UFC 171: Who did most to finish in Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler?

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

Another instalment of the WDMTF judging experiment, this time with KJ looking at the Hendricks vs Lawler title fight headliner from this past Saturday's UFC 171.

In my last article I looked at the close fight between Women's Bantamweight fighters Alexis Davis and Jessica Eye from UFC 170, judging the bout under the simple criteria of 'Who Did Most To Finish?'. To read more about how and why I came up with this criteria, check out the first article in the story stream when I judged Benson Henderson vs Josh Thomson.

The results of the fan poll in the last article had 39% of those that took part believing Davis had done the most to attempt finishing the fight, 33% believed Eye had done the most, and 28% believing neither one had done more than the other to attempt finishing the fight.

This time I will be judging the UFC Welterweight title fight from this past Saturday between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler, both of whom were challenging for the vacant championship. Though most agree with the judges giving the fight to Hendricks, many are still baffled by some of the scorecards produced most notably Douglas Crosby scoring a 10-10 final round. Stranger still he was the only judge out of his colleagues -- Mike Gonzalez and Aladin Martinez -- to award a 10-8 round in the fight, also to Hendricks for Round 2.

Here's a quick reminder of the WDMTF format:

- The fight will be watched on mute so I am not influenced by the announcers' commentary.

- The fight will be watched one time only, either live or from a recording

- I will use the 10 point must system to score the rounds, but I will not be going by the unified rules to determine who scores what. I will also more liberally apply 10-10 and 10-8 rounds where I feel necessary to help more accurately reflect the action in the round.

- I will write a commentary of the action as I see it minute by minute for ease of reading and for readers to more easily follow along when watching the fight themselves. I will be judging the round as a whole otherwise.

Onto the fight ...

Round 1

- Minute 1, both fighters look to be using the jab well, Hendricks tries some rear leg kicks, Lawler catches one and swarms backing Hendricks into the fence, tries to take his back while still punching, Hendricks manages to break away but not before eating a knee on the exit. Hendricks jabs and looks to land an overhand left. Hendricks goes back to leading with the right jab.

- Minute 2, Hendricks tries an over hand again which he uses to draw himself into a power double leg attempt, Lawler backed against the fence with an over hook and fighting to control Hendrick's right wrist, Lawler looking to fight for head space, Hendricks tries to land some knees, Hendricks breaks the clinch and lands an awkward left hook to the head on his way out.

- Minute 3, Lawler looks to jab, then a looping lead hook followed by a cross which Hendricks is able to time into a double leg attempt, Lawler gets his hips back and whizzers, Hendricks brought back up with the overhook, some clinch fighting, Lawler prevents Hendricks for changing levels for another shot, back to boxing range.

- Minute 4, Lawler working the better jab and using head movement to avoid Hendricks returning fire. Hendricks is pressing forward but Lawler definitely seems to be the better boxer of the two thus far.

- Minute 5, Hendricks looking to get inside and land shorter punches, hooks and uppercuts to the body, Lawler posturing that he's not phased. Hendricks moving forward with punches and does land a body-kick. Hendricks shoots again but Lawler easily defending, using the overhook and controlling the head space though he is the one backed against the fence. Round ends with them against the fence.

Hendricks was aggressive and moving forward and I can see how that tends to sway judges, and although Lawler was nullifying Hendricks' takedowns and underhooks, he was still the one pressed against the fence. However finishing is the name of the game, and I thought a good flurry from Lawler in the first minute, the knee he landed and the better punches landed to the head while avoiding a lot of hard strike attempts from Hendricks should win Lawler the round in my system. Clean strikes counts for more than aggression, moving forward and the stifled grappling of Hendricks 10-9 Lawler under WDMTF.

Round 2

- Minute 1, Better head movement from Hendricks though he is still being tagged when he stops and only moves his head as Lawler attacks. Lawler is constantly moving his head while throwing jabs and crosses, Hendricks seems to be looking for a hard left straight or overhand to either catch Lawler or allow him to rush in and attempt a takedown. Lawler is backed into the fence but still has his balance.

- Minute 2, the boxing styles of both are clearly different, with Lawler looking to land cleaner straight punches while making himself a moving target, and Hendricks looking to land either small or large curve line punches while more upright and rigid by comparison. Hendricks is the one pressing forward but Lawler isn't completely on the defensive either.

