Nothing spells "show me you want it" like a title elimination bout where the winner isn't necessarily guaranteed a shot.
Yet coming into the UFC 154 co-featured fight of the night, that's pretty much how Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White has spelled it out for Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendricks. Which is a good thing, as the ramifications of mailing it on and snoozing your way to a points victory carry severe repercussions.
That being said, Kampmann's emergence in 2012 as one of the most exciting contenders in the game was fueled by back-to-back showings that were nothing short of spectacular. A gutsy rally to lock home a fight-finishing submission finished Thiago Alves, while Jake Ellenberger beat Kampmann so brutally in the opening minutes of their fight that the referee could've justifiably stopped in on sheer aesthetics.
Thankfully, he didn't. And Kampmann -- coated with blood and semi-conscious -- managed to hang tough through a brutal opening round and turn the tide dramatically with a series of riveting knees to the head.
Style-wise, this mixed martial arts (MMA) match up may lean somewhat toward Hendricks because he has the default skill set of blanket-style wrestling to hold down an opponent and negate his ability to mount offense. However, Kampmann's shown markedly improved takedown defense lately and the ability to brutally exploit the smallest of openings.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 154 co-main event fight between Martin Kampmann vs Johny Hendricks below:
Hendricks' one-punch knockout of Jon Fitch heralded his arrival as a top contender, but was it more of a fluke than a statement? In his follow-up bout, a close decision win over Josh Koscheck who many disputed, Hendricks seemed to have reverted to his early-career form, where he'd toss off a couple punches and then make a cloud of takedown dust.
Kampmann, meanwhile, is going to be on a phenomenal confidence high.
Not only does he have two outstanding wins over tough foes in Alves and Ellenberger, he also beat Carlos Condit, who's challenging for the welterweight title later on in the evening. Kampmann's also got to find openings that offer high-yield, medium-risk targets, and mix up his strikes so Hendricks can't shoot in and plant him on the mat for long stretches.
It's really too bad this isn't a five-round bout because that would definitely tilt in Kampmann's favor. Hendricks is a smart fighter if not necessarily the most exciting one all the time, and he'll spend a lot of time working takedown attempts and tie-ups off Kampmann's lead leg.
Don't expect Hendricks to give Kampmann too much trouble standing, as both know that opening up gives "Hitman" his best chance to land a bomb in exchanges. But given the three rounds, Hendricks' conditioning and smothering top game, we'll go with "Big Rig" grinding out a largely uneventful three-round decision, with a bad scare or two as Kampmann lands a big one, but can't finish the job.
Hendricks via decision
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Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst