Robbie Lawler retained his UFC welterweight strap in perhaps the greatest title fight in the division’s history.
Rory MacDonald used his length to keep the champion out of range in the first round, dictating the fight and frustrating Lawler. The second showed much of the same until Lawler exploded to dominate the latter half of the frame and bloody MacDonald’s face.
The champion kept the momentum going in the third until a series of kicks wobbled him and forced the referee to ready for an intervention. Lawler looked on rubbery legs in the fourth but regained his footing to make it a fight.
In the fifth, down three rounds to one and sporting a severely split lip and bruises all over, Lawler came out with both guns firing. Looking the fresher fighter in the championship round, the champion clocked the crimson-masked Canadian with a jab to the right side of his face. MacDonald grabbed his nose, apparently broken earlier in the fight, and collapsed. The referee called a stoppage to a fight that had appeared MacDonald’s to lose.
The fight out-shined all others on a main card that witnessed dramatic KOs and comebacks. The night featured five fights and five dramatic finishes. Conor McGregor, dominated by Chad Mendes until the final ticks of the second frame, dropped the Californian and coaxed a stoppage with just three seconds remaining in the main event’s second round to capture the interim featherweight title.
Lawler, like McGregor, appeared overcome with emotion after his dramatic win.
“Nobody is taking this belt,” Lawler explained postfight. “I attacked that nose and I knew he couldn’t continue to take those shots. It was the culmination of a beat down and he finally went down. Rory is as tough as nails, but I’m the best in the world.”