UFC 171: Hendricks vs Lawler emanates this Saturday night from the American Airlines Center right here in Dallas. For the first time since 2008 we will have a UFC welterweight champion not named Georges St-Pierre when top contenders Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler meet each other to claim the vacated championship.
Hendricks challenged then champion Georges St-Pierre in November of last year at UFC 167. St-Pierre walked away with a controversial split decision victory over Hendricks that night only to vacate the title a month later.
Hendricks, 15-2 for his MMA career, is the number one ranked welterweight according the UFC rankings. Of his fifteen victories, nine are finishes and eight of those nine finishes are by either TKO or KO. Robbie Lawler is 22-9 for his MMA career with nineteen of his victories being finishes. Right off the bat, on paper for sure, you should expect nothing less then fireworks when the cage doors close on Saturday night.
Hendricks has a dangerous left hand that has stopped vets Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch among others. He is also one of the UFC welterweight division's top wrestlers with two Division I national championships during his time at Oklahoma State University. The Dallas based Hendricks is also one of the strongest guys in the division.
Robbie Lawler has long been one of MMA's most dangerous strikers. Since returning to the UFC and moving to the welterweight division Lawler has had career resurgence that has him fighting for a title just three fights into his second UFC run. Out of his twenty-two wins, twelve of those wins have come in the first round. Lawler has an explosiveness that few in MMA have.
What separates these two contenders is wrestling. Hendricks' superior wrestling should allow him to control the pace of the fight with his takedowns. Should Lawler pose problems standing for Hendricks, look for Hendricks to make this fight ugly. Hendricks will look for the takedown and try to press Lawler against the cage.
Either man can end the fight with one shot so expect both guys to load up early with one to two heavy shots in the early stages of the fight. Should the fight press to the third round and beyond, Hendricks will control the fight with his wrestling.
For Lawler to be victorious he can stop the fight with one punch or kick. However, if that does not happen he will need to move in and out with his strikes and use good footwork to circle away from the left hand and takedown attempts by Hendricks. Lawler cannot let Hendricks make this fight a wrestling and clinch fight.
Right now it looks like Hendricks will be too well rounded for Lawler. Hendricks has more ways to win than Lawler does and while Lawler's return to the UFC has been impressive, outside of a one strike finish it is hard to see Lawler winning this fight. Look for Hendricks to win by unanimous decision and bring the UFC welterweight championship to Dallas, Texas.
UFC 171: Hendricks vs Lawler is set for Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. central on pay per view with preliminary fights on Fox Sports 2 and on UFC Fight Pass. There are still a very small number of seats available here.