UFC 171: The prognostication postscript - looking at the future of welterweight from Hendricks, to Gastelum, and beyond

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Johny Hendricks became the new UFC Welterweight champion after defeating Robbie Lawler in a five round decision. Who is next for him in a world with Georges St-Pierre?

Analyzing fights beforehand is a tough racket in the blogosphere. You can articulate matchups in a very intelligent, and coherent way and still end up looking stupid. Conversely, your analysis can be written with one eye open at 3 in the morning, and an absence of long term memory, and you can still end up looking brilliant.

It's fun to look at what you get wrong versus what you get right. After all, mixed martial arts is a game of inches. This point was never more highlighted than the 5th round of Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler.

So just how were my "prognostications"?

Endurance and Improvement was the difference for Hendricks

Endurance being key was an obvious point to make. After all, both guys have fantastic beards (literally and figuratively in one case). However, the real x-factor was Hendricks developing even more weapons in the weapons facility. That's a lot of weapons. The logical next step is a queen alien style mini-fist chambered from his esophagus.

Hendricks has never been truly dynamic on the feet despite being so effective. Last night, he was effective and dynamic. He was able to land his patented left hand, this time as part of punch kick combination that set the tone for the later rounds. Leg kicks are always factors in five round bouts. They allow you to more effectively land takedowns, and diminish the punching power of an opponent. This was exactly what happened in the 5th round.

The question for Lawler is, does he have staying power in the division? I feel like Lawler has reached his peak, and that peak was damn near good enough to be the UFC WW champion. But losses like these can be deflating; knowing you have to grind another year or two before getting another shot. In addition, the problem for him is the division itself; Lombard, Shields, Condit, Woodley, Maia, now Gastelum (more on him later) and maybe even Nick Diaz now that he's ready to hatch from his weed cocoon. This division is awesome.

Tyron Woodley...future WW champ?

Critics will say, this fight looks drastically different in a fight that goes to a decision, and Woodley got lucky with a freak injury as Condit was on his way towards knocking Tyron out (ok, so critics articulate the former, fanboys articulate the latter). I think we saw enough of what we needed to see.

Woodley can't catch a break with fans, which is unfortunate. He's finally blossoming into an all round threat. I'd argue Woodley was doing exactly what we saw Hendricks do to Condit, who also did what GSP did to Condit, who was preceded by what Shields did to...and well, you get the picture.

Woodley has an unbelievable right hand. It's a bit unnerving how well Condit was able to take those punches. It was a solid bout until the injury that I think also highlights both men's limitations: Woodley is not as good backing up (though his right hand is the great equalizer), while Condit can be neutralized by the absolute elite.

Diego Sanchez represents the paradox of exciting fighters who can bore

I picked Sanchez because I'm an idiot. But also because Sanchez fights like I prognosticate. Blood in, blood out I guess.

The big oversight on my part was Jury's movement. I simply didn't give him enough credit, and stupid little nuggets of suspicion enter my mind during these write ups; 'will Jury, looking to impress on the big stage, trade shot for shot?'. I gravitate towards the sexy pick and will find any reason to justify it with some semblance of logic. I guess I'll try being more professional.

Jury will excel in these fights but I still don't see him as a real contender. I like him to pick up the odd big win here and there (I like how he matches up with Cerrone for example), but he's still inexperienced. Fantastic check left hook though. Back to Sanchez, I'd like to see him consider retirement. He's two years younger than Forrest Griffin, and one year younger than Chris Leben; both of whom retired and share similar stories when you consider their troubled careers.

Sanchez will have nothing to be ashamed of, and he can be a positive force in the MMA community with the right approach. No job is more important than your health.

A fire rises...and its name is Kelvin Gastelum

This is basically a recap of what feels like a one night 8-man tournament. As I said in my preview, analysis for young guys getting legitimate training can be tough because they develop quickly, and there's no way to predict what new tricks they've got up their sleeve. For Gastelum...what a jab!

It's a fantastic weapon to have in your arsenal, bit it's even better when you throw it with conviction as he did. Still, he's got more work to do. Getting flatlined at the end of the 2nd could have been avoided. In addition, he's not Prince Naseem. It's great that he's learning how to move his head, but sometimes it's better just to keep your hands up.

What's next for the Welterweight Division?

Ben Askren.

Yes, Ben Askren. It's unfortunate that the first order of business should be, well 'why isn't he signed to the UFC, and why did the president of the company of the most influential mixed martial arts company in America decide to blacklist him?' I don't know but the sport has more important things to do, like sign James Toney.

His presence would add some spice to a division that feels like it's approaching a revolving door scenario. I personally think Hendricks has the ability to keep his belt, but his status as the division's best isn't as obvious. Woodley seems like a good, competitive matchup for him on paper, and so does Lombard. I realize Lombard took a lot of heat for his performance, but he was fighting Jake Shields.

All in all, UFC 171 was a resounding success. The Fox Sports prelims in particular were phenomenal.

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