Retro Robbery Review: Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit at UFC 195


Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.

It’s been called one of the greatest fights in MMA history. And one of its most controversial.

Just a couple of days into the year 2016, two of the most decorated, respected, and downright violent welterweights to ever strap on the four-ounce gloves took center stage in the main event of UFC 195. For the MMA hardcores, this was a dream scenario: Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit going five rounds with gold on the line—as well as the unofficial “Baddest Mother F*cker” championship long before Nate Diaz properly introduced the concept.

The fight lived up to the hype and then some (I haven’t updated the list in a while, but I’m confident it still sits comfortably in the top-5 of my favorite fights of all time), with the future legends showing both their ridiculous offense and absurd toughness. We often talk about leaving it all in the cage and that was cliche was never more apropos than in the case of Lawler vs. Condit.

UFC 195 fight photos

John McCarthy checks on Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler after their UFC 195 war.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

(Check out more amazing images from this fight, captured by the inimitable Esther Lin.)

Lawler ended up retaining his UFC title by split decision and in a bout with so many swings, the judges’ call was bound to be disputed. UFC President Dana White had it for Condit and Condit himself questioned the effectiveness of the 10-point must system.

As you may have heard, Condit recently retired and Lawler fights tonight at UFC 266 against someone named *checks notes* Nick Diaz (hasn’t fought in the last five years? Never heard of ‘em), so now is the perfect time to look back at their epic UFC 195 clash.

More importantly, it’s time to decide once and for all whether Condit was robbed of the chance to call himself an undisputed UFC champion.

What was the official result?

Robbie Lawler def. Carlos Condit via split decision.

How did the fight go?

As expected, it’s Lawler who took the center of the cage first while Condit immediately looked to circle and make Lawler chase him. Condit’s strategy worked as Lawler absorbed several leg kicks and counters while closing the distance. Lawler found openings to throw, but suffered the first stumble of the match as Condit cracked him with a clean right that turned Lawler around and briefly put him on the mat. After Lawler recovered, the rest of the round saw Condit take on the role of the aggressor, mixing his strikes beautifully to keep Lawler off-rhythm.

Lawler’s counters were sharper in round two. His right hook was a constant threat and he did an excellent job of staying at the edge of Condit’s kicks. Condit was the busier fighter, but Lawler wasn’t letting himself get caught by anything big. On the other hand, Condit made the mistake of allowing Lawler to get into brawl distance and he hit a huge right hand that dropped Condit to his back. Condit’s grappling saved him, but that was a clear Lawler round.

It’s worth noting now that the first two rounds were already spectacular. Just two brilliant strikers attacking and countering and feinting and figuring out one another’s timing, it’s so great.

Neither man was able to take control through the opening minutes or Round 3 as they took turns advancing and retreating. Lawler started to land some of the heavier shots, including a gorgeous counter elbow right on Condit’s chin. For his part, Condit kept mixing it up while aiming to land a head kick. There was a lot of waiting on Lawler’s part, though it occasionally paid off even as Condit racked up the strikes.

In Round 4, Lawler was slow to pull the trigger. When you have a chin like his, you can stand to let your opponent work while you set up a counter, but he fell way behind on the cards here and when he finally engaged, Condit nearly made him faceplant with a well-timed inside leg kick. Undeterred, Lawler marched forward and banged a few hard punches off of Condit’s head as he backed him up to the fence. Condit successfully countered to re-establish the range. Commentator Joe Rogan made a great point suggesting that Lawler might have been “too economical” with his striking. Condit ended the round strong with a flurry.

The replay between the fourth and final round showed several clean shots that landed in spots that normally leave fighters down for the count: on the chin, behind the ear. It’s a miracle that this even went to the fifth and re-watching it, it really feels like the decision was still up for grabs to that point.

Lawler showed urgency, walking forward and headhunting as he did to start the fight. Condit got clipped, but answered right back with a combination. There was rarely a moment where they weren’t in the pocket, in each other’s faces, looking to do damage. Everything Lawler threw looked like it could have been a knockout blow. Condit’s poise and composure were just incredible. Lawler’s defense started to falter and he just stood there for a moment eating Condit’s punches. The tradeoff was that could focus on finding a finish and he landed a homerun swing that backed Condit off. More Lawler bombs followed and I have no idea how Condit wasn’t dropped again. The same could be said for Lawler as Condit ferociously returned fire.

