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Cathal Pendred on UFC 181: 'I think we could see a new champion in Robbie Lawler'

Irish MMA star, who’s preparing for his bout against Sean Spencer in January, thinks tonight’s fight will be another tight affair.

Image: Jeff Chiu/AP/Press Association Images

CATHAL PENDRED THINKS Robbie Lawler has what it takes to defeat Johny Hendricks and claim the UFC welterweight title in Las Vegas later tonight.

The Irish MMA star, who’s preparing for a three-round welterweight bout against Sean Spencer in Boston next month, feels that just like the pair’s first meeting nine months ago, it will be a tight affair, especially considering Hendricks’ arsenal.

“I think there’s a great possibility we could see a new champion in Robbie Lawler. Johny Hendricks is one of the most dangerous fighters in the division and that’s because he’s a ridiculously high-level wrestler but on top of that, he has this big bomb of a left hand that he’s able to land and knock people out with.”

But if you look at his last fight with Lawler and anytime he’s come up against a southpaw, he doesn’t pose the same threat that he does to orthodox fighters. We saw it against Lawler that he didn’t have that massive shot with his left hand and the last time he fought a southpaw was against Rick Storey, who he actually lost to. So I think that massively affects his game.”

Pendred thinks Lawler will be a nuisance, preventing Hendricks from utilising his usual go-to weapons. And having ran him so close in Dallas back in March, Pendred also believes Lawler is easily motivated by the one that got away.

MMA-UFC 181 Mixed Martial Arts Johny Hendricks, left, and Robbie Lawler exchange punches during UFC 171 in Dallas. Hendricks won by decision. Source: Matt Strasen/AP/Press Association Images

“Those two strengths Hendricks has – his wrestling and his left hand, they actually complement each other. If guys are thinking about his left hand, it weakens their defensive wrestling and if they’re protecting themselves from his high-level wrestling, they drop their hands and open themselves up to his big left. Generally speaking, he’d capitalise on one of those areas but he can’t against a southpaw.”

I actually watched the first fight again recently and Lawler demonstrated one of the best examples of shutting down Hendricks’ take-downs. It came down to that 5th round and Hendricks’ competitiveness got him through it. But I think if you look at it from Lawler’s perspective, he was one round away from being a champion. I think he knows that and will go into this fight more prepared. He had the beating of this guy the last time. Regarding both fighters’ mind-frames, I’d be very confident of Lawler ahead of this.”

Hendricks and Lawler carry elite status in the division and Pendred is full of respect and admiration for them both. But he believes that as his stock rises, the distance between him and the more experienced warriors gets tighter.

“It’s their well-rounded skill-set and their mentality that make them as good as they are. So many guys have one but not the other. To get to the very top you have to be very mentally strong. But I don’t believe I’m far away from them. I have to work my way up to them and I don’t see a massive difference. I was watching their fight a couple of days ago and I feel I could go in there tomorrow and compete with them and give them a fight. I just need to get myself into the top-15 rankings and start knocking guys off.”

Cathal Pendred celebrates beating Mike King Cathal Pendred celebrates beating Mike King in Dublin back in July. Source: Rodrigo Romos/INPHO

Pendred is currently immersed in training ahead of another potentially momentous UFC occasion for him on the 18th January. It will be special. Three Irish fighters (Conor McGregor and Paddy Holohan will also be in action) on the card. A notoriously Irish-American hotbed hosting the event.

“Everything’s going exactly to plan. Training is going great. The weight is coming down. It’s major for me. I was born in Boston and lived there until I was four. I’ve always wanted to go back and never had the opportunity. Now I’m going back as a UFC fighter. It’s unbelievable. I can’t wait.”

– First published 11.00

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Eoin O'Callaghan

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