Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its long awaited return to Dallas, Texas, last night (March 15, 2014) with UFC 171: "Hendricks vs. Lawler" live from American Airlines Center. The pay-per-view (PPV) was headlined by Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler, who fought for the vacant UFC Welterweight title.
The night was booked to flesh out the Welterweight division and possibly set up a No. 1 contender. Unfortunately, the co-main event bout between Tyron Woodley and Carlos Condit came to a disappointing end with because "The Natural Born Killer" blew out his knee during a takedown (watch here).
It wasn't a perfect night, but the main card was certainly entertaining. But, enough with this introduction, let's talk about last night ...
"Bigg Rigg" gets his Bigg moment ...
I can't imagine the emotions that Johny Hendricks is experiencing at the moment. It was only a few months ago that he came up short in his efforts to capture the UFC 170-pound title when he faced Georges St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 167.
Last night, he got a second chance and made the most of it. He dominated Lawler for the first two rounds, with one of the Texas appointed judges scoring the second 10-8 in his favor. He also found it within himself to survive a constant barrage of punches in the third and fourth. Those punches would likely have stopped a charging elephant.
But, what was most impressive was that in spite of a swollen eye and a dangerous opponent, he never once lost confidence. He continued to press on and scored a round winning takedown to close out the fifth. Even then he seemed to be surprised when Bruce Buffer announced that he took a unanimous decision (watch here).
If he can continue to put on gutsy performances like this one, he could become a major PPV draw for UFC, which is desperate to find a replacement for St-Pierre. The only way we'll know for sure is if he's able to get a title defense or two in before the end of the year.
Potential fulfilled ...
Robbie Lawler's latest run in the Octagon has been extremely impressive, but it doesn't tell the entire story.
When he made his UFC debut against Aaron Riley at UFC 37, there were some massive expectations. He was billed as UFC's Mike Tyson, a young knockout artist who left bodies in his wake. As a member of the legendary Miletich Fighting System's team, Lawler was the fighter of the future for UFC brass.
He was a young guy with a penchant for the knockout. Unlike others out of that camp, it seemed like he really enjoyed fighting. Unfortunately, he just never reached his full potential. He dropped two fights in a row and then hit the regional circuit.
Even his run in Strikeforce was largely disappointed.
Last night, he finally became the fighter who everyone thought he'd be. The story doesn't have a perfect ending because he failed to capture UFC gold, but the real world isn't perfect so why get caught up on trying to romanticize the details.
He proved all doubters wrong who questioned why he was giving the shot instead of the much more established Carlos Condtit. I hope that we see them do it again, because I really enjoyed the main event last night.
Woodley misses out on his big win ...
I feel for Tyron Woodley after his bout with Carlos Condit came to an anticlimactic end. Like Chris Weidman who will have to deal with doubters who call his second win over Anderson Silva a "fluke," Woodley's win over Condit will be discredited.
Never mind the fact that he was landing heavy shots from range and landing multiple takedowns. Or that he continued to press the action while also doing enough to avoid letting Condit set the pace.
These will be ignored by everyone.
Woodley has come so far from the days in Strikeforce when he had a reputation for being "boring" for utilizing his takedowns. He's developed big power that complements his already great wrestling ability to become one of the most dangerous fighters at the top of the division.
Had the night ended impressively, he may have earned a title shot. Now, he's back at square one, trying to pick up a big win inside the Octagon.
Lombard disappoints ...
Where Tyron Woodley missed out on a big win because of an unfortunate injury, his American Top Team teammate missed out because he failed to press the action against an opponent who had nothing for him on the feet.
Hector Lombard is a bit of an oddity in the sport. He built up this mythical reputation in Bellator for being this unstoppable wrecking ball who put away opponents fast and viciously. Bellator's entire marketing was based around his win streak.
Then he made his UFC debut and just kind of fizzled out. A big win over Jake Shields could have made it clear that he's ready for a shot at UFC gold -- something necessary because of his insanely high paying contract. Instead, he just sort of rode out a victory without putting himself in any danger.
Yes, I get that a win is a win is a win. That's obvious. But, title shots aren't granted because you win. They're granted because you win impressively. And last night didn't impress. It was boring.
- It sucks that Carlos Condit will likely be out for an extended period of time because of a knee injury. He's one of the most exciting fighters in the promotion and he'll be missed greatly this upcoming year.
- Also related, watching Condit's knee injury in slow motion was terrible. I know that fans like to see when fighters get kicked in the balls, but watching a guy's leg explode is just way too much. Seriously could have done without that.
- Myles Jury has turned into quite the fighter. Yes, Diego Sanchez isn't quite the guy he once was, but that shouldn't take away from Jury's impressive performance. Where many others have gotten drawn into Sanchez's game, Jury fought technically and won pretty handedly.
- Regarding Jury's use of the word "cocky:" He keeps using that word and I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
- A Von Flue choke in 2014? The world is amazing sometimes.
- Kelvin Gastelum has come so far since winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17. Back then, he was an extremely raw fighter. Now? He's likely a future contender in the Welterweight division.
- The referee in charge of the Dennis Bermudez and Jim Hettes fight wasn't great. They let Hettes take far too much damage when it was clear he was looking for a way out of the fight.
- Seriously, it's time for one of Sanchez's friends to tell him to stop. Right now. Because at this point he's a danger to himself if he continues to take fights.
- It's funny that a card meant to create Welterweight contenders didn't actually create any. There's actually more questions now than ever as to who will be the next to challenge for the title.