Octagon Oracles: Tennessee Bantamweight Ronnie Lawrence

Vince Cachero being crowned the Valor Fights Bantamweight Champion in 2016. Photo Credit: Valor Fights Vince Cachero being crowned the Valor Fights Bantamweight Champion in 2016. Photo Credit: Valor Fights

Ronnie Lawrence is a bantamweight training out of Nashville, Tennessee. His latest win came on the contender series last Summer, defeating Jose Johnson in a unanimous decision performance. The victory earned him a UFC contract because of his win over the high-profile prospect. He has one blemish on his record, that being a loss to UFC fighter Steve Garcia.

Lawrence is putting his 6-1 record on the line this Saturday against Vince Cachero on a UFC “Fight Night” card. Cachero is making his sophomore UFC performance after coming up short in his debut against Jamall Emmers.

Shawn Bitter

Grade: B
I like Lawrence. What he brings to the table is what we look for in a well-rounded MMA fighter. Lawrence on the feet has a large tool-set. He has a diverse attack with good movement. He has a good kickboxing base and a very good understanding of his distance. With an excellent kicking game, he mixes it up very well going to the body and head. As talented as he is on the feet, he’s an even better wrestler and grappler. He’s got a furious pace with a deep gas tank. However, there are still questions about him. Lawrence only has seven pro fights. He hasn’t really fought the best of competition, and is not as active as he should be. I’m on the fence with his future but skill for skill he has a high ceiling.

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Vince Rodemer

Grade: B
Ronnie Lawrence is a really interesting case. The numbers say one thing and the tape says another. Lawrence was a +260 underdog against Jose Johnson in his Dana White Contender Series fight, but now is a -170 favorite against Vince Cachero (7-3) in his UFC debut. It’s hard for a guy to flip that much on paper. The tape says Lawrence is a really good prospect aside from his age. Lawrence absolutely controlled Johnson. He has really good wrestling and cardio and has finished a bunch of fights on the ground. I like prospects that push the pace and dictate where the fight goes. I’m still really confused as to why Bellator only gave him one fight. In the end, Lawrence is 28-years-old, so I can’t give him an A as a prospect.

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Zac Herbison

Grade: C
Lawrence is a loose fighter – think Brandon Royval or Lando Vannata. He changes stances often and is creative and diverse with his combos to an absurd extent. As is often the case with such fighters, his shot selection isn’t always perfect – his love for the spinning back kick especially seems exploitable. However, he mixes up his strikes in such an unexpected way that he’s mostly gotten away with it so far. He probably will again this weekend, as Vince Cachero isn’t much tougher than most of his previous opponents. Higher-level competition will likely find a lot to exploit, however. Lawrence is a BJJ brown belt, and finds plenty of opportunities to go to the ground. His unorthodox striking style tends to create clinches and scrambles, and Lawrence has shown a knack for taking advantage of them to end up on top. Even off of his back, Lawrence threatens submissions and throws solid strikes, though he arguably does that when he should be getting up. Unfortunately, I don’t expect his submission game to accomplish much. The bantamweight division is full of strong grapplers, and Lawrence hasn’t shown anything that would suggest he’d give them trouble. I expect him to give fun performances against the low-level competition, but I don’t think he’ll fare well against much else.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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Gary Friel

Grade: C-
Lawrence comes into his UFC debut with a respectable 6-1 record. He hasn’t fought massively experienced guys, but every fight was fair. His Contender Series fight against Jose Johnson saw him giving up a massive experience differential, but he still came out the other side with a UFC contract in his hand. It’s hard to say too much about him. He’s finished a couple of fights but doesn’t appear to be a born finisher, and he’s not really got a long rap sheet to sit and break down. I do think he’ll win his fight against Cachero, which goes a long way towards deciding the longevity of the fighter in my overall breakdown. This seems like a completely standard signing to fill up the numbers to me though, although I hope I’m proven wrong and Lawrence ends up a killer.

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Joshua Yule

Grade: B
The reason I give Lawrence a high ceiling but a low rating is that I think he could potentially develop into something very decent. He currently has mediocre top control and pocket defense but his outside lateral movement is quite nice (though energy-intensive) and his game has quite a good synergy. Basically, he moves on the outside, forcing his opponent to chase him. If they do, he can lure them into a takedown. If they don’t, he tries to wear them down with kicks, especially leg kicks, so that he can go for his own takedowns. That’s actually a pretty solid main gameplan, and if he rounds out his weak points – conceding takedowns, for example, and not having such obvious vulnerabilities up close – then I could see him being very good. But right now those weaknesses are too apparent for me to give him above a B. That being said, his takedowns are yet to be proven against top opposition. Jose Johnson has multiple submission losses, hinting at mediocre takedown defense himself, so I’d really like to see Lawrence in against better wrestlers to get a better picture of his strengths and weaknesses.

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Joe McDonagh

Grade: B
Lawrence is a very complete fighter. He is red hot, on a 3-fight winning streak including a victory over highlight reel prospect Jose Johnson on DWCS. Lawrence has mostly shown great signs of Fight IQ, knowing when to use his grappling or wrestling to change levels. When the brawler comes out, Lawrence is must-see television and a definite bonus winner through the years to come.

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Kristen King

Grade: B+
Lawrence has been around for almost a decade and he is just now getting his chance in the UFC. Spending some time on the regional circuit did absolute wonders for Lawrence, who only came up short once throughout his amateur and professional career. If you have never watched Lawrence fight, then introduce yourself by watching his performance against Jose Johnson on Dana White’s Contender Series from September of last year. Lawrence was in complete control of the fight as he used a wrestling-heavy attack to keep Johnson from getting anything significant off. When the fight was not being contested on the ground, Lawrence targeted the calves of Johnson with heavy kicks that were also quite the problem to deal with. So, who do we have here? A very impressive wrestler with the striking to match. I like the sound of that and believe Lawrence is going to be around here for a while.

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Tom Albano

Grade: C+
Following his appearance and win on Dana White’s Contender Series this past season, Ronnie Lawrence was praised as being “special” by UFC President Dana White. Lawrence is a wrestling expert but has no wins via submission. Instead, his finishing ability comes from grabbing top position and overwhelming his opposition with strikes. And if he can’t find the finish, he’ll ride you out towards a decision. The win over Jose Johnson was a good one, especially considering Lawrence hadn’t fought in just over 15 months. Lawrence should be able to do well against Vince Cachero if he can get the fight to the ground, but it’d be even better if he can show off his fists and be a more all-around fighter. But to say he’s “special,” there still needs to be more seen before that label can be applied.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
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Title Contender
Champion