UFC 171: Hendricks vs Lawler – Main Event Preview and Guest Panel Fight Predictions
By Dave Carpinello
Johny Hendricks (15-2) vs. Robbie Lawler (22-9-1)
UFC Welterweight Championship
Johny Hendricks enters the second biggest fight of his career coming off of a controversial loss to then champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 167. Prior to that loss, “Bigg Rigg” was on a six-fight win streak that included wins over Jon Fitch, Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann. Now with GSP “retired”, he gets another opportunity at championship gold. Hendricks joined the UFC after a two-fight stint in the now defunct WEC, where he won both of his fights by TKO/KO. When he joined the UFC, he was a perfect 5-0 and he continued that streak for the next four fights with notable wins over Amir Sadollah and TJ Grant.
At The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, Hendricks faced Rick “The Horror” Story and he had the worst performance of his mixed martial arts career while dropping a unanimous decision to Story. Following that defeat, “Bigg Rigg” rebounded with a ‘Knockout of the Night’ over TJ Waldburger in the first round. Hendricks followed that win up with a decision victory over Mike Pierce and another knockout, this time at the expense of Jon Fitch. Then he avoided the lay ‘n pray of Josh Koscheck for a decision win and then knocked out Martin Kampmann in stunning fashion at UFC 154. To get his first title shot the bearded warrior then defeated Carlos Condit via decision in a title shot eliminator at UFC 158.
The former NCAA Wrestling Champion and All-American from Oklahoma State is looking to put his left hand stamp on the UFC welterweight division on Saturday night and become the first fighter since 2007 to hold the UFC Welterweight Title. Hendricks has also won six ‘Fight Night Bonuses’ in his UFC career including three ‘Knockout of the Night’ honors.
UFC Record: 10-2 (7 TKO/KO)
Strengths: Excellent wrestling, powerful striking
Weaknesses: Reach, one-dimensional striking
Key Wins: Carlos Condit, Amir Sadollah, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann, TJ Grant
Notable Losses: Georges St-Pierre, Rick Story
Former EXC champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler will be looking to complete his comeback this weekend by winning another title. Lawler has won three fights in a row since returning to the UFC following a loss to Lorenz Larkin in the now defunct Strikeforce. Those three wins, one by decision and the other two by impressive knockouts came at the expense of Josh Koscheck, Bobby Voelker and Rory MacDonald.
Lawler originally made his UFC debut back in 2002 at UFC 37 when he decisioned Aaron Riley. He went on to win his next two fights, stretching his record to 7-0 before succumbing via injury to Pete Spratt. Following that loss, Lawler went just 4-3 over his next seven bouts, some in the UFC and others in smaller regional organizations. Then his highlight knockout victory over Joey Villaseñor at PRIDE 32 kicked off a run of five wins and one no-contest that included his over Ninja Rua to win the EXC Middleweight Title. After EXC and Kimbo Slice went out of business, Lawler transitioned over to Strikeforce but he was choked out in the first round by Jake Shields at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields. What came next was definitely the worst stretch of his career as Lawler only won three of his next seven bouts.
Despite being on somewhat of a career down-spiral, the former Miletich Fighting Systems and H.I.T. Squad fighter caught a break when Zuffa purchased Strikeforce and eventually shut it down. Leading to the UFC picking up his contract. Taking full advantage of this second chance, Lawler has looked like the “Ruthless” one of the past. Now training with American Top Team, he will look to win another belt this weekend.
UFC Record: 7-3 (4 TKO/KO)
Strengths: Powerful striking, experience
Weaknesses: Takedown defense, submission defense, focus
Key Wins: Rory MacDonald, Josh Koscheck, Melvin Manhoef, Scott Smith, Falaniko “Niko” Vitale, Chris Lytle, Frank Trigg, Murilo “Ninja” Rua
Notable Losses: Jake Shields, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Nick Diaz, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Babalu Sobral
Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler – Guest Panel Predictions:
Diamond Dallas Page (DDP Yoga, Former WWE and WCW Superstar) – I am a big fan of guys who can straight up knock the hell out’a someone and Hendricks and Lawler both bring the heat. I think that fact means we may see a grappling match and then the fight goes from being a toss up to leaning in favor of Hendricks.