They were clearly gassed in the last 30 seconds, not that it stopped them from unloading the proverbial clip. The buzzer sounded and both men collapsed against the cage in one of combat sports’ most unforgettable scenes.

What did the judges say?

Derek Cleary scored it 48-47 Lawler.

Tony Weeks scored it 48-47 Condit.

Chris Lee scored it 48-47 Lawler.

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per UFC Stats)

Condit threw an insane 497 counted strikes in this fight, which doesn’t tell us whether he won or not, it’s just a wild number. He landed 176 total significant strikes to Lawler’s 92.

Round-by-round numbers are more relevant to the discussion though and Condit had the advantage in all five rounds (28-12, 17-10, 22-11, 47-6, 62-53). And no, that final round tally is not a typo.

We’ll break down the scoring more later, but for now it’s worth reminding everyone that stats alone do not determine who won a fight as not all significant strikes are created equal. One knockdown can weigh more heavily than 20 less impactful strikes added together.

Case in point, the only official knockdown in the fight was scored by Lawler in Round 2. Condit’s near-knockdown in Round 1 was apparently ruled a push after the punch, though that one feels up for interpretation.

Though Condit had a huge advantage in body (47-7) and leg (33-3) strikes, the head strike battle was much closer. Condit still won in that category 96-82.

What did the media say?

The media saw this one for Condit. Fifteen media scorers on MMA Decisions had Condit as the winner, with Sherdog.com giving Condit a 49-46 score. There were also three 48-47 Lawler scores and two draws.

What did the people say?

The fan vote on MMA Decisions is also heavily in Condit’s favor. The top result is 48-47 Condit at 63.9 percent, with Lawler 48-47 second at 14.3 percent. Another 6.2 percent have it 49-46 Condit, giving him over 70 percent of the vote.

Fighters on social media leaned towards Condit, though most were just in awe of what they’d witnessed.

And though he didn’t pick a winner, future Bellator GOAT Patricio Pitbull summed it up best.

How did I score it?

Round 1: 10-9 Condit. He mixed up his techniques beautifully and set the tone early.

Round 2: 10-9 Lawler. The knockdown.

Round 3: 10-9 Condit. Let me get back to you on this one.

Round 4: 10-9 Condit. Just overwhelmed Lawler with an avalanche of strikes.

Round 5: 10-9 Lawler. They just went nuts on each other, but Lawler appeared to land the bigger shots.

So let’s dig into that third round, shall we? In a sense, it was a microcosm of the entire fight with Lawler taking his time and Condit flicking out strikes with more regularity.

One factor that makes this round so difficult to judge is in the way the fighters react to getting hit. When Lawler lands one of his bombs, Condit has a tendency to react by evading and circling away; when Condit lights Lawler up, he just powers through it. These differing philosophies do not tell us who is hitting harder or who is getting hurt more. In this case, the only people who can judge the true efficacy of these strikes are Lawler and Condit.

I recall thinking Condit won this fight when it happened and a deep review hasn’t changed my mind. His work is just more consistent throughout and I can’t give Lawler Round 3 off of only a handful of significant moments. So I stand by 48-47 Condit.

Was it a robbery?

The wrong man won, I’m convinced of that. But I’m not convinced the judges didn’t have grounds to score the fight the way they did.

Again, Lawler definitely appeared to be doing more damage with his strikes and in a fight that was this close, those are the moments that are going to stand out in the judges’ minds. They also have a better sense of the immediate impact when a strike lands, so you can imagine how those Lawler haymakers sound in real life compared to on a screen where the line between a potential KO blow and a glancing shot are more difficult to distinguish.

Calling this a robbery would also distract from the incredible effort exerted by both the champion, who fought like he wanted a finish for five rounds, and the challenger, who executed his game plan to perfection. Sometimes you’ve just got to appreciate a close fight for what it is, even if the verdict will always be up for debate. And sometimes that debate only adds to a fight’s legend.

The final verdict

Not a robbery. Just one of the best fights ever.

Poll

Was Robbie Lawler’s win over Carlos Condit a robbery?





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