Former two-time NCAA D1 national champion wrestler Johny Hendricks showed off a much-improved striking game to take a very close split-decision victory over Mike Pierce in a welterweight bout at UFC 133. Hendricks entered the UFC with a very rudimentary striking game two years ago, but looked very impressive while landing all sorts of Muay Thai strikes in the fight. Hendricks likely took the first with his striking, but the second and third were very tough to call. Pierce earned a takedown in the third round, no small accomplishment against such a decorated wrestler, but it seemed to be too-little-too-late by then, with Hendricks pulling out the W.
Hendricks improved to 6-1 in the UFC, along with two wins under the WEC banner. His only UFC loss thus far was to Rick Story at The Ulimate Fighter 12 Finale. Pierce drops to 4-2 in the UFC, with his only other loss coming to top-contender Jon Fitch. He was on a three-fight winning streak before last night. The fight took place on the Facebook portion of the broadcast.
What was the high spot of this fight?
Honestly, all of it. This was an extremely solid tactical battle that didn't really have one high point, but was fought at a high pace for all 15 minutes. Perhaps Pierce getting the takedown on Hendricks could be the biggest event of the fight, considering Johny's wrestling pedigree.
Where do these guys go from here?
This bout was huge for both fighters, and the W for Hendricks re-establishes him as an upper-tier welterweight. His loss to Rick Story had taken away some of his shine, but he's right back in contention with a win over a guy as tough as Pierce. The depth of the welterweight division means that there are plenty of good fights for Hendricks out there, but a matchup with fellow UFC 133 winner Rory MacDonald seems like logical booking to me.
Despite Pierce dropping to 4-2 in the UFC, I really don't think this will hurt his momentum that much. Everyone knows he is an ultra tough fighter and likely has the ability to beat almost any welterweight on any given night. That being said, the loss is a step in the wrong direction and he will have to get a couple more wins to get back into contention. A bout with Mike Pyle or Dong Hyun Kim would be a solid test for Pierce.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Now. It did go 15 minutes, and the fight was never in jeopardy of being stopped, but this fight showcased high-level striking and wrestling and was a lot of fun to watch. Perhaps it's a question of taste and people might not be as enamored with this fight as I was, but I found it really entertaining.
More BE coverage of UFC 133 in the full entry.