UFC 171 Preview: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
By Jaime C. Feal
The 170 pounders are on full display tomorrow night, as the three final Pay-Per-View fights are all welterweight scraps, with the main event for the welterweight title. The card has enormous potential, but as we know from past Pay-Per-View events, a promising card often disappoints, whereas the unheralded Fight Night cards generally tend to please. Often times the gravity of the fights on a pay-per-view card, whether they are for title contention or for the actual belt, lead the fighters to take a more conservative approach. Should the fighters on the card for UFC 171 throw caution to the wind and fight aggressively, everyone is in for a tremendous evening of entertainment.
Lightweight Division (155 lbs.):
Jake Shields (29-6-1, 4-2 UFC) vs. Hector “Lightning” Lombard (33-4-1, 2-2 UFC)
No fight shows the potential and possible pitfalls of the UFC 171 card more than this fight between Lombard and Shields. If Lombard comes out guns blazing, he could force the conservative Shields into a corner, destroying him with his heavy and fast power punching for a scintillating knockout win. If, however, Lombard gets taken down early and sapped of energy, Shields is way too adept at grinding down his opponents with top control for a decision win.
For what it’s worth, Lombard has appeared to get more comfortable and tenacious as his time in the Octagon goes on. The first Bellator superstar to make the crossover to the UFC, Lombard had a lot of pressure on him to prove his worth, and that initial pressure has faded. Lombard has won 2 of his 3 bouts by vicious knockout, and looks in prime shape to score another win.
Shields, on the other hand, has a completely different style. The jiu-jitsu black belt trains with the Diaz Brothers and Gilbert Melendez at Team Cesar Gracie, and he is an absolute ace on the mat. Shields has beat some really high-level fighters, including the likes of Dan Henderson, Demian Maia, and Robbie Lawler. Still, when he faced the stocky, powerful striker/wrestler Jake Ellenberger, he was crushed with a knee and follow-up punches in a devastating loss. Provided he can stay off his back, Lombard has the right skill-set to hurt Shields bad and earn his first big win in the UFC.
Prediction: Hector Lombard wins by KO, Round 1.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” (29-7, 6-3 UFC) Condit vs. Tyron Woodley (12-2, 2-1 UFC)
Carlos Condit is one of the best fighters in the world without a belt, and he is seemingly always on the cusp of title contention. In fact, he is currently ranked #2 by the UFC in the welterweight division, ahead of #3 Robbie Lawler who is getting a title shot on the very same card. Funny how that works. With an impressive win, and barring an immediate comeback from GSP, Carlos Condit is in line for the next title shot against the winner of Hendricks vs. Lawler.
Tyron Woodley has a chance to play spoiler in the fight and rise tremendously in the rankings from his current #11 spot. The former Strikeforce fighter is primarily a wrestler, but showed some improved striking in a KO victory over Josh Koscheck. He will need a lot more of that against the seasoned Condit, who is dangerous and skilled in every position.
Condit is a true warrior, and with the notable exception of the Nick Diaz #1 contender match, Condit is always looking to engage and finish his opponent. “The Natural Born Killer” tends to finish via strikes, but his submission game is more than adequate, both offensively and defensively. His wrestling defense is his biggest weakness, but not nearly as much as he is criticized for, as he truly is a well-rounded fighter who works hard at all aspects of his craft. Expect Woodley to expend too much energy looking for takedowns, while Condit scores enough points in the striking exchanges to take the decision victory.
Prediction: Carlos Condit wins by unanimous decision.
UFC Welterweight Championship (170 lbs.):
Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks (15-2, 10-2 UFC) vs. “Ruthless Robbie Lawler” (22-9, 7-3 UFC)
The welterweight title vacated by Georges St. Pierre is up for grabs Saturday night, as Johny Hendricks, the man many feel was robbed in his last fight against GSP, gets a consecutive shot at the title against longtime contender Robbie Lawler. Both men love to utilize their vicious one-punch knockout power, but Hendricks has a massive advantage in wrestling in this fight.
Hendricks often falls in love with his power and chooses to stand with his opponents rather than take them to the ground. That is the worst possible gameplan Hendricks could choose in this fight, as Lawler has the power, speed, and striking technique to be the first fighter to seriously test Hendricks’ chin. Hendricks does not want to get caught with a Robbie Lawler haymaker, which could easily change the course of the fight, one in which he holds numerous advantages.
Hendricks is the must more accomplished wrestler, and is at least Lawler’s equal in size and strength, if not superior. If Lawler couldn’t stop Rory MacDonald from taking him down, it will be very tough to stop Hendricks’s takedowns. While Lawler was able to get back to his feet against MacDonald, it will be much more difficult to get up against Hendricks. The start of the fight will be fascinating, as both fighters come in completely fresh and ready to throw bombs. The quicker Hendricks takes it to the mat, the better his chances are of winning.
Another factor to consider is this being a 5 round title fight. Hendricks appeared to slow down in the championship rounds against GSP, but one has to wonder whether cardio would even be an advantage in the later rounds for Robbie Lawler, as the “Ruthless one” is notorious for expending exorbitant amounts of energy early in fights. When and if these two men get tired and worn down, a knockout becomes less of a possibility, and a grappling match is likely to ensue. That strongly favors Johny Hendricks, who for the first time in the UFC is in a position to show how dominant his ground game can be.
Prediction: Johny Hendricks wins by TKO, Round 3.