Jimmy Smith joined me on this week's episode of Heavy Hands to preview the main card of UFC 171 (full episode embedded below), which features Robbie Lawler vs. Johny Hendricks in a fight for the vacant welterweight title.
Also fighting on this card is Jake Shields, whom Smith believes has a much better chance against Hector Lombard than the betting lines would have you believe, recalling that the last time Shields was set up to lose, against Dan Henderson for the Strikeforce middleweight title, he managed to survive the early onslaught and drown Hendo in deep waters. He thinks Shields can do the same thing to Hector Lombard this Saturday:
None of [Hector Lombard's] issues have been physical. They've been mental. It's been, how does he handle an opponent that's still in front of him after a big shot? A fighter that drags him into deep water and makes it a grinding, monotonous kind of fight? That's what Jake Shields does.
There is some talk that Shields might find himself on the chopping block with a poor performance. As many good things as he had to say about Shields' skillset and tenacity, Smith had a relevant warning for aspiring fighters:
The anti-sweet spot in MMA is 'dangerous but unpopular.' Shields is dangerous but unpopular. He doesn't have a style that people find exciting . . . but he wins. And every time you're in that niche, promotions are always gonna look to get you beat.
As far as the main event goes, Smith thinks that one of the key factors at play in this bout will be the fighters' cardio.
I think what gets overlooked a little bit . . . is Robbie, in his last fight against MacDonald, his gas didn't look great late in that fight. Remember, this is a five-rounder. Hendricks, I think, looked good all five rounds against St-Pierre--slowed down a little bit in the fifth round--but this is a guy who has had great gas. And since [Lawler] came back to the UFC, he hasn't had a long distance fight.
It is not, however, an easy fight to call. After much rumination, Jimmy felt forced to pick Hendricks based on his ability to force his kind of fight on his opponent. "But man," he concluded. "I would not put money on it."
For more interviews and analysis check out Heavy Hands, and stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of your UFC 171 coverage this weekend.