Longtime Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre had history within reach when he faced off against talented challenger Johny Hendricks in the main event of last night's (Nov. 16, 2013) UFC 167 from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
To watch full fight video highlights of Georges St. Pierre v. Johny Hendricks right now click here.
"GSP" was set to break a handful of prestigious UFC records, most notably the all-time record for wins inside the Octagon. In his way stood "Bigg Rigg," an NCAA champion wrestler regarded as having some of the most devastating knockout power in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Many thought it would be St. Pierre's toughest challenge yet. They were right.
Hendricks throttled the champ like no man had even come close to doing over the course of a five round battle. There were major questions about Hendricks' cardio going into a full 25-minute fight, but he passed that test with flying colors.
In the end, most, including UFC president Dana White, felt that Hendricks had done enough in both striking and grappling to clearly win the championship.
But you just never know when a big fight goes into the hands of the judges.
Let's break down the controversial bout that has fans clamoring for an immediate rematch despite St. Pierre's initial claim that he will be stepping down from MMA for the time being.
Not surprisingly, "GSP" came out looking to utilize his trademark jab. St. Pierre found an early takedown that he used to transition into a couple choke attempts, but Hendricks fought them off. Hendricks threw a big punch and then looked to use his wrestling pedigree. He was successful in doing so, landing some good shots in the process. When St. Pierre got back up Hendricks punished him with a knee.
As the second round kicked off St. Pierre was again looking to find his range and timing. He threw a high volume of kicks that created some distance between him and the challenger. Then "Bigg Rigg" finally unleashed his vaunted power punching, nailing St. Pierre with a combination of brutal uppercuts and hooks. St. Pierre was wobbled and apparently in trouble, but he weathered the storm. The champ fought back by finding a home for his jab then throwing a good headkick as the round came to its conclusion.
In the third round Hendricks found success by going to the body with hooks and kicks. The two fighters briefly went toe-to-toe and each landed hard shots. St. Pierre appeared to have found his rhythm with successful head-to-body combinations. Hendricks countered by going for a double leg, then immediately transitioned it into a single leg that got the champ down. "GSP" got back up to end the round.
The fourth round saw Hendricks capitalize on what looked like a slip by St. Pierre. "Bigg Rigg" landed in St. Pierre's guard and rained down punches. Hendricks then chose to have the fight stood back up and it paid off. He uncorked his lethal lead uppercut and power hooks, causing St. Pierre to bleed significantly. Hendricks looked for yet another takedown but was met with severe resistance.
It didn't look too promising for the champion when the fifth and final round began. "GSP" was battered and bloody while the challenger appeared to have little, if any, damage on his face. He rushed in for a single leg attempt only to see Hendricks counter well with short uppercuts. Surprisingly, Hendricks attempted a kimura that "GSP" slithered out of. The champion nailed Hendricks with a strong right hand and notched a takedown. It became a grinding battle but Hendricks proved he had the stamina to last well into the championship rounds by reversing position on St. Pierre. "GSP' continued to throw his kicks and got a late takedown. He tried for a kimura of his own but it was never a serious threat and the rousing back-and-forth bout headed to the judges' scorecards.
That's when all the controversy began.
St. Pierre was announced the winner by highly controversial split decision. It was a shocking outcome for many who thought Hendricks had at least three of the rounds firmly in hand. The crowd booed as St. Pierre settled in to talk with Joe Rogan. The champ told Rogan that he had to step away from MMA for the time being for personal reasons.
We'll await the official word on that prospect once St. Pierre comes back down to earth from what was the hardest complete bout he's ever fought.
For Hendricks, the loss is an obviously disheartening one. Legions of fans feel that he is the rightful owner of the UFC Welterweight championship, but "Bigg Rigg" was wholly gracious in defeat.
He admitted that he knew he won the fight and seemingly let what he viewed as a bad decision roll off his shoulders. He stated he would face "GSP" again and not let the rematch be left up to the interpretation of the judges. If St. Pierre does indeed retire, Hendricks will be the first man to fight for the title or interim title, depending on what actually transpires.
Dana White thought that Hendricks won the fight four rounds to one, proclaiming that the Nevada State Athletic Commission scares him.
Fighting Hendricks is a scary proposition in and of itself. He could get his immediate rematch with St. Pierre or he could possibly end up fighting the winner of UFC on Fox 9's Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown fight. Either way, Hendricks won't rest until he has coveted gold wrapped around his waist.
Johny Hendricks took the fight to Georges St. Pierre like no other challenger has. With questions about his conditioning floating around, Hendricks put forth an effort that most feel should have won him the UFC Welterweight crown. What were your thoughts on the controversial title fight? And where will longtime champ "GSP" go next?