UFC 214 appears to be the most stacked card of 2017 with Jon “Bones” Jones’ highly anticipated return versus his archnemesis Daniel Cormier. However, before the main event we get two exciting title fights. Tyron Woodley defends his Welterweight title against perhaps the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in MMA today, Demian Maia. But first the woman with one name, Cyborg, will tee off against the former Invicta bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger for the freshly abandoned women’s Featherweight Strap.
Three belts are up for grabs tonight and none more contentious than the main event. However, the sleeper fight of the night is not for a belt and it is flying way under the radar. I’m talking about Robbie Lawler’s return after almost a year against the explosive and always exciting Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Cowboy made what some consider to be a smart move when he opted to jump up a division to Welterweight. In his final fight at lightweight, Cerrone was finished at 1:06 of the first round by champion Rafael dos Anjos, which cemented his decision to make the move. He then went on a tear, finishing his next 4 fights with one submission and three knockouts earning three back to back performances of the night bonuses. His last fight was in January of this year against Jorge Masvidal a night where he was decidedly off. Masvidal dominated the fight and finished Cerrone 60 seconds into the second round.
Robbie Lawler’s title rein began with a 5 round title-defense war against Rory MacDonald at UFC 189, and continued with a subsequent 5 round slobber-knocker against Carlos Condit. but the most exciting welterweight rein in history ended when he got demolished by the man in our co-main event current champion Tyron Woodley. In a fight that lasted less than 3 minutes. That fight was almost year ago, and Robbie is coming back after some much earned rest and rejuvenation. He wants his title shot, and he has to go through Cowboy to get it.
Before losing to Woodley, Lawler won 3 back to back fight of the night awards. In his second run in the UFC, Lawler has won 4 fight of the night awards; including one knockout of the night award. Cerrone is no slouch in that category either, he is perhaps one of if not the most exciting fighter in UFC history. In his long UFC career (UFC 214 will be Cowboy’s 25th match, with his UFC record currently at 19-5) he has claimed 3 awards for fight of the night, 3 for knockout of the night, 2 for submission of the night, and 5 performances of the night awards for a total of 13 awards. That’s a lot of bonus money, for which hes currently tied with Anderson Silva!
A bit of a somber factor to consider in this fight is Matt Hughes. The UFC hall of famer and two times Welterweight champion left Miletich Fighting Systems in late mid-2007 to form his own Team, Hughes Intensive Training, of which stablemate Robbie Lawler joined him. Lawler started training with Hughes at Miletich when he was only 16 years old. Ever since hes trained and fought with Hughes by his side, both in his Strikeforce run and back into his second UFC run to win the Welterweight title. Needless to say, Hughes as a mentor, cornerman, colleague, and friend is very important to Lawler and this will be the first time he will fight without Hughes in attendance. Hughes was recently involved in a tragic accident; when his vehicle was struck by a train, leaving Hughes in a coma. Reports say that Hughes is now out of that coma and doctors stated his status is ‘improving’ but the road to recovery from traumatic brain injury is slow and never certain, as such Hughes’ absence from Lawler’s corner will be very much felt.
Jones vs. DC might be the grudge match of the year, and we have 10 championship rounds that will proceed it, but for my money the real fireworks kickoff when Lawler and Cerrone face off.