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Robbie Lawler Looks to Change Fortunes vs. Matt Lindland

Home-cage advantage? If there is such thing, it doesn't matter much to Robbie Lawler.

The Strikeforce middleweight fights Saturday for the first time since a June loss to Babalu Sobral, and he'll do so less than 10 miles from his home training base. But Lawler said part of his mental strategy before his fight in St. Louis against Matt Lindland is to forget he's home.

"I'm going to treat it like I'm on the road, just because that's how I've been fighting my whole career – pretty much traveling," Lawler told MMA Fighting. "So I'm just going to treat it like any other fight week – stay in a hotel and eat out. Just keep it how it's been and don't change anything."

Lawler (19-6-1, 1-2 Strikeforce) makes his training home at the H.I.T. Squad gym founded by former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes, just a few clicks up the road from St. Louis, site of Saturday's Strikeforce card on Showtime, in Granite City, Ill. He also fought in St. Louis in his Strikeforce debut, a submission loss to Jake Shields.

But "don't change anything" might be a slight exaggeration. For certain, Lawler would change the result of his fight against Sobral in Los Angeles, where he went to his first decision since 2003, a win over Chris Lytle at UFC 45. Though many observers gave Lawler the nod, all three judges saw it 29-28 for Sobral. And that's what Lawler says will change this time around.

"It was pretty disappointing," the 28-year-old said. "When you leave it up to the judges, it's always on you. You can always go back and say, 'Yeah, it was close,' or whatever. But if you leave it up to the judges, if you don't finish – obviously, I didn't do enough in their eyes to win the fight. But I'll be in better shape, I'll be throwing more combos, I'll just be a better fighter this time around. I'll be faster, I'll be stronger – I've been working really hard."

For a good long time, that's all Lawler was doing – working hard, and he didn't have much of anything to show for it. After EliteXC folded in 2008, Lawler, who was the promotion's middleweight champ, was picked up by Strikeforce. But it took nearly a year before he finally got back in a cage.

Lawler said the layoff was frustrating and believes it presented a unique setback he hadn't dealt with before. The 11 months off was the longest stint without a fight in his MMA career.

"When you're on a roll, you want to stay busy – you want to keep that momentum going," Lawler said. "I was just on the shelf for a long period of time, just training. What was bad about it was, I never stopped training. So normally after a fight or before a fight, you kind of peak and then come back down – and I just kept training because I wasn't sure when I was going to fight. I think in the end that probably hurt me a little bit. It definitely would've been nice to stay busy."

In 2010, though, he'll have three fights. Before the loss to Sobral, he beat Melvin Manhoef in January in one of the more stunning comebacks of the year. After taking a beating from Manhoef's vicious leg kicks, Lawler put his one-punch knockout power on display and laid Manhoef out with a right.

Against Lindland (22-7, 1-1 Strikeforce), Lawler gets a fellow UFC vet who at 40 has been around the block a few times. And though Lawler acknowledges his strengths lie in his fists – just ask Manhoef if evidence is needed – he thinks Lindland, an elite-level wrestler, will be OK standing for a while.

"He's a professional – he's been fighting for a long time and he's not just looking to go in there and out-wrestle me the whole time, I believe," Lawler said. "I think he's going to go out there and be smart, throw some punches and look to clinch. But I don't think he'll be in any hurry to take me down. He'll take his time, and when the opportunity presents itself I think he'll look to close the distance and then take me down. But I don't think he's too worried – he's trained hard, and he'll be ready."

The bout with Lindland was one that has been talked about for a while. When Strikeforce toyed with the idea of a four-man middleweight tournament to fill the title vacated by Shields' departure to the UFC, Lawler and Lindland would have fought on one side and Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza would have been on the other. Instead, Kennedy and Souza were given an instant title fight, which Jacare won in August.

And though Lawler's stance on whether he should be in the title picture or not is a politically correct one, it's hard to not read a little disappointment into his response.

"The way I look at it is, I'm just one of the guys," Lawler said. "Just training, and fighting, and preparing, and coming up from the bottom and climbing to the top. I just take it one fight at a time. In this sport, you never know what's going to happen. Things fall through sometimes. I just train hard and worry about the things I can control."

Lawler has nine straight wins by stoppage – seven straight by knockout. But he doesn't believe he needs a highlight-reel victory. Right now, any kind of win is of utmost importance for him to get a shot at Souza's title, regardless of when that might come.

"I care about winning first, and normally when I win, it's convincing," Lawler said. "I try not to worry about what people think and what people think I should do each fight, how impressive I need to be. I need to go out there and win, that's what it comes down to."

Strikeforce: St. Louis takes place Saturday at the Scottrade Center and is headlined by a light heavyweight bout between Dan Henderson and Sobral. It is the promotion's third event in the city. Lawler-Lindland is the co-main event on the main card, which will air live on Showtime at 10 p.m. Eastern.

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