By Adam Martin
When Robbie Lawler returned to the UFC in 2013 following the collapse of Strikeforce, not much was expected from him. "Ruthless" had lost three of four fights in Strikeforce and was coming off of a lackluster decision defeat to a then-unknown Lorenz Larkin in a fight where he looked like he didn't care anymore. So what he's done since then has been nothing short of outstanding.
In his return to the world's top MMA promotion, Lawler knocked out former title contender Josh Koscheck in impressive fashion, showcasing his brutal knockout power and letting everyone in the MMA world know that he was motivated to fight again. He then fought Bobby Voelker and knocked him out with a head kick to earn a #1 contender's fight at UFC 167 against the division's top prospect at the time, Rory MacDonald. He was a big underdog against MacDonald, but Lawler defied the odds, taking home a split decision and earning a title fight against Johny Hendricks, who had lost a close split decision to Georges St-Pierre on the same card.
Lawler met MacDonald at UFC 189 and the two welterweights fought tooth-and-nail for nearly five full rounds in an all-time instant classic, with Lawler eventually finishing MacDonald in the waning minutes of a fight he was losing on the judges' scorecards. It was one of the best fights in UFC history, but it took a toll on the champ, who has been sidelined since then, getting healthy and waiting for his next challenger.
Tyron Woodley at UFC 192 (though that fight never took place due to Hendricks missing weight) and the UFC decided to go with former interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit as Lawler's next challenger instead, and the two meet in the main event of UFC 195. Like Lawler, Condit is the type of fighter who will stand in the pocket and trade for the fan's delight, and that's why the UFC booked the fight, despite Condit not being the most deserving challenger. It's just a dream matchup on paper and an absolutely incredible way to kick off what should be a terrific 2016 in MMA.
With Lawler fighting in nothing but exciting wars since coming back to the UFC, and taking on an opponent like Condit who is known for being one of the most entertaining fighters in the entire sport, there is a very real chance Lawler vs. Condit could be another instant classic just like Lawler vs. MacDonald was, and if the fight ultimately does live up to those expectations, there really couldn't be a better way to open up another year of fights.
• Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit (UFC Welterweight Championship)
UFC 195: Lawler vs. Condit takes place on January 2, 2016 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.