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History in the Making: Johny Hendricks parlays national wrestling championships into Octagon knockouts

Here's a headline for the Ada Evening News, the tiny newspaper serving the even tinier town in Oklahoma: Ada native grows awesome beard, proceeds to knock dudes out silly.

In a nutshell, that describes the career of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight Johny Hendricks.

After signing with World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and winning his two fights for the now defunct promotion, he -- along with every other 170-pound fighter -- was absorbed into the UFC. His first bout inside the Octagon ended in 29 seconds as he caught The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner Amir Sadollah with multiple uppercuts, dropping him to mat and forcing the referee to jump in.

Not a bad way to start one's UFC career.

"Bigg Rigg" would rattle off three straight wins before falling short to Rick Story, the first time Hendricks would taste defeat. It seems, based on his performances since, he didn't enjoy the flavor of failure.

Before the Okie steps inside the Octagon against Josh Koscheck in the co-main event of UFC on Fox 3: "Diaz vs. Miller," we'll take a look at two of the three fights Hendricks had competed in since his loss to Story.

Both fights ended in seconds and both opponents were left prone on the canvas, wondering what had hit them.

Are you ready?

After losing to Story on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, Hendricks was relegated back to the undercard for his next bout. He was booked against TJ Waldburger, a Texas native who had won his Octagon debut six months prior. In Seattle, WA, the two would have their own version of the Red River Shootout.

Waldburger shot off a head kick to start the fight off but failed to connect. It did manage to push Hendricks against the cage where the Temple, TX-born fighter began to grind away. "Bigg Rigg" worked his way off the chain-link and then proceeded to perfectly defend a takedown from his opponent.

Reset on their feet, Waldburger threw a lazy leg kick and paid the price for it. Hendricks came over with a monster of a left hand which connected with his opponent's jaw, staggering him. He stumbled backward and threw a reactionary hook but his senses were warped and slowed thanks to the punch. I doubt he even saw the second left barreling towards his chin.

As Waldburger's arm swung through the air, his body crashed towards to mat. He landed on the canvas face first and ate another shot for good measure before the referee jumped in. It earned "Bigg Rigg" the win and a cool, $55,000 Knockout of the Night bonus. Not bad for around 90 seconds worth of work.

The Okie's next bout would be a hard-fought decision win against Mike Pierce, a man whose only other Octagon losses have come to Koscheck and Jon Fitch, the very man who Hendricks would have off against next.

Fitch presented a problem for the UFC. He won eight straight bouts to finally earn a shot at Georges St. Pierre's welterweight title and proceeded to get trounced for five full rounds. His grinding style was laborious and only celebrated by the most ardent wrestling defenders but it was effective and wins cannot be denied.

After the loss, he once again continued his trek towards championship gold, rattling off five wins before being stopped short by B.J. Penn. Not short enough to lose, mind you, but just enough not to win. Even "The Prodigy" couldn't beat Fitch and the bout ended in a draw.

It seems the only man fit enough to defeat the American Kickboxing Academy was the champion himself but no one wanted to see a repeat of their UFC 87 beating.

Enter Hendricks.

The two met inside the Octagon at UFC 141, one of the biggest -- quite literally -- events of the year. Headlined by Brock Lesnar taking on Alistair Overeem, fighters would be hard pressed to make an impact when the two goliaths were sure to overshadow all else.

"Bigg Rigg" was more than up to the task. The audience, jacked up from the pounding Alexander Gustafsson had just given Vladimir Matyushenko were ready for more action. They got it.

Fitch opened up with a quick punch which didn't land and seconds later, Hendricks landed a bomb of a left to the chin, the smack of which sounded off throughout the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Fitch collapsed back in a heap, took another shot and the fight was immediately stopped.

What no one in the UFC could accomplish -- not Thiago Alves, not B.J. Penn, not even Georges St. Pierre -- Hendricks did in 12 seconds. He finished the perennial contender and solved the UFC's "Jon Fitch problem," earning himself another $75,000 in bonus money.

Now in two weeks (May 5), the wrestler from the tiny town in Oklahoma will fight on broadcast television, in front of millions of people.

Can he deliver more fireworks?

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