Everything about this card seemed to go well except for one hitch... and I'll get to that after I gush over how awesome the fight for the welterweight title was!
Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler clearly left everything that they had out in the cage and left no butts in the seats in Dallas. The only thing that the fight lacked was a finish and it feels more appropriate that it didn't have one. Neither man deserved to be considered a definitive winner, though it should be stated that the decision seemed definitive enough. If you missed the fight, stop reading at the end of this sentence, find someway to watch it as soon as possible, and treat yourself. If you continue to read the end will be spoiled for you.
As for the hitch, Carlos Condit blew out his knee. I could go into more detail, but it would just depress me even further. I admit that Tyron Woodley was winning the fight up to that point, but he was also beginning to gas and it seemed Condit would turn it up to the next gear very soon. Considering Condit was considered to be the best active welterweight in the world not involved in a title fight, this throws a serious wrench in the division standings. We'll have to be patient to see what will happen from there.
The rest of the main card had good-not-great fights to fill it out and one decision in particular likely left many fans doing somersaults (since most of us can't do cartwheels) over its outcome. Keep reading to figure out what I mean.
* indicates I was right in my pick
*Johny Hendricks defeated Robbie Lawler via Decision
One night following an early fight of the year candidate, Hendricks and Lawler may have topped what Daniel Straus and Pat Curran pulled off. While Curran pulled out a finish with less than a minute in a fight that most felt he was behind on, Hendricks and Lawler went back-and-forth the whole night to the delight of everyone watching. Both fighters visibly stunned the other at times and when it seemed they might be on the ropes would respond with a punch to push their opposition back. Hendricks took the first two rounds (thought they were competitive) and Lawler took the next two rounds (though they were competitive as well). It came down to the final round where Hendricks was able to use his legs kicks which he stayed true to throughout the fight to limit Lawler's mobility and initiated some takedowns and clinch work against the cage to make sure the decision went his way.
Hendricks deserved to get the belt and there is a good chance that he'll reign for a long time... depending on what GSP does of course (though that is for another day to discuss). What impressed me the most is that it seemed to be the best version of Hendricks that I've ever seen. Yes, better than the one who showed up against GSP (there he is mentioned again). He threw impressive and effective combinations the duration of the fight and used them to chop out Lawler's leg from underneath him. He seemed less worried about loading up and landing his famed power shot and concentrated on connection more than anything. Though I feel he underutilized his wrestling, he pulled it out when he needed it in the first and last round and when you walk out of the arena with a big shiny gold belt, there is no need to critique too harshly.
Had Condit been successful tonight, it would have set up a likely rematch between Hendricks and Condit for the belt. Now there is likely to be all sorts of politicking for the position. Does Tyron Woodley deserve the shot as he claims? Should Lawler maybe get a rematch? Nick Diaz is claiming he'll be ready to fight soon. Should he get the shot? Rory MacDonald feels he should get next. I was opposed to that idea when MacDonald originally proposed it after beating Demian Maia at UFC 170, but in light of the current circumstances, it would be the best option at this point. Rory's only losses are to the guy Hendricks just beat (in a close fight) and Condit who will be out for a while at this point. The only other guy who would deserve it more would be his teammate... GSP (who is continually mentioned and seems to be hovering over the division). If GSP were to return soon enough, that is a rematch everyone would tune into.
Lawler should never have to hear that he never fulfilled his potential ever again as he put on a championship effort against Hendricks. He only just barely fell short in the end and won't fall out of title talk at this point either. He showed a good gas tank, lots of discipline, and even landed the greater amount of power shots, having Hendricks on the ropes far more than Hendricks had him. I'm sure that his heart is broken at this juncture, but he really should hold his head high and realize how many fans he was able to gain in his performance. As for where he goes from here, I feel the UFC should give him some say. While I don't feel a rematch with Hendricks would be appropriate yet, another rematch could be in the making. Only one person has ever stopped Lawler with strikes: Nick Diaz. If Diaz really is ready to come back and if Lawler would like to get some redemption, this would be an awesome and easily marketable fight. Or he could face Tyron Woodley to determine who has next after Hendricks settles the score with... whoever it is. Do you see why I said this could take a while to sort out.
Tyron Woodley defeated Carlos Condit via TKO 2nd Round
This was a super disappointing ending for everyone... not just Condit and the fans, but Woodley too. Woodley was surely up on the score cards after the first round as he landed a number of power shots and some takedowns to establish dominance over Condit. Even though Condit was clearly the fresher of the two going into the second round, Woodley was still able to land a takedown and take an early lead on the scorecards in the second round. It appeared that Condit had screwed up his knee initially on the takedown, but it all blew apart on a leg kick from Woodley that resulted in Condit falling to the ground and grasping his knee. Damn it, damn it, damn it!
Woodley has a W in the record book and was winning, but Condit is known to get stronger as a fight goes and has a tendency to finish his opponents. So no one was completely willing to cede over victory to Woodley at that point. Woodley didn't exactly endear himself to fans either by claiming he should get the next title shot by default of his beating the highest ranked fighter after the champion. I'll give Woodley this: he looked very good (better than I would have given him credit for) and had a good game plan to stifle Condit's offense. But sorry, a victory over an over-the-hill Josh Koscheck and Condit blowing out his knee doesn't add up to a title match in my opinion. If Lawler doesn't welcome back Nick Diaz from retirement, he'd be a great option for Woodley. Beat Lawler, then we'll talk title. Otherwise, give him the victor of Jake Ellenberger and Tarec Saffiedine.
