When Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) first brought word that World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) import Johny Hendricks would be making his Octagon debut against Amir Sadollah, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans could hardly contain their enthusiasm.
Some of the reactions to the promotion's announcement:
--Hendricks will hold him down for three rounds for the UD. Like I've said before, he's a poor man's Forrest [Griffin].
--This is just BS!!! UFC is finally coming to Philly, and they waste a main card slot on this fight? What a joke! Save PPV's for stars that are currently ready to make an impact....build and promote TUF winners on your own dime Dana, don't waste my money on this crap!
--Watch, Amir by the most devastating KO ever. Let's be serious though, I think Amir will win.
If they only knew.
Hendricks will step into the cage at UFC 171 this Saturday night (March 15, 2014) inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, to battle "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler for the vacant UFC welterweight title, just over four years after making his UFC debut.
Not bad for a "poor man's Forrest Griffin."
But that's life in the MMA game, where you're only as good as your last UFC fight. While Hendricks was drafted to the big show when ZUFFA dissolved the WEC 170-pound weight class, no one was expecting much from the bearded up-and-comer. Granted, he was 5-0 with four finishes, but that was the minor leagues.
Hendricks' claim to fame was a Division-1 national championship out of Oklahoma State University.
By comparison, UFC had a murderer's row of welterweights, who competed in a kingdom ruled by uber-athlete Georges St. Pierre. If you wanted to get to "Rush," you first had to go through the stifling wrestling attack of No. 2-ranked Jon Fitch, assuming you could survive the Muay Thai assault of No. 3-ranked Thiago Alves.
"Bigg Rigg" wasn't even on the radar.
That explains why Hendricks was paired off against the sport's little engine who could for his Octagon debut. Sadollah was the unlikely winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 7 after submitting C.B. Dollaway in the 2008 live finale, and had a professional record of 1-0.
Though to his credit, he submitted Matt Brown and knocked out Gerald Harris during TUF 7.
It was a fairly even match up by most accounts -- including the bookies -- and "Sadollah vs. Hendricks" was set to rock the pay-per-view (PPV) main card at UFC 101: "Declaration," which took place back on August 9, 2009 inside the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Here's what happened.
Touch of gloves gets the action started and a Sadollah low kick sails wide. Hendricks backs him up with a 1-2 combination and the Virginian returns fire with a head kick. "Bigg Rigg" blocks and eats a leg to the outer thigh. Sadollah rushes in with punches in bunches. Hendricks, caught off guard by the bum rush, retreats.
Then he gets angry.
Hendricks charges out of the gate and they clinch. With Sadollah hunched forward, "Bigg Rigg" lands five unanswered uppercuts, which causes his opponent to go limp and flop to his knees. Hendricks swarms with six blows to the dome and referee Dan Miragliotta dives in to make the save.
Just as Sadollah is getting to his feet.
Cries of an early stoppage would soon follow, but it was too late. The fight was called off and Hendricks would move on to finish with a 10-2 record including five brutal finishes. That record -- coupled with his razor-thin loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 167 -- earned him a spot in tomorrow night's title fight.
To see more on Lawler's history in the fight game click here.