Understanding the Chaos: Colby Covington vs. Robbie Lawler

Colby Covington
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 09: Colby Covington celebrates after finishing five rounds against Rafael Dos Anjos of Brazil in their interim welterweight title fight during the UFC 225 event at the United Center on June 9, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Colby Covington has truly lived up to his nickname of “Chaos”. His antics outside of the cage have garnered him media attention, a positive or negative, depending on your personal perception. To truly understand the chaos, it is important that we break down what makes Covington successful in the cage.

Covington will be fighting “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler on August 3rd, 2019. In this article, I will look at his fight with Rafael dos Anjos, as it will be the best blueprint to how Covington will approach fighting Lawler. For Lawler, the dos Anjos vs. Covington fight will be an important resource for him as well. While dos Anjos and Lawler are different fighters, their principles for fighting Covington will be similar. In understanding the chaos, we can look to see if Lawler can fully exploit the flaws that dos Anjos could not.

Colby Covington Breakdown

High Pace, Low Stakes

In the words of my esteemed colleague Danny Martin, “He’s (Covington) more enthusiastic than good”. The principle behind Covington’s approach to fighting is to create chaos and then thrive in it. Rarely does he come into a fight looking to calmly strike or look for opportunities. Instead, Covington comes straight forward, winging punches and grinding for takedowns.

Against Barberena, Covington cut the fence on him and kept him stuck early
Covington just threw strikes recklessly to get Griffin to come in on him
Against RDA, Covington’s quick start caught him cold and gave way to the takedown

Covington understands that he is not the technically superior striker in most match ups. As a result, he charges into the fight to possibly tie up and work his grinding style.

Striking For the Sake of it

All of Covington’s striking is designed to push his opponent back and keep their hands close to their body.

Covington’s hooks are ugly, his elbows are flared as he walks forwards head up. However, it gives him the perfect style to lean into his clinch and get to his wrestling
Notice how Colby almost falls over after his combinations. By walking forwards and throwing his head with it, it allows him to fall into the clinch and wrestle
Another example of his striking. While he gets tuned up when he’s backing up and his punching form is terrible. His looping punches allow him to fall once again into the clinch

While ugly, his loopy punches have enough sting to back dos Anjos up. Adding in the front snap kick also gives Covington more weapons to distract the already retreating RDA. This all serves his objective of creating panic within dos Anjos.

Grinding Down the Veteran

The goal for Covington in his fight against dos Anjos was to back him up and wear him down. Takedowns were great if Covington could get them, but with an insane gas tank, Covington knew that constantly cycling between the clinch and takedown attempts would be enough.

By pinning his head inside of RDA’s neck, Covington could keep RDA pinned in the 50/50 clinch. This gave him the space to grind for RDA’s legs or punch away at his face and body
Notice how Covington never gets discouraged if RDA gets back up from a takedown. This is because he knows if he can stick to Covington, he is still forcing RDA to burn through his gas tank

Due to Covington’s eagerness to rush into boxing range, dos Anjos was able to get some strikes off.

Notice how RDA does get the better of the exchanges when Colby stands out in range for extended periods. This is because RDA can assess and react to the threat
RDA gets touched up a bit in the first exchange. However, when RDA begins to back up, he gets tagged by the shots because he no longer has the space to make counters and think

Covington’s success in the dos Anjos fight was primarily due to his overwhelming frenzy of strikes and non-stop action, which wore down dos Anjos. While I find the result of the fight to be contentious, I think Covington did enough to win the fight, in a general sense. Still, dos Anjos showed that there are flaws in Covington’s game that could be exploited.

Styles Make Fights

During my rewatch of Covington-dos Anjos, I was treated to this commentary by Joe Rogan, “RDA beat Robbie Lawler in boxing, and so it is amazing that Covington is now beating up RDA in the clinch”. Please don’t take this as serious analysis.

Commentary can be subjective, but styles make fights and Rogan should hardly be your top source on these matters. Regardless, RDA beating Lawler does not mean that Lawler cannot beat Covington. Lawler, in fact, possesses skills that RDA does not.

Ruthless Clinching

In the clinch, Lawler has a better understanding of position over striking. In his second fight against Johny Hendricks, Lawler would drop his head into the chin of Hendricks. This allowed Lawler to one, deny the takedown, and two, it gave him the frame from which he could deal damage.

Notice 2 things: 1. Lawler tying up Hendrick’s wrist when they are standing tall, this denies the second hand needed to complete the takedown. 2. When Hendrick’s does drop down, this time the bicep/forearm tie also prevents a takedown
By driving his head into Hendrick’s neck, Lawler was able to give himself space and land brutal knees to the body

While Hendricks can’t drive the same pace as Covington, Covington tends to hold onto positions in the clinch and rest. It was here whenever Covington spent time in one place dos Anjos would punish him for it. Look for Lawler to do the same.

Hendricks here is grabbing onto a sprawled out Lawler, hoping to drive and get to a better position. Resting in positions like this will get Covington in trouble
Resting in positions like this will definitely have Lawler punish him hard

Striking Styles

I mentioned earlier that dos Anjos was effective in small bursts of action. Looking at Covington’s striking, I find Lawler to be a worse matchup for his loopy punching. To start, Lawler has an educated jab and can apply footwork to land it consistently. Against a fellow southpaw, expect jabs to fly.

While Lawler and dos Anjos will both box and move, dos Anjos is a pressure fighter, he likes to come forward. Lawler, however, is a counter fighter. Expect Lawler to give Covington space to throw his loopy punches and come around with a counter.

Notice how in the pocket, Dos Anjos makes big upper body sways to avoid shots. For a fighter to remain in the pocket and trade well, he needs to be solid in his stance and not over swing
Comparatively, Lawler’s longer stance gives him the ability to sway back and return fire. Against Hendricks, Lawler would often let Hendricks swing, drop back and return
In case you’re wondering if Lawler can survive loopy punches, here is him rolling with Cerrone’s loopy shots and returning fire safely

Necessities for Covington

After understanding the chaos, you can see Covington’s gameplan for dos Anjos could work well against Lawler. Keeping Lawler consistently against the fence heightens the chances of wearing him down and getting a takedown. Furthermore, Covington has shown his love for the calf kick, which is kryptonite to Lawler’s long stance.

Lawler’s love of head movement and upper body forces him into a long turned in stance. This is easy money for a good low kick
Covington showed against K-1 Maia, that he can and will throw plenty of low kicks

The low kicks are great as they can keep Lawler honest and thinking about them. With Lawler focused on low kicks, Covington should have an easier time backing Lawler up and taking him down.

Conclusion

Colby Covington will be fighting a stylistic challenge on Saturday. While he possesses the advantage of youth and cardio, his tenacity to punch and swing might bite him. While his wild aggressive nature won him the dos Anjos fight, Lawler will not be easy to back up without consequence. Furthermore, Covington will need to prove that he can exert more consistent strength in the clinch as opposed to his frequent resting during the dos Anjos fight.

I believe that Covington will likely eek out another grinding decision. However, he will also be punished in punching exchanges and in segments of the clinch. Still, Lawler is a tough and grimy fighter who can deny clinch exchanges and punish poor boxing. This fight will be interesting and exciting if both fighters come out as, at the very least, their usual selves.

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