What it showed, instead, was a mature Lawler who is totally in control. Just two months after nearly winning the championship in the early leader for Fight of the Year against Johny Hendricks, Lawler was in command on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Lawler didn't get goaded into a firefight with the heavy-hitting Ellenberger. Instead, he slowly and methodically picked him apart, wore him down, and broke his will.
In the end, he got his finish, too. Lawler finished the job via TKO at 3:06 of the third round to win for the fourth time in his past five fights.
"He's a really good fighter," Lawler said. "I just wanted to go out there and showcase what I'm capable of, and I want to go out there and get that title."
Lawler set the tone early with brutal leg and body kicks, which seemed to make Ellenberger think twice about engaging. Ellenbeger didn't land a significant strike in the first three minutes. While he felt more comfortable late and began to land, Lawler turned the heat back up in the closing seconds.
Ellenberger attempted to implement his wrestling game in round two and scored a takedown, but that backfired as Lawler got top position and rained down heavy hands.
A game Ellenberger came out swinging in the third, but Lawler stepped up his game and began to pick his opponent apart. Herb Dean finally waved the bout out when Ellenberger (29-8) hit the mat and covered up.
Lawler (23-10, 1 NC) made it clear he want another crack at the belt.
"I wasn't going to cry, I was going to get back in line and show everyone I'm going to beat people up and get the title," he said.