Exhausted after a grueling five round championship bout, both defending welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and challenger Carlos Condit held themselves up against the fence of the Octagon awaiting an official decision that would rattle the MMA world after UFC 195 on Saturday night.
While the majority of people scored the fight for Condit, there is no denying that Lawler brought a new intensity to the bout in the fifth round. And it's not the first time The 'Ruthless' One has brought fire into the final five minutes of a fight. In fact, based on his last few outings, the last place in the world any fighter wants to be is in a final round of a close fight with the ATT man.
Lawler went into the last allotted frame of the fight like a protagonist in a revenge thriller. At that stage, he potentially thought he needed to finish the fight for it to end his favor and he marched Condit down and stood in the pocket as the 'Natural Born Killer' looked to continue to pick him apart.
Taking shots to land one of his own, Lawler eventually scored with a damaging left hand that sent Condit reeling. Despite his obvious exhaustion, with a wild determination in his eyes Lawler continued to land his looping left as Condit looked to regain his composure.
When all was said and done, the fifth round would prove to be a critical one for Lawler to make an impression in. Although we could put his showcase down to a primal urge, there is plenty of evidence that suggested that his late resurgence is a learned mental skill.
Even though Rory MacDonald had Lawler in a massive amount of trouble as he entered his first few seconds in a championship round back at UFC 189 in July, somehow, some way, the champion mustered up a devastating stoppage in the final stanza of their bout.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat given MacDonald's onslaught in the fourth, Lawler's pressure was unlivable in the fifth. Again he made a beeline towards his counterpart and after a few measured shots with his patented left hand, MacDonald's evident warrior spirit was taken away from him as he crumbled to the canvas. The Canadian had been up three rounds to one going into the final round and as if by magic, Lawler wrangled another devastating showing from himself.
Some put the win down to his "championship experience", but much more to the point, Lawler had been forced to draw something from himself in the final exchanges of his last contested bout that won him the welterweight championship. One judge had it three rounds to Hendricks, another had it three rounds to Lawler and the other had it level at two rounds each going into the fifth, but Lawler did enough to see the title change hands at UFC 181.
While it was still a crucial fifth round for the current champion, the final round of his first unsuccessful crack at Hendricks might be where he learned that summoning the 'God of War' was necessary to be victorious in a championship bout.
Hendricks teed off on Lawler and just when he looked like he warming to the exchanges, the ATT man was forced to the canvas where he was forced to watch his welterweight championship dreams stroll away from reality. Maybe it was in that instance that Lawler made a pact with himself to only move forward for the rest of his days when contested a final championship round.
Don't get me wrong, Lawler has been in bad spots before. Who could forget his spectacular comeback win against Melvin Manhoef? The veteran kickboxer obliterated Lawler's right leg for nearly four minutes to the point that on contact with the kick, his own leg flew dramatically through the air and nearly connected with his own head as Manhoef landed the shot. Although he was fading rapidly, Lawler caught Manhoef with a tremendous right hand that rendered him unconscious to have his hand raised. While that was impressive, bringing himself to do the same thing in the fifth round of a contest deserves even more plaudits.
Personally, I had the fight scored for Condit, but it's an awful shame that Lawler's rally in the fifth round has been somewhat overshadowed by the decision the judges gave on the night. A showing forged in experience and taxing exchanges in combat, it is unlikely that anyone will ever want to meet 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler in the final round ever again.
The late surge of aggression has become a calling card for the welterweight champion and should he ever be pushed into a deciding round like that in the future, we can only hope that his body is able to keep up with his truculent mindset as he enters his 15th year of prize fighting.