Another toughman competition, another crack at the title.
For rugged champion Robbie Lawler and contender Carlos Condit, their Saturday welterweight title fight headlining UFC 195 at the MGM Grand marks the collision of familiarity and the unknown.
Can Lawler, the 33-year-old champion who's endured so much brutality, maintain his resilience against another universally skilled contender?
Or will Condit, 31, elevate from the projections and praise about his talent to the reality of a belt?
Condit, who trains in the Albuquerque gym occupied by women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm and stripped light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, possessed the interim welterweight belt three years ago when he defeated Nick Diaz by unanimous decision.
His opportunity to wrest the official belt from then-champion Georges St-Pierre in November 2012 was compelling — he knocked St-Pierre down midway through with a head kick — but St-Pierre proceeded to victory, leaving Condit with the consolation prize of plaudits for his showing.
"I've definitely grown up a bit as a person, an athlete, a fighter," Condit told The Times when comparing that title chance and this one. "I've been through the title fights, done the lead-up, felt the pressure. Having gone through that experience, I'm better for it and definitely more prepared."
Yet, Condit (30-8) hesitated to answer how he'll break the UFC's version of the immovable object.
Lawler, since losing a March 2014 title shot against Johny Hendricks in the UFC's fight of the year, has won four consecutive bouts, including a rematch with Hendricks and a fifth-round technical knockout of Rory MacDonald in July that UFC President Dana White called the "fight of … ever."
Both men were hospitalized after. MacDonald's nose was grotesquely broken and a large chunk of Lawler's lip was left dangling so badly that White ordered him to "stop talking" during his post-fight interview.
Lawler also boasts a fight-of-the-night victory against overweight Matt Brown during his current run, a testament, the champion says, to a two-year-old training philosophy that discourages the heavy training punishment he previously took and strives to leave him in peak shape for the main event.
"I'll have to see if my preparation is going to be enough to [break Lawler] and I feel very confident it is," said Condit. "Every night's a different night. I'm going to go out there and do my thing."
Condit returned from a 14-month layoff after a knee injury in a 2014 loss to current mandatory welterweight title contender Tyron Woodley and beat former title challenger Thiago Alves on May 30 in Brazil.
His confidence against Lawler is rooted in the fact he's never been stopped by punches.
Lawler said Condit's varied skills don't alter the basics of preparation.
"For me, it's always the same, worrying about how I can get better, the techniques I can do. Then the coaches implement a fight plan," Lawler said. "Carlos is a heck of a fighter and I'm well prepared.
"A lot of hard work has finally paid off. I'm just doing what I'm always doing … always learning. My coaches and I always stress getting better and working on all aspects, so I'm ready to fight and take it to the next level."
"You don't want to have to showcase your warrior spirit or how much heart you have in [every] fight," Lawler told reporters in a conference call this week. "You want to go out there and you want to be sharp and you want to execute your game plan and … get it done fast. Every fighter wants to … take the least amount of damage possible."
The intrigue is in what dimensions Condit, a skilled kickboxer and capable submission artist, will seek to counter Lawler's more predictable approach, which the challenger has studied through mixed martial arts analytics.
"I don't think [analytics are] the holy grail, but I think that it's definitely a good tool to really look at somebody's tendencies in black and white, not like, 'Oh, well, he kind of seems to do this here and there,'" Condit said.
The pay-per-view card also includes a top-five heavyweight bout between veteran former champion Andrei Arlovski (25-10) of Chicago and Ohio's Stipe Miocic (13-2).
The winner between second-ranked Arlovski and third-ranked Miocic will be poised to fight the winner of the Feb. 6 heavyweight title bout between champion Fabricio Werdum and former champion Cain Velasquez.
Miocic, after defeating veteran Mark Hunt in May, is still building an audience.