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Johny Hendricks Returns To The Octagon Tonight Against Matt Brown

Former Cowboy National Champion Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks fights tonight for the first time since losing is UFC title

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Johny Hendricks lost his UFC welterweight belt in December. Robbie Lawler, the same man Hendricks originally beat for the title, took the belt from Hendricks with a decision victory. In the first meeting Hendricks strength and wrestling allowed him to clinch the fight in the championship rounds. In the second meeting Hendricks looked tired and Lawler dominated the late rounds. After the fight Hendricks revealed that he had difficulty with the weight cut. In an interview with Kevin Iole at Yahoo Sports, Hendricks talked about the loss of his belt and how it has changed him as a fighter:

"No, I didn't [have the energy] I'd had in past fights, I didn't fire on all cylinders, but that's why we're doing everything differently. That's why I never got over 195 [pounds]. I started lifting weights again. I got my body fat down to 15 percent, and I'm usually walking around at this point at 20 percent. We're trying to add strength. There's just so much stuff we're trying to do.
In three months, I went from 24 percent [body fat] starting off the fight camp to this fight camp where we started at 18 percent. We dropped off a lot, and in the last two months, we've dropped another 3 percent body fat. It's really good for me and it's going to help me make the weight easier."

With the lifestyle change Hendricks should be in excellent shape when he steps into the octagon tonight. "Bigg Rigg" is currently ranked as the #1 welterweight contender in the world and has a professional record of 16-3. His opponent Matt "The Immortal" Brown is a long time UFC veteran, who has a professional record of 19-12. Brown is also trying to rebound from a loss to Robbie Lawler. Lawler edged Brown in a very tightly contested decision in July. The loss ended a seven fight win streak for Brown. Brown, who may be fighting at the highest level of his career, is known throughout all of MMA for his relentlessness and fearless fight style.

What a win would mean for Hendricks

If Hendricks wants to become UFC champion again in the near future, a win tonight is vital. With a win, a title shot will likely be the next fight for Hendricks. Lose and all of a sudden it takes three or four wins to get back to a title shot. Tonight the fight will only be three rounds as opposed to five rounds during a title/main event fight. Hendricks should be in the best shape of his career and he has plenty of motivation to fuel him. Every factor points to Johny returning to championship form tonight, and that makes it even more important that he walks away with a victory.

What a win would mean for Brown

After a seven fight win streak Brown was one win away from a title shot, but he couldn't get over the hump. Brown now sits as the #5 ranked welterweight and is in need of another win streak to get that elusive title shot. With a win tonight, Brown could be within one win of challenging for the title. With a loss Brown may see his goal of achieving UFC gold slipping from his grasp forever. Already on the backend of his career, Brown has been fighting better than ever. Many thought it was finally his turn for a title shot. But a loss to Lawler stopped his win streak. A second straight loss could end title dreams for good. In his 19 fight UFC career, Brown has never fought for a belt, if he's ever going to he must win tonight.

What to expect when the fighters are standing

Fireworks. That's what we all should expect when these two fighters are standing. Brown is relentless, he will be coming forward the entire fight. Hendricks has a left hook that may be one of the most dangerous punches in the UFC. Brown has 12 career wins by knockout and he is known for finishing opponents. Hendricks has 8 wins by knockout, although he hasn't knocked out an opponent since November of 2012. Another interesting piece of this fight is neither fighter has ever been knocked out. Both fighters land significant strikes at an extremely high rate, Hendricks lands 3.72 per minute and Brown lands 4 per minute according to UFC statistics. This fight will be a war, but I don't expect either fighter to get knocked out, they have proved many times that they have iron chins.

What to expect on the ground

Hendricks has an advantage when it comes to wrestling, as he is one of the best wrestlers in MMA. However, Brown is a very dangerous submission artist from bottom. He has five career wins by submission and attempts 1.95 submissions per fight. This is compared to only 0.46 submissions per fight attempted by Hendricks. "Bigg Rigg" is going to want to land takedowns, he just has to be careful not to get caught in one of Brown's submission attempts. Brown is relentless and dangerous on his feet, so Hendricks best chance of controlling his opponent may be through his wrestling.

Prediction

I am pumped for this fight. Johny Hendricks is my favorite fighter and Matt Brown is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. I definitely expect a fight of the night contender from these guys. As far as the outcome goes, I may be biased, but I expect Hendricks to win the fight. Both fighters will take plenty of damage when they are standing and it will be very close. Hendricks will take over by landing takedowns and maintaining a dominant position. In the end Hendricks will walk away with a decision victory and he will be granted an opportunity to regain his UFC belt.