LAS VEGAS -- Shelve that talk about whether Rory MacDonald will challenge for the welterweight title anytime soon.
On the way to the Tristar welterweight's coronation, he became the latest chapter in "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler's comeback story Saturday night.
Lawler won for the third time this year in his return to the UFC, putting on a sensational performance in the third round to eke out a split decision at UFC 167. Al three judges scored the bout 29-28, with Lawler getting two of the three cards.
The American Top Team fighter eked out a tentative first round, landing more often as the two fighters felt each other out.
Round two was a vintage, patient MacDonald performance, as he patiently counterstruck, and then scored a late takedown.
But Lawler turned it up in round three. MacDonald may have been hiding a hand injury during the fight, as the bulk of his strikes in the latter two round were kicks and elbows. Lawler, meanwhile, kept landing his big left hand and gained confidence as the round went on. Lawler dropped MacDonald with a huge right hand and then laid several more shots to the grounded MacDonald, but couldn't put him away. MacDonald scored a late takedown and landed elbows, but it wasn't enough to steal the fight.
"He got stopped late early in his career, so he wanted to avenge that," said Lawler (22-9, 1 no-contest) He trains with some of the best, I knew that.
Lawler, of course, is well-known as a young UFC prospect who washed out of the company in 2004. Nine years later, he's back and heading toward the top of the division. He was asked if his experience was the difference in the fight.
"I think so," Lawler said. "I've had a tough road, up and down, kept pushing forward and that's what happened tonight."
MacDonald dropped to 15-2 and had a five-fight win streak snapped.