from the Thai clinch. This was followed by two right hands and a left hook, which crumpled the Hawaiian to the mat and made Lawler SuperBrawl middleweight champion.
ANOTHER STRAP … Lawler was pitted against Murilo Rua at EliteXC “Uprising” on Sept. 15, 2007, as the promotion’s middleweight crown was on the line. “Ninja” was seen by many as a difficult test for Lawler. Matters unfolded on the feet, where both men found success. Rua connected with some heavy elbows, punches and low kicks, but Lawler simply smiled back at him and uncorked shots of his own from his customary southpaw stance. A combination of punches brought about the end in Round 3, culminating in a right uppercut that felled Rua. The ground-and-pound assault that followed resulted in a knockout and gave Lawler another championship.
SUBMISSION SETBACK … “Ruthless Robbie” challenged Ronaldo Souza for the Strikeforce middleweight title at Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Cyborg” on Jan. 29, 2011. Lawler had the longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt reeling with strikes in the first round but the made the mistake of following him to the ground. “Jacare” survived. Round 2 played out on the mat, with Souza dominating the action but failing to secure a finish. Lawler surrendered his back on the ground in the third round, and “Jacare” wasted no time cinching the rear-naked choke for the tapout.
TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN … In his second stint with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Lawler returned to the weight class in which he started his MMA journey. He fought Johny Hendricks for the welterweight championship at UFC 181 on Dec. 6, 2014. It was a rematch of their UFC 171 encounter, which Hendricks won by decision nine months earlier. Their second confrontation proved to be another closely contested affair with little to separate the two combatants. After 25 minutes of action, the judges awarded Lawler a controversial split decision, and in his 14th appearance with the Las Vegas-based promotion, he achieved his dream of becoming a UFC champion.
RELINQUISHING THE THRONE … Following two successful welterweight title defenses, Lawler squared off with Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 on July 30, 2016. Hesitant to engage, it appeared from the start that Lawler was overly concerned with the two-time NCAA All-American wrestler’s ability to take him down. The fight was barely two minutes old when a right cross from Woodley sent the champion crashing to the canvas. A volley of punches followed, necessitating the stoppage and giving the UFC a new welterweight king.