Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Johny Hendricks and Matt Brown will attempt to get back into the win column this Saturday night (March 14, 2015) at the UFC 185 pay-per-view (PPV) event inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
After losing a close battle against Robbie Lawler, Hendricks appears to have taken some steps towards fixing his weight issues. In his return to the Octagon, he'll look to show off some improvements en route to another title shot.
Brown also lost a competitive five-round battle with the champion, though his defeat was far more definitive. It also snapped a seven-fight win streak for the Muay Thai specialist, and he'll look to began another one here.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men.
Key Wins: Jordan Mein (UFC on FOX 7), Erick Silva (UFC Fight Night 40), Mike Pyle (UFC Fight Night 26)
Key Losses: Robbie Lawler (UFC on FOX 12)
Keys to Victory: Brown is an incredible pressure fighter. He pushes a pace on his opponent and drags him into his world, one of up-close-and-personal violence. Very few fighters can handle it, and 12 of Brown's opponents have fallen to his whirlwind of strikes.
Brown is an expert from within the clinch, where he does most of his work. Once Brown can get his hands on his opponent, he's quick to move forward with fast elbow strikes, heavy knees, and beautiful Muay Thai dumps.
Luckily, his opponent also likes to battle from within the phone booth. Since Brown will not allow Hendricks to stand far away and lob overhands at his jaw, this stand-up portion of this bout will very likely take place at close range.
Whether that's to Brown's advantage is up to his preparation. While Brown will occasionally dump his opponent on the mat, he usually only does that to off-balance his foe and land more strikes as he stands. Hendricks, on the other hand, would love nothing more than to transition into a takedown and control Brown without exchanging strikes.
Due to the nature of Brown's offense, he's in his opponent's takedown range. While a healthy portion of knees up the middle could help his cause if timed well, above all else this fight will challenge Brown's wrestling skills in a big way.
Key Wins: Robbie Lawler (UFC 171), Jon Fitch (UFC 141), Carlos Condit (UFC 158)
Key Losses: Robbie Lawler (UFC 181), George St. Pierre (UFC 167), Rick Story (TUF 12 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Hendricks is a monstrous welterweight, well equipped to destroy his opponents with a massive left hand and powerful takedowns. Despite this, Hendricks has been involved in a number of close fights and controversial decisions, both for and against him.
While his eating habits leave something to be desired, Hendricks' other issue is that he has difficulty balancing when to wrestle and when to strike. This was clear in both of his bouts with Lawler. In the first, Hendricks rarely went for takedowns and absorbed a huge number of punches, while he wrestled at inopportune times in the rematch, causing positional stalemates right after brutalizing "Ruthless" on the feet.
This fight likely hinges on Hendricks' choices. If he spends too much time on his feet, Brown will likely take control of the fight, and it's very difficult to regain the momentum once that happens; Brown doesn't let his foes leave on their own accord.
While Hendricks could likely pull out a victory simply by spamming takedowns -- he won't be punished as much for it in a three round fight -- but it won't help prepare him for a scrap with either Lawler or MacDonald.
Instead, Hendricks needs to put together combinations from in close. Once Brown settles into his offense and really starts attacking, Hendricks can disrupt and frustrate his opponent. If the threat of the takedown then makes Brown hesitant, "Bigg Rigg" can open up with his combinations and really put the hurt on his opponent.
Bottom Line: The winner of this fight will probably fight for the title within the next two years.
Hendricks may have lost two of his last three, but both defeats were controversial, and his victory earned him the title. The former champion is not at all far from earning another title shot, as a victory over Brown leaves him perhaps one more fight away from the strap.
However, a loss would definitely hurt Hendricks' standing and put a serious delay on his return to gold. There are plenty of excellent welterweights trying to claw their way up, so Hendricks cannot afford to have an off day.
While some fans and pundits are still having a hard time accepting it, Brown is definitely a top contender. Should he defeat the former champion, there's a decent chance the strength of his last nine performances will earn him a shot at the belt. If not, then a title eliminator is definitely in order for "The Immortal."
If Brown loses to Hendricks, it will be the second time the evolved version of Brown falls to a true top-three welterweight. He may get a third chance, but it will take a strong win streak to get back into the cage with another of the division's elite.
At UFC 185, Johny Hendricks and Matt Brown will go to war. Which scrapper will earn the victory?