In a UFC 141 fight with starkly contrasting upsides, Johny Hendricks gets the chance to break into the welterweight division's top five, while perennial 170-pound contender Jon Fitch gets a tough, rising scrapper in a match that may not necessarily get him a title shot should he win.
Both wrestling-minded men will get to prove their worth tonight (Dec. 30, 2011) in a gritty fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, which will air live on the UFC 141 pay-per-view (PPV) main card.
Hendricks' wrestling credentials are outstanding -- he was a two-time NCAA champion- - with stand up that's been slowly, but steadily, improving with each fight. However, in a mixed martial arts (MMA) context, Fitch's wrestling has thus far transferred better, and he's a finished product.
Hendricks still has been outwrestled in spots, and has his hands full, here because Fitch makes opponents work the entire fight, and isn't going to gas.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 141 fight between Jon Fitch vs. Johny Hendricks:
Fitch doesn't use his stand up much, except to set up clinches, where he'll relentlessly push for takedown attempts, often getting them through sheer persistence and dogged pursuit of whatever openings materialize. With Hendricks, he's likely to have improved more given he's got just 12 fights. Hendricks had his hands full with Rick Story, who beat him in the stand up phase of their fight, as well as taking him down.
Another key wild card is conditioning.
Fitch keeps a cool head, even when in terrible spots such as when Georges St. Pierre was battering him, or when Diego Sanchez sunk in a tight guillotine. It will be a huge swing of momentum for whomever gets the first takedown, and you can bet if it's Fitch, he'll look to grind on Hendricks while sapping his energy, and confidence.
I'm not sure Hendricks has as big an edge standing as many people think.
Fitch's comfortable with basic combinations and has undoubtedly worked a lot on these given Hendricks' wrestling. He hasn't had to use it a lot, but he's a little underrated here. Also, Fitch is perfectly fine working in the clinch and against the cage, where he makes opponents expend energy. While Hendricks' wrestling credentials are top-notch, they haven't necessarily translated into the level of dominance you'd expect given the trouble he had in losing a decision to Story, or some of his other bouts.
This is a very tough assignment for Hendricks, and Fitch's intensity and experience will require a near-perfect game plan to win. He'll have to be sharper than he's looked in the past with his heavy punches, while transitioning into clinches to try takedowns.
Hendricks' bottom game is pretty good for a wrestler, but Fitch is often content to control foes on the mat, work just enough to keep the referee happy, and bleed them of energy, while putting rounds in the bank. Fitch will be too tough and wily to control in the wrestling, while his experience and durability will wear down Hendricks en route to a unanimous decision win.
Jon Fitch via unanimous decision
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