UFC Newark preview: Breaking down Colby Covington vs. Robbie Lawler

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
UFC welterweight Colby Covington is seen during the UFC 235 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)
UFC welterweight Colby Covington is seen during the UFC 235 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)

Robbie Lawler (28-13) and Colby Covington (14-1) meet in the main event of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 5, and the welterweight fight could be a fascinating one. Covington has not fought in over a year but still believes he lays claim to a portion of the UFC’s messy welterweight title.

Lawler wants to get back in the win column, and gets a chance to do so against a man he has sparred and trained with in the past, back when they were teammates at American Top Team.

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Covington insists that this fight is personal, and he looks to use his stifling style to best Lawler’s explosive and scary knockout abilities.

Striking

Lawler has a striking power advantage over just about anyone in the world. The former world champion has won 71% of his victories by way of KO or TKO, and is as hard-hitting as he is skilled.

Lawler sets elaborate traps on the feet, has excellent punching accuracy and is capable of throwing and landing in volume, both to the body and the head. Covington certainly isn’t as skilled offensively or defensively with his striking on the feet, but he largely has a different objective altogether than someone like Lawler does in fights.

Covington isn’t afraid to exchange strikes, but he ultimately wants to get inside and look for takedowns. Covington is far from reckless or desperate to get inside, however, so don’t expect him to telegraph his shots and open himself up to easy counter punches.

If Lawler can do some damage, he may be able to make Covington revert to his amateur wrestling tendencies and then he’ll have a chance to work knees and uppercuts. Even if he gets hit with solid strikes he isn’t easy to slow down or put down, though.

Wrestling

If Covington gets in on Lawler’s hips or legs he’ll make things hard for his former teammate. Lawler has fantastic takedown defense, especially against the fence, as he demonstrated in his fights against Johny Hendricks.

Lawler is more than a defensive wrestler, however, and if he gets under an opponent’s hips, he can take anyone for a ride. Lawler did just that to Olympic freestyle wrestler Ben Askren in his last fight.

Robbie Lawler picks up Ben Askren in a welterweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 235, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Robbie Lawler picks up Ben Askren in a welterweight mixed martial arts bout at UFC 235, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Covington can hit takedowns clean in the center of the cage, or off of the cage. He’s smart and patient against the fence as well, and can do damage and wear down opponents without overextending himself.

He did this really well to Rafael Dos Anjos in his last bout, back in 2018. Lawler is larger than Dos Anjos so he may be able to get off of the fence more often than the Brazilian was able to, but if Covington can get inside repeatedly without sustaining too much damage, he should be able to score takedowns on Lawler.

Experience

Lawler has been fighting professionally for all of his adult life, and few in the sport can match his overall experience. He’s also fought at the top level for decades and has more big-bout experience than Covington, in particular.

Lawler has won fights in just about every fashion, and knows how to come from behind and fight hurt. Covington very well may have that same level of grit in him, he just hasn’t yet had to show it.

Conditioning

Lawler has shone and persevered in some of the sport’s most brutal fights, ever, outlasting many game opponents. Covington’s coach Mike Brown has told me in the past, however, that Covington very well might have the best conditioning of any fighter he’s ever seen.

Coming from the former world champion and future Hall of Fame Coach, that means a lot. Covington might very well need to dig deep in this fight, but if he can show in the fight what Brown says he’s seen from him in practice, it might very well make the difference.”

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