A new champion will emerge on Saturday when Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler battle for the vacated throne in the UFC’s welterweight division. The obligation of being the champion is a burden with glorious purpose. Both fighters are in hot pursuit of this coveted achievement and have traveled down different roads to reach the same destination. UFC 171 presents an interesting scenario since being the champion in a post Georges St. Pierre world will bring increased attention and heightened expectation to the victor.
[adinserter block=”1″]Johny Hendricks, as well as many others, believes he is fighting for something that should have been his four months ago. He took it to GSP like no one has before, and he is unquestionably the favorite going into the bout. Hendricks was touted as a serious prospect from the get-go and has exceeded expectations. Twelve years ago, Robbie Lawler was pushed as the next big thing, but faltered after an impressive start. A move to middleweight garnered mixed results with no real sign of the ruthlessness we once knew. Hendricks evolved over the years from wrestler to knockout artist while Lawler remained a striker for most of his career. However, Lawler embarked on a career renaissance last year by racking up three consecutive wins against opponents who were expected to take him down with ease and pound him into oblivion.
It’s no secret that both fighters are knockout junkies, but it’s their difference in application that makes this matchup intriguing. Lawler has one punch KO power and is the more refined striker of the two. His best chance at victory is to circle away from Hendricks power at all times while keeping the fight in the center of the octagon. If he is taken down, it will be easier to get back on his feet if his head isn’t pressed against the fence by the two time national champion.
Hendricks is a solid boxer who is able to find his range faster than most and is the harder-hitting fighter. The Oklahoma native will be at a reach disadvantage, so pressuring Lawler early is a must. Using angles to control where the fights takes place is essential because getting into a firefight in the center of the cage plays into Lawler’s strengths. Of course, if all else fails on the feet he can go back to what brought him to the dance with his wrestling. Beware his jiu-jitsu, though because it is vastly underrated and it could catch Lawler off guard.
This is a tough one to pick because both of these men have lucky punch written all over them. Hendricks’s recuperative abilities are a mystery, while Lawler, as shown in his fight against Melvin Manhoef, can put your lights out even when he’s rocked. Lawler is no longer a turtle on his back so Hendricks will have trouble keeping him down.
[adinserter block=”2″]The fact that Robbie Lawler is fighting for a UFC belt in 2014 is amazing and serves as an opportunity to substantiate the hype over a decade ago. He has a great chance of winning, there are just too many factors in Johny Hendricks’ favor. Lawler has greatly improved but Hendricks is better at mixing it up, therefore controlling where the fight takes place more often than not.
Verdict: Johnny Hendricks via unanimous decision
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