UFC 171 preview: Five burning questions going into 'Hendricks vs Lawler' in Dallas

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

Before every fight card, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans toggle between possible scenarios and what to expect days before it all unfolds in front of their eyes. Probable outcomes, distinguishable facts and head-scratching theories are all part of the mystique that surrounds the fights on any given night. We ask ourselves the same questions … and try to uncover different answers.

It's time to turn the page and anticipate a new king for the welterweight throne.

UFC 171: "Hendricks vs. Lawler" takes place this Saturday night (March 15, 2014) at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, where a new champion will be crowned at 170 pounds.

Johny Hendricks squares off against Robbie Lawler for the vacant welterweight strap, after longtime champion Georges St. Pierre announced his hiatus from mixed martial arts (MMA) last December.

Hendricks steps into his second UFC title fight (the first being quite controversial), as Lawler finds himself competing for the UFC title for the very first time.

Another welterweight scrap is set for the co-main event, as Tyron Woodley got what he wanted by asking for a fight against former UFC interim welterweight champ, Carlos Condit.

There are several interesting storylines heading into "The Lone Star State," including a pack of hungry welterweights alongside a few young guns ready to aim and fire.

Check out our "Five Burning Questions" heading into these fights in Dallas:

5. Can Jake Shields stand with Hector Lombard?

The former Strikeforce middleweight champion proclaimed he would finish Lombard, which means he will probably be looking to take him down and submit him.

Shields isn't the worst striker, although the last time he opted to keep a fight on the feet was against Jake Ellenberger, and it didn't go so well for him. Granted, he was going through tough times, dealing with unfortunate occurrences outside of the cage.

Lombard's grappling is decent, but the Californian has the advantage here, and there's no doubt he will want to take the fight to the ground instead of trading blows on the feet.

4. Does Myles Jury become "big time" with a win against Diego Sanchez?

Every young fighter dreams of being put in the cage against a longtime vet, so they can tear apart the older fighter and know for sure their time has finally come.

"The Fury" has looked good thus far in UFC, with four-straight wins and he's poised for a breakout win (even though his last victory was a snoozer against Mike Ricci at UFC 165).

We'll see if Jury can turn up the volume on his career when he faces the wacky-but-dangerous Diego Sanchez. The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 1 cast member is always hard to deal with as a competitor because of his intense fighting style, mixed with having absolutely no game plan.

Sanchez would give Jury the chip on his shoulder should the young fighter win, and the earlier those wins happen, the better for the up-and-coming Alliance MMA product.

If Jury gets past "The Dream," it's safe to say the eagle has landed.

3. Does Tyron Woodley have the skills to defeat "The Natural Born Killer?"

He definitely has knockout power and you can ask Josh Koscheck about that.

Nonetheless, Woodley will need to bring one hell of a well-rounded game to the table if he plans on defeating the former interim welterweight champ.

"The Chosen One" became a noisemaker at 170 pounds after his latest knockout win at UFC 167, proving if his leather touches anybody's chin, they're almost destined to go out. He faces a tall mountain to climb in Condit, being his toughest test out of all the 14 fights he's had.

Woodley may not receive a title shot with a win, yet it's hard to exclude him out of those immediate plans if he cleans house with such an experienced and talented opponent.

He's going to have to deal with the uncertainty and unpredictable ways of Condit, which could be a problem for the former Strikeforce standout.

2. Is Carlos Condit getting the next welterweight title shot if he wins?

Speaking about "The Natural Born Killer," he may have the most impressive hit list out of all UFC welterweights at the moment.

He's defeated Nick Diaz, Rory MacDonald, Jake Ellenberger, Dong Hyun Kim and Martin Kampmann, and besides his loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 158, he also took Georges St. Pierre into the deep waters of their title fight at UFC 154.

Condit has been at the top of the food chain for a while now, wanting to make his championship status official. Still, it's not like the Greg Jackson-trained workhorse is slowing down anytime soon.

He may need to pick up another fight if he beats Woodley this weekend, although a second fight against Hendricks (should he win) may be too good to pass up.

There's a bit history there, plus, Lord knows UFC loves their rematches.

1. Does Johny Hendricks feel more pressure to win over Robbie Lawler?

After his controversial main event loss to former champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 167, "Bigg Rigg" has another chance to make it right. With that being said, he can't be looking to leave it in the hands of the judges.

He's going to want to leave no doubts in the cage when it's all said and done, with the fight taking place in Texas -- the state he currently calls home. Erasing UFC 167 out of his memory certainly needs to happen, since Hendricks definitely feels like he won the fight against GSP.

On the flip side, it's not like Robbie Lawler doesn't have pressure riding on his shoulders, either.

"Ruthless" has been competing in the sport since 2001, touted to be a future champion when he was making heads roll in UFC during 2002. Years later, he enjoyed success as Elite XC's middleweight champion, but he never won the title that mattered most.

Surely, this is Lawler's last shot. And you could say the same for Hendricks, too, if he loses.

Welterweight is the most stacked division in UFC at the moment, with umpteen amounts of challengers rising from the gutters of 170 pounds. There's no guarantee either of these individuals will get another shot if they can't make magic happen in Dallas.

At least we can bank on the fact that this main event will be one hell of a war, from start to finish.

That's a wrap.

For more pre-fight coverage on UFC 171: "Hendricks vs. Lawler," check out our event page right here.

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