Posted 12/07/2014 at 05:29 PM
Robbie Lawler avenged his loss to Johny Hendricks in March by winning Saturday's rematch by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46) to capture the welterweight title at UFC 181 in Las Vegas. Lawler, who hooked up his backers as a +170 underdog, dominated the last minute of the fight and had Hendricks badly hurt in the final seconds.
Nevertheless, many scribes and cageside viewers were surprised by the decision. VI had it 48-47 for Hendricks, but I plan to watch the fight again and score it once more.
Gamblers taking 'over' 4.5 rounds (-110 either way) cashed tickets.
Lawler came out strong looking for the kill in the opening stanza. He battered Hendricks with an array of kicks, knees and punches. However, Hendricks halted Lawler's momentum by turning to his wrestling. 'Big Rigg' seemed to steal the round by executing a takedown and maintaining control for the last two minute (and change) of the first round.
The second round was close, but Hendricks seemingly took control in the third round. He started doing work with his strikes and consistently found a home for his leg kicks. Lawler was never hurt, but he appeared to be pacing himself a little too much.
Hendricks controlled most of the fourth round, pressing Lawler against the cage. But 'Ruthless' opened up in the waning moments of the fourth, exciting the crowd with a slew of brutal strikes to the body.
Hendricks pressed Lawler against the cage for much of the fifth, but he wasn't getting much done and referee Herb Dean twice separated the fighters. In the last minute, Lawler exploded with vicious elbows and punches to Hendricks's body.
The damage allowed Lawler to break loose and he spent the last 20 seconds going for broke. Lawler landed with a series of kicks and punches, bloodying up Hendricks, who was clearly in survival mode waiting for the bell.
When it sounded, Hendricks turned away and walked to his corner exhausted. Lawler, on the other hand, stared at his opponent and wanted more. After the decision was read, Hendricks quickly exited the Octagon.
In the co-main event, Anthony 'Showtime' Pettis submitted Gilbert Melendez in the second round to retain his lightweight belt. Pettis won as a favorite in the -270 range. Gamblers taking 'under' 4.5 rounds (like me!) cashed easy winners.
Melendez won the first round on my card. He came out strong, staying in Pettis's face and getting the better of most of the exchanges. Melendez's muscle helped him keep control when the fighters grappled.
It was much of the same early in the second stanza for Melendez, but everything changed during a boxing flurry when Pettis landed a huge left hook that hurt the former Strikeforce champ. Melendez went for a single-leg takedown, but he was unable to execute it. The move left Melendez open for a choke and Pettis took advantage. He pounced on a mounted guillotine, forcing Melendez to tap moments later.
In the heavyweight loop, Travis Browne blasted through Brendan Schaub as a -330ish 'chalk.' Browne finished the fight in ground-and-pound fashion with 10 seconds remaining in the first round.
Todd Duffee returned to the cage for the first time in more than two years and finished Anthony Hamilton by KO in just 33 seconds. He cashed tickets as a heavy favorite and improved to 3-1 in the UFC.
Urijah Faber won by second-round KO over Francisco Rivera as a -500ish favorite. The win was controversial because Rivera took a clear eye poke that hurt him, but the referee missed it. Faber capitalized and quickly locked up a bulldog choke for the victory. Bettors taking 'over' 1.5 rounds cashed a winner.
Josh Samman took home a 50K Performance of the Night bonus thanks to a terrific headkick victory in the second round over Eddie Gordon. Samman hooked up his supporters as a +120 'dog.