With Georges St. Pierre sidelined with a horrible knee injury and an interim title being fought for, it was Jon Fitch's moment to shine last night (December 30, 2011) on the UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem main card against Johny Hendricks.
There were no more excuses if Fitch could put on a dominant performance, but after 10 months away from the cage and after dealing with shoulder surgery, Fitch came out a bit slow.
And he paid for it.
Instead of potentially earning a shot at the interim title in 2012, Fitch found himself staring at the ceiling and looking to grapple with referee Steve Mazzagatti.
So how did Johny Hendricks pull out one of 2011's biggest upsets? And where do both men go from here?
There isn't much to dissect in a 12 second fight, but Jon Fitch made a huge mistake. After closing the distance and throwing a few strikes, he backed away straight with his lands low. This made his face a huge target for Hendricks' fist and he made sure to make Fitch pay.
Hendricks stepped forward and crushed Fitch with a beautiful lead left hook which sent him reeling to the canvas. As Fitch began to stand up, another huge diving left hook again temporarily put his lights out and the referee had seen enough, diving between both men to put a halt to the action. After nine straight fights having gone to a decision in the UFC, it was all over in just 12 seconds.
For Jon Fitch, this was an absolute disaster. You can't fault him for not shooting for a takedown inside the first 10 seconds but backing away straight with his hands low was not the type of move a seasoned professional like him should ever be making and it cost him dearly. With his already unpopular status with both the UFC brass and the fans, he's set himself back light years in the welterweight division unless he can somehow turn himself into a finishing machine before his next fight.
In all honesty, there aren't many options for him as a next opponent because he's faced most of the top 10 already and it's unlikely the UFC wants to throw him in against any top welterweight prospects. Perhaps they could throw him against Brian Ebersole in the UFC. Call me crazy, but I think it would actually make sense for him to jump ship to Strikeforce. He could instantly be in the mix for the vacant welterweight title there and would no longer have any conflicts of interests with his AKA teammates.
For Johny Hendricks, to say this was the biggest victory of his career is an understatement. He slayed a giant, a man who had previously only been defeated by Georges St. Pierre in the UFC and it had taken 25 full minutes to do so. "Big Rig" trucked Fitch, and just like Jake Ellenberger's recent quick stoppage of Jake Shields, this should instantly vault him into the welterweight contender discussion. He displayed tremendous power in his left hand and fans are definitely hoping to see him again soon.
I think the best plan of attack would be to have him face Josh Koscheck if "Kos" defeats Mike Pierce at UFC 143. Other options include the winner of Jake Ellenberger vs. Diego Sanchez or, depending on the outcome of both of those two fights, they could even give him a shot at the winner of the interim title between Nate Diaz and Carlos Condit. It should be an interesting couple months for Hendricks as this all gets sorted out.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you as surprised as most when Hendricks blasted Fitch so quickly? Or did you smell an upset brewing due to the long layoff and the shoulder injury?