Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler were an unlikely pair to be fighting for a UFC title. Hendricks overcame a mid-career lull that made him seem less special than he turned out to be, Lawler was a guy who spent much of his career coming up short of expectations.
Tonight, the two men had a chance to compete for UFC gold and both made the most of their opportunity.
For five rounds, both gave as well as they took. There were moments where Lawler badly hurt Hendricks, moments where Hendricks badly hurt Lawler and moments in between that seemed simultaneously like neither man could truly get the upper hand but a finish was mere seconds away.
I could gush over this fight all night, but I'll leave it instead simply at this...
With Georges St. Pierre's departure (however long it lasts), the UFC needed this fight and these two men delivered beyond what could reasonably have been expected from them.
Congratulations to Johny Hendricks. The NEW UFC Welterweight Champion.
- An unfortunate thing happened tonight with the welterweights on the undercard. The Tyron Woodley vs.Carlos Condit fight was originally treated as a #1 Contender bout, but suddenly Dana White told the media that it wasn't and that the winner of Jake Shields vs. Hector Lombard could also earn a shot. Lombard looked very good, but also fought in a very safe way that turned off the casual fans I was watching the event with, and Joe Rogan did him no favors by pushing how risk-adverse he was fighting on the ground. And then, Woodley won when Condit suffered a bad knee injury on a takedown and was finished by a kick to the opposite leg. Both men were impressive, but their wins come with strange issues that make a title challenge a difficult sell.
- Let's all admit that a guy who was outstruck by Jake Shields less than a year ago (Woodley) getting a title shot would be a little funny.
- Myles Jury beat up Diego Sanchez and the Sanchez thing has officially stopped being interesting for me. Yes, the Melendez fight was very entertaining...but we're just watching Sanchez go out and get beat up while trying to make something happen now, aren't we? He comes to the cage screaming and amped up, gets slapped around by his corner after he gets checked by the ref, sprints around the cage doing more screaming and then gets punched in the head...a lot. It's a story that has ran its course.
- Ovince St. Preux was impressive in kicking off the PPV portion of the night. Nikita Krylov was far too content to lay on his back once he got taken down and it allowed OSP to get a choke that should not really work at the higher end of MMA.
- Kelvin Gastelum deserves a ton of respect for his win over Rick Story, even if you believe Story deserved the win. Gastelum showed a really impressive amount of skill, a beautiful jab and some sneaky power. Story is a legit tough guy, which is why he was able to almost finish Gastelum in the second round after getting roughed up in the first. Gastelum has a bright future if he stays motivated.
- Jessica Andrade and Raquel Pennington put on a tremendous fight. Andrade's aggression makes fights fun, but it was clear that the commentary was overlooking that Pennington spent a lot of the fight avoiding actually getting hit clean and throwing her own solid counters that were landing well. I think Andrade won, but there was a much more interesting fight going on in the cage than we were being sold by the booth.
- Dennis Bermudez continued the quietest major winning streak ever by decimating an overmatched Jimy Hettes. Hettes was thoroughly outclassed in the stand-up and couldn't do anything on the ground to really threaten at any point. The only question as the fight developed was is Bermudez could figure out a way to get the stoppage, and he did.
- UFC 171 proved to be a very entertaining card with an outstanding main event. Nights like these are what remind that MMA can be a very special sport.
- 2014 UFC Results Tracker! With 9 decisions, 2 submissions and 2 KOs, the year's total is now 62 decisions, 12 submissions, 22 KOs and 1 DQ. The decision rate is holding steady at 64%.