Tonight (Sat., March 16, 2013) at UFC 158, which takes place from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, No. 1 Welterweight contender Johny Hendricks has everything to lose and a definite 170-pound world title shot to gain.
Despite his heavy punches seemingly always finding their targets, there has been one mark that has eluded Hendricks -- an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world title shot. Win after win over top opponents hasn't been enough because mixed martial arts (MMA) politics have found their way into the equation, barring "Bigg Rigg" from the chance of a lifetime.
His UFC win streak began nearly two years ago -- an emphatic technical knockout victory over submission ace T.J. Waldburger -- and since then, four of the world's top 170-pound standouts (Mike Pierce, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann) have been unable to stop him. A big left hand and a solid wrestling background have carried Hendricks to the brink of certain welterweight title contention.
Nick Diaz, coming off a year-long suspension after testing positive for marijuana metabolites after a loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 143, will take the title shot Hendricks feels he deserves because champion Georges St. Pierre requested the bout against a man he considers the most disrespectful in the sport.
In other words, all that has stood in Hendricks' path has been a champion's desire for revenge.
What's more, he now has another opponent looking to take him out when he faces off with Condit on the same night Diaz cashes in what Hendricks believes he has rightfully earned. The fight with Condit will be his toughest yet, as the well-rounded Jackson Winkeljohn MMA-trained product is coming off a title shot of his own, one where he came shockingly close to finishing the consensus No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world, St. Pierre, with a thundering third round head kick at UFC 154.
There should be no underdog in the fight between Johny Hendricks vs. Carlos Condit this evening -- it is an intriguing match up of clashing styles, one in which either man can emphatically triumph.
Condit presents the full package, the more competent fighter no matter where the fight goes. His striking is potent, his submissions are dangerous and he's more than capable of giving Hendricks the fight of his life. Hendricks, on the other hand, is a terrific athlete and fighter, who will need plenty more than his usual gameplan to best the "Natural Born Killer."
His big left punch may not be enough in this fight, considering Condit's elaborate footwork and hard chin could keep Hendricks from landing his usual homerun shot. Indeed, Hendricks will have to bring forth every facet of his MMA arsenal to give Condit a challenge, not simply some dangerous boxing and reluctant wrestling.
Ultimately, Hendricks will have to be at his very best just to get a chance at what he's owed. There is no question that he is the most deserving contender in the division today. Now, he needs to prove its once again because that is what true champion's do night-in, night-out.
In a fight where everything is on the line, Hendricks is the UFC 158 "Fighter to Watch" later tonight. If he can emerge victorious once again, his tremendous win streak will finally bring him to the title shot he desires; however, if he loses, all of that will crumble in front of him in 15 minutes or less.
Make no mistake, this fight is make or break for Hendricks, who arguably should be in the main event at the Bell Centre when the clock strikes midnight.