- Minute 3, Hendricks appearing to relax a little making his boxing smoother and his ability to block Lawler's punches better. Lawler is still punching but Hendricks appears to be landing a little more now and is more diverse with his striking landing a couple of leg kicks as well. Lawler is starting to be drawn into a bit of a fire fight on occasion.

- Minute 4, Lawler's head movement seems to have decreased significantly, Hendricks is doing a better job of being patient and picking his shots, A takedown attempt from Hendricks is again easily stopped, brief front headlock from Lawler, both back to boxing range in the center and Lawler moving his head again. Neither are using footwork to a better degree than the other, both a circling while looking to slip and exchange.

- Minute 5, Hendricks is more confident and relaxed landing punches on Lawler, though Lawler is still trying to wing his own. A leg kick and later a knee land for Hendricks, but he also postures and misses or lightly lands towards the end of the round with Lawler actually landing a good punch to the chin in the final seconds.

I think over all Hendricks did land the better strikes this round, though it wasn't as one sided as some claim it to be. This is my first time watching the fight, and without any volume it didn't look that bad for Lawler who still landed some good shots of his own. It'll be interesting to re-watch the fight with the crowd noise and the Joe Rogan commentary to see if this round in particular feels any different. 10-9 Hendricks under WDMTF.

Round 3

- Minute 1, Lawler starts strong and actually throws some leg kicks with his punching, perhaps being advised to by his corner. Hendricks responds well with his own combo. More jabs thrown by both fighters, Hendricks does land a couple of knees from a short lived double collar Thai Plum clinch.

- Minute 2, Good jab from Lawler that snaps Hendrick's head back, Hendricks responds and moves forward with a left hook that lands to the head, while then following with punches to the body. Lawler is looking to land his own hard shots which causes Hendricks to circle away.

- Minute 3, Lawler lands some punches and a knee that visibly has Hendricks hurt and in trouble. Lawler stalking Hendricks who is defensive and in survival mode and doing his best to block and avoid punches though some are getting through. Hendricks desperately looks for a double leg takedown and drives Lawler into the fence. Lawler defending with an overhook ...

- Minute 4, ... tries a whizzer, then squares up the clinch with Hendricks and breaks free. Lawler still has Hendricks on the back-foot who is now pawing away at Lawler's punches. Lawler is landing a couple of hooks and uppercuts to the head. Hendricks seems to regain some of his composure and starts jabbing again and look to land his own hard punches.

- Minute 5, Hendricks is back in this fight and looking to land strikes that will claw some points back from the judges, both fighters exchange miles after well received shots score. Round ends with them in the middle measuring each other.

Lawler clearly has had the strongest showing in the fight thus far with the trouble he put Hendricks in for a good minute and a half during this round. To Hendricks' credit he was able to recover and get himself back in the fight for the remaining 90 seconds or so of the round but not to the point where I felt Lawler shouldn't be acknowledged for show casing what my judging scoring system should be all about. 10-8 Lawler under WDMTF.

Round 4

- Minute 1, Lawler is confident and looking to land shots early and often, and as the fight goes on appears to be picking apart Hendricks and landing at will including a nice Thai clinch knee to finish of a combination. Hendricks is trying to land in response but is clearly on the defensive and getting the worst of it.

- Minute 2, Lawler continues to land great straight punches to Hendricks and has his nose busted open. Hendricks tries coming back with his own punches and kicks but looks stunted in delivering them. Lawler is making Hendricks' face look a mess by continually landing punches right down the middle. Hendricks is tough but is losing the fight, and over extends slightly looking for his hard left hand.

- Minute 3, Hendricks might even have a cut above his right eye since that side of his face is completely crimson now. Lawler is dictating the fight, scoring effective offense and damage while Hendricks is defending and looking for a strike that will turn this fight back around.

- Minute 4, Lawler lands a great uppercut but now appears he may have punched himself out. Hendricks is able to get his own combos going but is still nowhere near as effective as Lawler has been. Lawler snaps Hendricks' head back with a jab but he's not throwing the combos he was earlier. Hendricks is tough enough where a lot of other fighters would have fallen to Lawler's onslaught by now.

- Minute 5, Lawler has slowed down significantly, though is still moving his head and body well. He is however allowing Hendricks back into the fight or is scoring again in the last minute and gets his first successful takedown of the fight. Hendricks lands some short shots inside Lawler's butterfly guard, Lawler gets to his knees, Hendricks has a Front Headlock while both are in the short position. Round ends.

