This Saturday, March 15th, the Cowboy Standout is set to battle Robbie "Ruthless" Lawler for the vacant UFC Welterweight Title.
This will be Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks' second attempt for the belt.
In UFC 167 Hendricks challenged UFC legend Georges St-Pierre for the title, and in one of the most controversial fights in the sport’s history, Johny was defeated.
"I gave Georges St-Pierre the third round, that’s it. … ", said Dana White, President of the UFC in the post-fight interview. "I don’t even know what to say. I’m still so blown away by it. Georges knew he lost, his corner knew he lost. Hendricks knew he won, his corner knew he won."
"It does suck that it is a loss, but there’s nothing I can do about it," Hendricks told Sherdog Radio's Beatdown Show "You’ve just got to move forward from that. I can’t just constantly think of that."
Immediately following the title bout Hendricks was promised another shot at the 7-year champ, but it wasn't to be. Georges decided he'd had enough, and walked away from the sport for personal reasons; leaving his throne atop the welterweight division empty.
The first contender to battle for the vacated title was obvious.
At Oklahoma State Johny Hendricks was a four-time All-American, three-time Big 12 Champion, and two-time National Champion in wrestling.
Johny may be one of the most talented wrestlers on the planet, but it's his striking ability that makes him so lethal. His left hand is absolutely devastating.
"He's a brute, and he's a really good wrestler", Lawler said in his UFC 171 interview "He man-handles a lot of people, and takes avantage of them with his strength."
Surprisingly, given his background, Hendricks would prefer to keep the fight standing. In seventeen professional fights, "Bigg Rigg" has eight knockouts, and just one submission. He primarily uses his wrestling skills in take-down defense. Although if Robbie starts to tire, don't be surprised if Hendricks looks to finish it on the mat.
Hendricks wants one thing, and one thing only.
"I want that belt!" Johny said as he walked out of the octagon at UFC 167. "That's what I just earned, but it was taken away from me. I swear to God that won't happen again."
There's only one man standing in his way.
Like Hendricks, Robbie was a wrestler before transitioning into mixed martial arts, He's a gifted fighter, and was a promising up and comer in the UFC, but back to back losses in 2004 forced Robbie out of the promotion. He went on to fight for 7 different promotions, and continued to work on his technique and consistency.
"My story is the guy who came in and had a lot of talent but just didn't do as well as he should have," Robbie told ESPN.com. "The thing is that I just kept at it. Even when I wasn't winning, I believed there were great things in store for me."
Hard work pays off, and after nine years Lawler made his return to the UFC last February. In Robbie's first fight back he destroyed Josh Koscheck, and put the rest of the welter-weight division on notice.
Lawer went on to KO Bobby Voelker, and in UFC 167 Robbie defeated GSP's teammate Rory MacDonald in a split decision. The victory made Lawler the favorite to challenge Hendricks for the belt.
"I never really cared about a belt. It's funny, because I just wanted to fight", Lawler told ESPN. "but my mindset has changed. Obviously, this is a huge opportunity, and I'm excited to shine."
Lawler and Hendricks are similar fighters. Besides the wrestling background, both are south paw, aggressive, and have a ton of power. Robbie won't be afraid to bang with Hendricks, in fact, he would prefer it. In his twenty-two career wins, eighteen have been by knockout.
Lawler won't be intimidated by Johny's size either. Robbie is used to fighting bigger guys. He came down in weight to fight in the welter-weight division on his return to the UFC, and may be one of the few guys in the class to cast a bigger shadow than "Bigg Rigg".
One question mark on Lawler is whether or not he can go the distance. He's never fought a full five rounds, and fatigue has cost him in the past.
There's a war coming, and the victor will be the undisputed UFC Welter-Weight Champion of the World!
TALE OF THE TAPE
|KO / TKO||47%||82%|
|HEIGHT||69 in||71 in|
|WEIGHT||170 lbs||170 lbs|
|LANDED PER MIN||3.14||2.91|
STRIKING EDGE: Hendricks
GRAPPLING EDGE: Hendricks
STAMINA EDGE: Hendricks
Hendricks had the edge in every major category, but it's by the smallest of margins. Make no mistake, this fight will be a battle.
PREDICTION: Johny Hendricks, by submission in the 3rd round.
The former welter-weight champion gave his fight prediction to the Canadian Press.
"It’s a fight where anything can happen. Both guys can put each other to sleep. They have a lot of power in striking, but I believe Hendricks has the edge in this fight because I believe he will come more well-prepared with his team and he’s got an edge in the grappling department.", said Georges St-Pierre
Disaster has struck for Johny Hendricks. On his first official weigh-in attempt Johnny came in at 171.5 pounds. He has two hours to drop 1.5 pounds.
If "Bigg Rigg" fails to make weight he would not win the belt, even if he wins the fight.
Per the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, if Hendricks fails to make weight and Lawler wins, he would still be crowned the Welter-Weight Champion of the World.
Phew, Johny Hendricks has made weight on his second weigh-in!