Two legends of MMA will collide in a long-awaited match-up this Saturday night in Hoffman Estates, Illinois as Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion ”Hendo” Dan Henderson (27-8) will meet “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-3) for the first and possibly last time in their respected careers. Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Champion Marloes Coenen (17-4) will finally take on “Takedown” Miesha Tate (11-2) in the night’s co-main event. Former UFC contender “Semtex” Paul Daley (24-11-2) will face Big 12 wrestling champion “T-Wood” Tyron Woodley (10-0) and “Hands of Steel” Scott Smith (16-8) will open the card against “Sponge” Tarec Saffiedine (10-2). Also on the card is former title challenger and Elite XC Middleweight Champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-7). Lawler has had mixed success within Strikeforce, with two bone-chilling knockout wins and three losses, the most recent being his title fight against champion “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (13-2). Lawler will face former US Army sniper and former title challenger Tim Kennedy (14-3) in a barn burner match-up that will likely lead one to another title shot against the man who defeated them both.
At First Glance: Robbie Lawler vs. Tim Kennedy undoubtedly has all the makings of “Fight of the Night”. Lawler, the brutal striker that has knocked out more people than clinical anesthesia, will go against a world-class grappler and well-rounded fighter in Kennedy. However, don’t think that Kennedy will be gung ho on taking “Ruthless” right to the mat. Through his iron will and intense training routine, Kennedy has developed a solid stand-up game. Striking with Lawler is like exchanging blows with a wrecking ball, but still opponents try to make a statement and more often than not end up out cold on the mat. Lawler will do best to avoid the ground game of Kennedy, but Kennedy is in the clear on the floor and his striking gives him a helping hand in keeping his distance. Perhaps this will be an MMA fight where fans see the boxer brawling the brawler and the brawler boxing the boxer.
In Depth: Tim Kennedy last fought in March against Melvin Manhoef (24-8) where he easily submitted the K-1 level kickboxer in the first round. Robbie Lawler has been on the shelf since January 29 when he came up short against “Jacare”, however Lawler proved dominant in the first round when he sent the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artist into a dazed and confused tumble with his powerful punches. Lawler came close to finishing but he made the mistake of tying up with Souza on the mat. From there “Jacare” worked his magic and finally sank in the choke in the third round. That most recent defeat was one of a trio of losses Lawler has acquired during his career in the California-based promotion Strikeforce, where he currently totes a less than impressive 2-3 record in Strikeforce – not the bright future many expected when he transferred in from Elite XC. The heavy-handed “Ruthless” middleweight however does impress with his history of finishing fights; Lawler holds 15 wins by way of his striking, and more than half didn’t know where they where when they came to.Lawler’s gameplan is simple, “I hit you and you fall down”. The southpaw with C4 in his hands has no intentions of going anywhere else in this fight, but can he defend the takedown of Kennedy? Kennedy, 4-1 within Strikeforce, began his career in the Challengers series and his fan base has grown along with his skill set. He holds seven submission wins and five victories by way of strikes, showing his abilities aren’t limited to one field. The Army boy is a game opponent who loves to fight. He will strike with a striker and roll with the grappler and will most certainly stand with Lawler for awhile until Lawler clips him or Kennedy feels he isn’t doing much good and will look to go to the mat. Lawler does have impressive sprawl-and-brawl skills built from his Iowa-bred wrestling and can end any fight in one punch, but he also gets emotional and overly aggressive, making him easier to take down as the fight progresses. It’s rare that Lawler sees the judges, but against Kennedy he most likely will. Lawler will likely use his atypical southpaw striking against the textbook striking of Kennedy to lean the judges in his favor. Perhaps more importantly though, Lawler will have to work to keep his fight on the feet.
Wild Card: More like an ace up his sleeve than a wild card for Kennedy is the ground game. Lawler has shown throughout his career that the mat is not his friend. Most of his losses have come by submission, namely choke holds. If Kennedy gets the fight to the ground and Lawler doesn’t get back up as quickly as he can, Kennedy will move one step at a time until he gets the dominant position to look for a submission. Kennedy knows this and Lawler doesn’t want to take any chances by letting the fight hit the canvas. That being said, if the fight goes to the ground then Kennedy’s chances of winning increase by the minute.
The Verdict: Both Lawler and Kennedy are beloved by many fans and both have the nice-guy outlook, however one has to lose when the fight is over. The stand-up game is split with speed against power, Foreman vs. Ali. Will Kennedy try to absorb the punches of Lawler in order to get in close to clinch him and drag him to the mat? The answer would likely be “No”, as Lawler has dropped more people coming in than he has on the retreat. Critiques and tales of the tape aside, result of this pairing will ultimately come down to the gameplan of its respective fighters. Kennedy is smart enough not to get caught forcing the take down, but respect for Lawler’s power will force him to fight a stick-and-move kind of bout on the feet where Lawler will make him pay for every mistake. Three five-minute rounds is a long time for Kennedy to avoid Lawler’s power and Lawler will use it well but given the tough guy in Kennedy a three-round war is what may take place between these two well-respected middleweights. Lawler via Split Decision