Lawler looked to be running away with the fight until he tired after 3 minutes of one sided offense. However even with Hendricks allowed to get back into the fight there was nothing that he did that could make up for his head being treated like a speedball for more than half of the round as a gassing Lawler was still very good defensively. The damage Lawler was inflicting plus the mess he made of Hendricks face counts for much, much more than the takedown and limited ground and pound Hendricks did achieve later on. 10-8 Lawler under WDMTF.

Round 5

- Minute 1, Lawler looks to jab from the offset Hendricks looking for power punches. Hendricks with a very nice level change and single leg takedown attempt driving Lawler into the cage. Hendricks switches to a double leg, comes up with an underhook briefly then drops back down attempting the double leg again. Hendricks returns to his left underhook and is working to make something happen.

- Minute 2, Hendricks is throwing knees to Lawler's right leg while looking for a takedown. Lawler widens his base and turns away from Hendricks leg attack attempt. The referee decides the fight is at a stalemate and separates the fighters. Both throw out a jab one after the other and both avoid using head movement.

- Minute 3, Hendricks is beginning to land some combos and some good leg kicks while Lawler looks to have slowed some more. However Lawler does begin landing punches to Hendricks head enough to cause snapping back a few times.

- Minute 4, Hendricks is pressing forward but is landing more to Lawler's head, whose defensive has almost entirely slipped away. Hendricks lands a couple of hard punches that momentarily off balances Lawler. Hendricks is landing more hard punches and visibly has Lawler in a lot of trouble now who is suffering both strikes to the head and hard kicks to the leg. While Lawler is wobbly Hendricks scores an easy takedown.

- Minute 5, Hendricks looks to figure four his legs around Lawlers and work from a three-quarter mount, Lawler tries to get his legs out and into butterfly guard, Hendricks is landing short left hands and elbows but otherwise seems content to ride the rest of the round out after doing significant damage to Lawler.

Fatigue caused Lawler to almost shut down this round even after landing some good straight punches. Hendricks this time did the most damage and had Lawler in trouble. I think the final minute Hendricks decided to play it safe, knowing he had done the damage and knowing a takedown and top control would cement his dominance under the unified rules. Even without this stalling, he still took a dominant round on my scorecard. 10-8 Hendricks under WDMTF.

Final Results

Looking at which fighter did the most to finish the fight in my subjective opinion, I ended up with a score of 47-45 for Robbie Lawler. Lawler was by far the better boxer of the two in the fight as a whole, but let down in the final round by fatigue which caused his technique both offensively and defensively to plummet. I thought Lawler landed the better and cleaner strikes in Round 1 which plays more into damage and working toward a finish, while Hendricks shouldn't be awarded simply for moving forward, not landing as cleanly, and being aggressive but ultimately unsuccessful with takedowns and scoring any damage from cage clinching. Unified rules, or rather how judges typically score in MMA I can see giving the round to Hendricks/

Hendricks loosened up and scored better in Round 2 though never had Lawler in any kind of trouble.

Lawler clearly did a lot of damage in rounds 3 and 4, Hendricks clearly did damage in round 5, but what was frustrating to watch was Hendricks' safe treatment of the final minute of the fight after he seemingly had Lawler 'against the ropes'. Lawler himself is tough to put away, and both had endured a gruelling 24 minutes up to that point, so the conservative approach is understandable. But when a lot of judges' scores can be a crapshoot, this approach is too high risk for Hendricks to rely on especially as he still has a lot of holes in his boxing game that a good boxer like Lawler clearly exposed. Hendricks had the opportunity to do even more to finish -- maybe get the finish -- in that last minute, but chose not to.

If the fight was 1 round with no time limit, or multiple rounds with no limit, I can potentially see Hendricks finishing Lawler under both hypothetical scenarios based on endurance and gritty determination. Hendricks was able to get himself back into the fight by himself without being saved by the bell at any point in the fight. Lawler could have won on a cut stoppage if the fight was 1 round with no time limit, but had he not he'd still have tired and still allowed Hendricks back into the fight based on his fighting habits and tendencies shown in this fight.

Having to score it round by round as is the case in MMA, Lawler is the uncrowned champion under 'Who Did Most To Finish?'

Is my scoring absurd, or do you agree with my findings that Lawler showed he was the better fighter technically, but perhaps not physically when it comes to endurance and conditioning? Have your say in the comments, and be sure to take part in the fan poll.

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