I'm going to keep my comments on Condit short. He didn't get a lot of offense going, but then again it wasn't so apparent that he hurt his knee earlier in the second. He did prove he has one of the best chins (if not the best) in the game as he took Woodley's shots without flinching. I just hope that his recovery goes smooth and that we see him back better than ever as soon as possible.
While this didn't turn into your typical Diego Sanchez style match, it was certainly entertaining for what it was. Sanchez tried very hard to turn it into the type of brawl that he thrives on, but Jury was disciplined and stuck to his plan. Sanchez would rush in and Jury would have some effective counters ready for the hard driving Sanchez. Sanchez was able to land some hard shots to the body and tried to sink in a couple of submission chokes, but clearly fell short on the judges scorecards. While this could be seen as a turning point for Jury's career, it seems to be for Sanchez as well... just in a more negative way.
I was worried that Jury would get dragged into a brawl and end up losing in the judges eyes due to Sanchez's relentless come forward style that they always seem to favor. But his patience paid off as he clearly scored more damage (and points) and walked out with the biggest win of his career. One thing that makes it more impressive is he is largely know as a wrestler and did most of his damage with his fists. He'll likely enter the rankings with the W and get a potential top 10 opponent. The winner of Jim Miller and Bobby Green at UFC 172 would be a good level up for his next opponent without putting him in over his head.
Sanchez may only be 32, but few 32 year olds have the mileage on their body's that Sanchez does. The years of head-first brawls seem to be catching up to him and he seemed to be a step slower on... well, everything. Jury beat him in every department. Sanchez still has heart for days and will never quit. But he didn't set up his blitzes or his takedowns, didn't mix up his strikes very much, and hasn't seemed to shore up his poor wrestling. Maybe he just can't do it anymore. Another fighter who has been in decline is Gray Maynard. Both of these guys have been around for a while and often near the top, but can no longer make that claim. It makes sense to see who can start one last career resurgence.
I don't care that Lombard didn't do a lot to establish himself as a potential title challenger. He beat the ultimate point fighter Jake Shields! Do you think Jake realizes how many people were laughing at the pathetic impact created by his punches and kicks? This is MMA... you are supposed to be trying to hurt your opponent! I'm usually not this upset with Shields, but when I saw no additional oomph in his strikes after the first two rounds, I'd had enough of playing nice with Mr. Shields. Lombard landed a couple of early hard strikes and was able to control the fight with some beautiful takedowns/throws and maintained top position over Shields for good chunks of each round. Not a spectacular fight, but it did have spectacular moments.
Lombard still has a long way to go when it comes to being able to go a full and efficient 15 minutes, but he showed that he knows how to compensate quite effectively for his lack of gas tank by scoring the takedown and allowing himself to rest on top of his opponent. Outside of the takedowns, this isn't exciting at all. But if he can't KO his opponent with one of his massive haymakers, it may the best option he has. At this point I'd love to see him square off with Dong Hyun Kim. Kim is coming off of a big win over John Hathaway and has developed a recent love for the KO. Lombard will be more than willing to oblige a stand up battle and see who moves closer to the title.
Shields is in a very bad spot. He may very well end up being released despite the fact that he is still a very good welterweight. His point style of fighting doesn't endear him to anyone and Dana White has released plenty of fighters with similar styles despite their success (Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami come to mind). He very well could be gone. If not, the loser of Jake Ellenberger and Tarec Saffiedine will need a high level opponent. I know Shields has already faced Ellenberger, but I'm sure he would love a shot at redemption.
If you were to have me guess which fighter on the whole card would end up winning via Von Flue choke, St. Preux is likely the last one that I would have guessed. But guess who pulled it off? The fight was very fast (89 seconds) and not much besides the choke is worth mentioning. Actually, nothing else besides the choke is worth mentioning. St. Preux was able to show growth as a result though and should have a little more sheen on his name now.
St. Preux is far from a finished product... if he ever begins to fully realize his physical gifts. The sub indicates that he might be putting everything (well... maybe not everything... but a good chunk of it) together and could be a name that starts creeping into the rankings. There is very little depth in the division and it might be time to throw him to someone who seems to be a step too high for him... but it seemed they were doing that with original opponent Thiago Silva anyway. Rafael Cavalcante seems to be the best choice at this point. He is similar in styles to what Silva would have brought anyway.
Krylov may have just erased all the good will he garnered with his 25 second stoppage of Walt Harris. No need to fret though. Krylov is still exceptionally young at 21 and simply made a mistake of not realizing what St. Preux had available as far as the choke goes. His skill level is likely still improving and he should be able to show that in his next showcase. Maybe he'd be a good option for Patrick Cummins. Or the chinny Cody Donovan. Either one works for me.
Record for this Card: 5-8
Record for Year: 62-36
Believe me, there is no one more embarrassed by my recent picks record than me... but I'm not gonna be a bitch and puss out because I'm going through a rough patch. I'll be back to annoy you all with more picks! Maybe I'm just overthinking everything...