Two of the most dangerous welterweights on the planet collided last night (March 16, 2013) as Johny Hendricks took on former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit in the co-main event of UFC 158 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Both men had so much riding on the fight, what with a title shot against the main event winner at stake, and each fighter raised their game to a new level to compensate.
Hendricks quickly looked to swarm with big bombs early and he tagged Condit with heavy shots, slamming the Albuquerque fighter to the ground. Condit did his part, firing back with knees and elbows, but Hendricks did a great job of mixing in his national champion wrestling with his stand-up pressure.
"Big Rig" tried to close the distance with those massive left hooks of his, but they weren't landing much in the opening frame, and he continued to make Condit second guess himself by taking him down before letting him up. Condit got his licks in, landing a knee and reversing a takedown attempt by taking Hendricks's back as both men exploded in all sorts of wild violence.
Condit tried to get his kicks going in the second round from the outside, but Hendricks ignored the range and waded in, smacking him with a right hand and continuing to push forward. Again, Hendricks shot in and took him down, dropping a few punches from top position as Condit did everything he could to fend him off and work back to his feet.
Every time Condit started to get something going on the feet, Hendricks would explode forward and blast him with the left before shooting in and taking him down. Condit really landed some nice shots after it appeared Hendricks hurt his hand, but after a jumping knee attack, Hendricks changed levels and slammed him to the canvas with authority again. Even when Condit got to his feet, Hendricks wisely shot in and dumped him down once more as both men put on a blistering pace.
In the third round, Condit began to take over particularly due to Hendricks' injury. Hendricks mainly just used his wrestling to avoid damage, dropping right hands from above since his left was hurt. Condit really started unloading combinations and getting in his groove in this round, but Hendricks did a great job of disrupting his rhythm with the takedowns. Condit did a great job of working from his back and getting to his feet again and he landed a heavy right hand on Hendricks' jaw in the final 90 seconds.
Hendricks scored another couple takedowns, but Condit was on the offensive the entire time and it at least helped him take the final frame.
That wasn't quite enough, however, as the judges gave Hendricks two out of the three rounds on all their scorecards, although Condit at least had a "FIght of the Night" bonus to help ease the pain.
For Carlos Condit, I loved the way he was always on the attack whether it was with his punching combinations, his flying knees or even hammer fists and elbows from bottom after being taken down. He was a flying whirlwind of the unexpected in this fight and if he hadn't been taken down nearly at will by Hendricks, he might have pulled it off. That being said, he really, really needs to work on that takedown defense. Playing good defense and getting up is nice and all, but not being put there in the first place is even better. He also still needs to work on utilizing that reach advantage because Hendricks got inside and crushed him with some power hooks far too many times in the opening two rounds.
For Johny Hendricks, that power is nasty and when he tagged Condit, there was a serious visible reaction every time, whether it was with his left or right hand. While he didn't do much on the ground other than a bit of flight offense, his takedowns did a great job of disrupting Condit's offensive flow and prevent any major surges of momentum. It was nice to have that in his back pocket whenever "The Natural Born Killer" started to land some strikes in succession. It sucked to see him break his hand, but he hung in there by continuing to take Condit down, which prevented him from getting in too much trouble in the third round. One thing he could have done better was not get backed into the fence repeatedly. That's asking for trouble and Condit could have really put him in dire straights if those flying knees had landed flush instead of grazing.
Next up for Hendricks is UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre as soon as he's healed up. Hopefully he won't be sidelined too long because that's a title fight I think all the fans want to see.