Paul Daley (34-13-2, Former Cage Rage World Welterweight Champion) – I would love to see Lawler win this fight but I think that Hendricks takes it, with a 3rd round TKO.
Jamie Varner (21-9-1-2, Former WEC Lightweight Champion) – Hendricks by Decision.
Scott Casber (Takedown Radio) – Johny Hendricks has the youth, drive and determination. It’s his time. After the win/loss over GSP he should be actually defending his title now. I know, I know but that is my opinion and that’s what we get paid for. We are getting paid right.
Chris Bradford (Owner/Head Trainer – Top Tier Muay Thai, Caged Muay Thai Champion) – Lawler will be wanting to move his head from side to side for this one. While he has the combos, Hendricks dynamite hands and single shots will be the difference. Hendricks via TKO 3rd.
Jesse Finney (5-1, Owner of Finney’s H.I.T. Squad Gym) – I am thinking that Johny will ground ‘n pound Lawler in the third round and if that doesn’t happen, he will blanket him for five rounds and a decision victory.
Andy Main (7-1-1, The Ultimate Fighter Alum) – Really excited for this match up, unfortunately I don’t see it being the scrap everyone expects. Johny wants that belt and he’s going to fight smart. He’ll take Robbie down and control the fight via positioning. Maybe a submission for Johny in the 3rd or 4th round.
Paul Bradley (21-5-1, Strikeforce, Bellator and UFC Veteran) – Going to go with Hendricks on this one by decision but I can also see it going the other way for Lawler.
Rick Hawn (18-2, Bellator Season 9 Welterweight Tournament Winner) – It’s a tough one but I’ll go with Hendricks by decision.
Muhsin Corbbrey (16-7, Shidokan World Champion) – Looking back at the Hendricks vs Koscheck fight and the struggles that Hendricks had in that fight, I’ve got to go with Lawler tomorrow night. I personally believe that Koscheck won the fight against Hendricks and after seeing Lawler smash Koscheck I think that Lawler upsets Bigg Rigg. I hate betting against the beard but I have to go with my heart. Lawler via KO in the 3rd.
George Roop (14-10-1, The Ultimate Fighter Alum) – I am picking Hendricks to win based upon his performances so far in the UFC. His wrestling is going to be the factor in this fight.
Ryan Couture (7-3, Strikeforce and UFC Veteran) – I’m really looking forward to this fight. I think Johny has the tools to win in every area but expect him to come out wrestling since Lawler is so dangerous standing. If he can establish the takedown early, he should cruise to a late stoppage or dominant decision. If not, I expect fireworks and the fight could go either way.
Tim Hague (16-8, Former KOTC Canada Heavyweight Champion) – Just a hunch but I’m going to go with Lawler by a KO.
Wes Sims (22-13-1-2, Team Hammer House) – Hendricks, but hoping for Lawler!
Paul Buentello (33-15, Former KOTC Heavyweight Champion, UFC Veteran) – Hendricks if he gets passed the first three rounds. Lawler can finish the fight within three rounds with his power.
UFC 171 – Guest Panel Prediction Results:
Johny Hendricks – 11
Robbie Lawler – 2
Undecided – 2
UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler – Fight Card
March 15, 2014
American Airlines Center
Main Card (Pay-Per-View, 10 p.m. ET):
Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler – UFC welterweight title bout
Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley
Myles Jury vs. Diego Sanchez
Hector Lombard vs. Jake Shields
Nikita Krylov vs. Ovince St. Preux
Preliminary Card (FOX Sports 2, 8 p.m. ET):
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Rick Story
Jessica Andrade vs. Raquel Pennington
Dennis Bermudez vs. Jimy Hettes
Alex Garcia vs. Sean Spencer
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 6 p.m. ET):
Renee Forte vs. Frank Trevino
Will Campuzano vs. Justin Scoggins
Robert McDaniel vs. Sean Strickland
Daniel Pineda vs. Robert Whiteford
Post your comments directly below! You can also discuss the latest MMA and Video Game News in the PunchDrunkGamer Forums and don’t forget to Follow PDG on Twitter @PunchDrunkGamer and Like the PDG Official Facebook Page!