UFC 181 Preview

ufc_181The UFC has had some issues when it comes to a number of weight classes in keeping their title holders fighting. For the last year it has been rare to see many of the titles up for grabs with true title holders in fights. Whether it is injuries or simply that fact that people who win the title tend to take some time off to fix issues. It is a practice that does not make the UFC President very happy but one that is understood. Fighters take a lot of punishment and don’t have a lot of time to take off when they are in pursuit of a title. Taking time to fix nagging injuries could end the momentum that they have built heading towards a title challenge. When they finally win the title they take that opportunity to go under the knife or get any of the nagging injuries repaired. In a way it is a chance to fix their issues after achieving their goals but also a chance to rehab and get ready for what they all hope to be a long reign as a champion. It is not what the UFC wants though as they would love to see as many title fights as possible in any given year and they love when champions are willing to fight as soon as possible. It hasn’t always been like that though and two weight classes that have seen this pattern shape their divisions in the past year. At UFC 181 both of these divisions will see a title fight for the first time in a long time in two very exciting fights. The Welterweight division will take the main card with a rematch from February of this year. It has been nine months since the welterweight belt was up for grabs and has been more than a year with only one welterweight title fight in the UFC. A large part of that is the decision of Georges St. Pierre to semi-retire after a very close fight with Johny Hendricks in November of 2013. After that fight and the announcement by GSP, Hendricks got another chance at the belt this time against Robbie Lawler. It was far from a dominant fight from Hendricks but he took the win via unanimous decision and following his win decided to take time off to repair some nagging issues. Now he is ready to return after spending nine months on the shelf preparing to begin his reign as a champion. Meanwhile Lawler has been fighting his way back the top trying to earn the rematch. After the loss to Hendricks Lawler put together two wins against top flight opponents including Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown. Now he gets another shot to earn the title against Hendricks in the rematch on a night of title fights. It was a close battle the last time these two fighters faced-off as both fighters tried to gain the advantage on the feet. Swinging back and forth to try to get the knockout made the fight one of the best of 2014. The likelihood that they do it again is not very high though as at least one of them will try to bring something new to the fight. Both fighters are primarily strikers who it is not crazy to think that they will stay standing for the majority of the fight but expect Hendricks to throw in a few takedown attempts and work to get Lawler thinking about the ground game. Lawler will try to keep things standing but stay out of the pocket this time around and pick his shots a little better. He continues to evolve in every fight and with a more well-rounded striking game than even nine months ago he will look to mix things up a lot more this time around. It should still be a great fight and although it will be hard to match their February match they will do their best. The time may help Hendricks though as he enters this fight with no lingering health issues and could be stronger with time off to develop. For those reasons he will take the win and remain the champion once again in a close unanimous decision win while booking a date with Rory MacDonald who awaits the winner of this fight.

The lightweight division has had its own issues with title fights although it has been more of the injury issues than taking time off. It has been more than a year since the last title fight when Anthony Pettis took the belt away from Benson Henderson. Since then Pettis has been out with a PCL injury that has forced one fight to be cancelled already. After some extended time off he will finally return and the UFC hopes that the exciting fighter that won the title in 2013 returns at UFC 181. He will take on another very exciting fighter in Gilbert Melendez who has been looking for another shot at the title since entering the UFC with a loss to Benson Henderson. After a win against Diego Sanchez in one of the greatest fights in UFC history. That fight gave him the shot against Pettis, a shot that has kept him out of the octagon since October of last year. Both fighters have had plenty of time off and for the division it was not the best for the lightweight division. It is easily the most talented division in the UFC and yet there has not been a title fight. The most talented fighters continue to win waiting for a chance to fight for the title. They are all awaiting this fight as a host of fighters look for a chance to fight for the title. It is sure to be an exciting fight as both fighters are rarely in boring fights. For Pettis it is all about his creativity as he is one of the most creative fights in the UFC. He will come from anywhere to keep his opponents guessing. He prefers to stand up and exchange while staying on the outside and using his ability to get strikes from anywhere to surprise and beat his opponents. Melendez is a little more calculated in his fights as he is a heavy-handed striker that loves to stay on the ground and punish fighters. He has also been known to stand and trade though like his fight against Sanchez. Both fighters have that tendency to put on great fights and they will look to do the same this time around as the title is finally defended in the most exciting division in the UFC. On a night with two title fights the UFC finally gets what it has been looking for as two divisions finally see their champions step into the octagon.

 

Fight Card

Main Card:
Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks vs. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler [Welterweight title] (Pay-per-View)

Main Card:
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis vs. Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez [Lightweight title] (Pay-per-View)

Travis “Hapa” Browne vs. Brendan “Big Brown” Schaub (Pay-per-View)

Todd Duffee vs. Anthony “Freight Train” Hamilton (Pay-per-View)

Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson vs. Abel “Killa” Trujillo (Pay-per-View)

Undercard:
“The California Kid” Urijah Faber vs. Francisco “Cisco” Rivera Jr. (Sportsnet 360/FOX Sports 1)

Eddie “Truck” Gordon vs. Josh “Anqa” Samman (Sportsnet 360/FOX Sports 1)

Corey “Beastin 25/8” Anderson vs. Justin “Lazy Bones” Jones (Sportsnet 360/FOX Sports 1)

“Rocky” Raquel Pennington vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (Sportsnet 360/FOX Sports 1)

Sergio “The Phenom” Pettis vs. Matt “The Crowbar” Hobar (UFC Fight Pass)

“Cassius” Clay Collard vs. Alex “The Spartan” White (UFC Fight Pass)

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