UFC 201 tips: Unfancied Woodley has the tools to snuff out Lawler's fading light
The welterweight champion has been pushed to the fifth round in each of his last four bouts, but his defeat will not be the only upset in Atlanta
Lawler has teetered close to defeat in each of his last two fights, and the warning signs suggest the 34-year-old is in decline.
The champion’s last four fights have been five-round wars, and he almost lost his belt to Rory MacDonald a year ago before he saved himself with a late knockout.
Lawler has a knack of finding a stoppage when he needs it, and with 20 career wins inside the distance he will push to get Woodley out of the octagon early.
But the longer the fight goes on, the better chance the challenger will have.
He is a powerful puncher, an athlete capable of going five rounds, and his 50 per cent striking accuracy surpasses Lawler’s mark of 44 per cent.
With four stoppage wins in his last five fights, he is well-equipped to cause an upset if he is able to hold Lawler off early on.
- Woodley to win
Namajunas is the favourite in this meeting of two top-five women’s strawweight contenders.
The 24-year-old has notched three impressive victories since her defeat in the 2014 The Ultimate Fighter finale, including a dominant five-round mauling of Paige VanZant that ended in a rear-naked choke.
Kowalkiewicz will provide a stern test – she is a high-volume striker and will push the pace and make the fight uncomfortable for Namajunas.
But, crucially, she lacks the power to knock out the Lithuanian, having won the last eight of her nine fights by decision or submission.
The eventual winner of this bout will expect a title shot, and Namajunas – the younger, more impressive fighter of the two – is the likelier to earn a chance to face against champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
- Namajunas to win by KO, TKO, DQ or submission
Which of these fighters will shake off a poor run of results to claim victory?
Brown has suffered three defeats in his last four bouts, while Ellenberger has been beaten five times in his last six.
The former’s big weakness has been his wrestling ability. He was overpowered in recent defeats to Johny Hendricks and Demian Maia.
But Ellenberger has always been more of a striker, and he is unlikely to exploit that area of his opponent’s game.
He is four years younger than 35-year-old Brown, but with 41 fights in his professional year The Juggernaut has looked jaded in his recent fights.
His striking power also appears to have deserted him, whereas Brown - with six of his last eight victories coming by knockout - is hitting as hard as ever.
- Brown to win by KO, TKO, DQ or submission
Like Brown and Ellenberger, Rivera has struggled of late with just one win in his last four fights.
But that record does not do his performances justice.
The 34-year-old lost a controversial split decision against Brad Pickett, and was only submitted by Urijah Faber when an accidental eye poke put him on the back foot.
His tricky counter-punching will cause real problems for Perez, whose style is more scrappy than it is nuanced.
Perez has been worryingly inactive in recent years – he has only fought twice since June 2014 – whereas Rivera has had four bouts over that period.
At the age of 26, Perez will have enough stamina to take this fight past the first two rounds, as he has done in three of his last four bouts.
But Rivera is a difficult match-up for him in terms of style, and the American’s experience should help him get back on track with a crucial victory.
- Rivera to win