In a cautious opening round for both men, MacDonald delivered kicks to the body and landed his jab. Lawler remained patient and looked for openings.
Lawler found his timing and range in the second frame and picked up the pace. He began landing power shots and opened up a cut on the bridge of MacDonald’s nose. He stuffed all of MacDonald’s takedown attempts.
Lawler was punishing MacDonald on the feet in the third when he was hit with a high kick that wobbled him. He covered up along the cage while MacDonald worked to finish the fight with elbows on the inside. The second-ranked welterweight had the champion badly hurt, but couldn’t get the finish. Following the round, Lawler staggered back to his corner.
MacDonald stunned Lawler in the opening moments of the fourth frame with high kick. As the round wore on, though, Lawler recovered and fired back. At the end of the round, the two stood in the middle of the octagon starring each other down.
Between rounds, MacDonald’s corner told him that he was five minutes away from being the new champion. He would only last one more minute.
The battle wounds showed on the faces of both men as they began the fifth and final round. Lawler stalking MacDonald and stepped in with a stiff jab that landed clean on the already damaged nose of MacDonald. The Canadian fell to the canvas and referee “Big” John McCarthy stepped in to stop the fight.
At the time of the finish, Lawler was down 39-37 on all three judges’ scorecards.
“I showed everyone that I’m a true fighter. I come to fight. No matter what happens, I keep coming and I come to knock people out,” said Lawler after the technical knockout win.
When asked about being hurt in the middle stages of the fight, Lawler admitted he was stunned.
“Obviously I was dinged. I covered up and I was just looking to swing with a big punch. I keep fighting. If people get in my face, I’m going to knock you out,” he said.
“That was an accumulation of a beat down. That wasn’t one punch; that was years of fighting right there coming to fruition,” Lawler said about the finish.
Lawler’s former teammate and UFC Hall of Fame inductee Matt Hughes once famously said, “you’re not a champion until you defend your belt.”
It was Lawler’s first title defense. Afterward he said, “I’m the champ. I’m here to stay.”