Before Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos take center stage, a pair of bearded welterweights will take center stage on the main card and look to exchange heavy leather for fight watchers in Dallas, TX at American Airlines Center this weekend, March 14, 2015.
The Match Up
Welterweight Johny Hendricks -380 vs. Matt Brown +315
3 Things You Should Know
1. In a parallel universe Johny Hendricks is still welterweight champion of the world. That universe might not be fair, but it would be justified.
Keep in mind, I don't think Hendricks has a great case for winning his last bout, and that's without the bias of preferring to see Lawler as champ. As I've articulated in depth. But we've seen enough fights to know that the judges might have preferred Hendricks on a different night, with different but equally incapable judges.
Hendricks is in as good a spot as possible for a WW contender. With a big win, he's back into the title picture in an easily marketable bout billed as the final chapter of an exciting trilogy. With a loss, it's possible he disappears into the sunset, protecting his porch with a shotgun, mumbling obscenities about kids on his lawn and WADA. Or VADA. Depends on if he's learned the difference by then...
2. In a parallel universe Matt Brown is never WW champion, but he's still a contender.
I've always been reticent to predict anything about Matt when it comes to success. He always seemed to walk around in journeyman clothing. What are the chances anyone who fought on TUF and didn't make it to the finals could ever one day fight for a title? But here we are. Obviously, something happened along the way and he's been one of the better welterweights since. I thought for sure Lawler would obliterate him too. Brown has never struck me as durable despite his absence of TKO/KO losses. But the numbers don't lie, nor do his performances.
3. While the odds are somewhat silly, the outcome won't be. This is still Hendricks' to lose.
Everytime I feel skeptical of Brown, he proves me wrong, and yet here I am again. But in my defense, Brown is stuck in Lawler world right now. The real question is whether or not Brown can replicate his performance against Lawler. It was a gutsy performance, but also measured; this is not the same Matt Brown who exchanged jump kicks like a John Woo film with Amir Sadollah on TUF.
Both have some pretty unique wrinkles in the way they do business on the feet. Brown is exceptional at cutting his opponent off with kicks, working angles to strongarm his way into the clinch, which he generally owns. Once there he's a madman of precision. What's funny is that we generally don't think of the clinch as a place of pugilistic worship. It's nice to set up throws, and takedowns, but as home base? Brown treats it that way.
Meanwhile, Hendricks has turned himself into a swift striker and much more than simply a straight left and some wrestling medals. He puts together nice combinations, and his best added strike is the lightning quick knee who chambers in close, or to punctuate an exchange. These are the strikes he'll need against Brown who has proven "soft" to the body in the past (I think this point is overblown, as he's never been finished, but it's worth nothing all the same).
I still feel like Hendricks should take it. His arsenal at range is varied, and I predict he'll land enough to get Brown in survival mode. Brown has not shown any signs of wear and tear, but it could show up in subtle ways; after all, Brown doesn't have a ton of experience against the super elite.
Hendricks by TKO, round 2.