Robbie Lawler has long been celebrated for his striking power. Only recently, however, has he also begun to be appreciated for also being a savvy tactician.
In fights, it's the smallest details that often have the biggest impact on outcomes. Take, for example, Lawler's crushing left straight cross punch.
It's the same one he landed over and over and finally used to put down a game Rory MacDonald during his last fight, in July. To be sure, Lawler's punch is powerful, but if he weren't so adept at making the most of his left-handed stance, the welterweight champion may never have been in position to land it.
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"A lot of people are born with knockout power, but if you want to be great, you have to know how to set it up," he explains.
"One of the most impressive things about Robbie is how he really knows how to fight well as a left-handed fighter. Not every southpaw really knows how to take advantage of their unorthodox stance."
Most opponents use right-handed stances and rarely work with high-level southpaws. To take advantage of that, the UFC 195 headliner uses his feet to set up his hands.
"As he's coming in, at all times, he's making sure that his own lead foot is on the outside of his opponent's lead foot," Parillo details (below).
"Keeping that lead right foot of his on the outside of his opponent's lead leg opens up a lane right down the middle, leading to their chin, for his straight left hand."
In addition to positioning his lead foot precisely, Lawler also places his right hand in a way that distracts from the coming left straight. "Robbie touches his opponent with his lead hand while he's keeping his lead leg on the outside, which also helps hide and set up the lead left cross," he goes on.
"He jabs with his right, he might touch up high with a right hook -- a lot of leftys like to throw that hook. That work with the lead hand and lead foot, in conjuction, opens up this little window to come down the pipe with that straight left hand."
Without a skilled and smart driver, raw horsepower is pretty useless. Parillo loves the way Lawler marries his talent with technique and tactics.
"His left hand is already naturally powerful, but because he sets it up in a way where opponents are thinking about other punches, and where he's opened them up as a target with his foot positioning, Lawler's cross becomes truly dangerous," he concludes.