His name may not land at the top of the welterweight contender's list just yet, but Robbie Lawler sure returned to the UFC in style with his thrilling TKO win over perennial contender Josh Koscheck at UFC 157.
In his first fight with the UFC since 2004, the exceptionally heavy-handed Lawler shrugged off takedown attempts from the former NCAA wrestling champion for the better part of four minutes before swiftly and violently turning the tables.
In a sequence that's rarely seen in MMA, Lawler began thumping Koscheck with punches from a front headlock position. "Ruthless" then unleashed a furious barrage of looping punches that flattened Koscheck and left him temporarily dazed and on the verge of unconsciousness.
Referee Herb Dean recognized Koscheck's vulnerable state and quickly stepped in to minimize the damage.
It was just the second time in Koscheck's 24-fight pro career that he suffered a loss via form of knockout.
Lawler, a middleweight the majority of his career who fought Renato Sobral at a catch weight of 195 pounds in Strikeforce, hasn't fought at 170 pounds since getting KO'd by Nick Diaz at UFC 47.
At the UFC post-fight press conference, Ruthless offered the following sentiments regarding his drop to welterweight:
Josh is a game opponent but I felt very strong at 170. When he took me down and he was on top of me he did not feel heavy at all. I felt like as soon as I got back to my feet I was going to stop it, so eventually that's what I was trying to do. But I felt great.
Often criticized for being one dimensional, Lawler went the extra mile to prepare for Koscheck, relocating from Iowa to the American Top Team MMA Academy in Coconut Creek, Fla.
Lawler credited American Top Team coaches Ricardo Liborio and Conan Silveira for facilitating in his transformation.
I was getting a lot of good work with my wrestling up in Iowa, training. But I needed more all-around game—the striking (and) the jiu-jitsu at a high level—and I had a lot of good coaches down at ATT to work with. They pushed me. Everything was smart (and) everything was precise. I had a great training camp.
In arguably the deepest weight class in the promotion, UFC president Dana White has landed yet another entertaining contender to compete with the division's top dogs.
The road won't get any smoother for Ruthless in the near future, however. Lawler could soon find himself pitted against an opponent like Demian Maia, Nate Marquardt or Erick Silva.
But regardless of whom he draws next, Lawler made one thing clear: Given an opening, he can deliver a vicious knockout in an instant.