Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight bruisers Johny Hendricks and Paulo Borrachinha will throw down this Saturday (Nov 4, 2017) at UFC 217 inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
Many athletes regardless of sport have killed their own careers. Hell, it was just a couple months ago that Jon Jones hammered in another nail for his coffin with his potential drug test failure. Yet somehow, Hendricks stands out. The former Welterweight champion has lost five of his last seven, been evicted from the 170-pound division, and recently missed weight for a Middleweight fight.
The man is eating himself out of a job! Or USADA has wrecked him, which is complete speculation, but also a possible explanation. Either way, he’s been given no softball — Borrachinha is a terrifyingly big and powerful Middleweight ... and he’s going to attempt to separate Hendrick’s head from his body.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory from each man:
Key Wins: Hector Lombard (UFC Fight Night 105), Robbie Lawler (UFC 171), Carlos Condit (UFC 158), Jon Fitch (UFC 141)
Key Losses: Tim Boetsch (UFC Fight Night 112), Stephen Thompson (UFC Fight Night 82), Robbie Lawler (UFC 181), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 200), George St. Pierre (UFC 167)
Keys to Victory: At his best, Hendricks was a tricky and durable pocket boxer with sharp low kicks and dominating wrestling. In recent performances, he’s simply been a lesser version of all those things. His timing in the pocket still looks good, but the impact isn’t as massive. The story is similar with wrestling — Hendricks can still wrestle well enough, but it’s fatiguing and has become a smaller part of his approach.
As for that durability? After 20 fights without being stopped, Hendricks has now been finished by strikes twice since 2016. As for what all that means against Borrachinha, it shows that Hendricks needs a change. If he goes out there unable to wrestle and without sharp striking instincts, he’s going to get flattened.
There is a silver lining here. Hendricks has relocated to the Jackson-Winkeljohn Academy. I don’t necessarily know that it’s the perfect camp for him from a technical point of view, but it absolutely is simply because it’s a real gym that will make him focus and work. If the location change gets Hendricks’ back in the groove, his combination of combination striking and powerful takedowns remains a difficult test for any up-and-comer.
Key Wins: Oluwale Bamgbose (UFC 212), Garreth McClellan (UFC Fight Night 106)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Borrachinha is perhaps Brazil’s most exciting prospect to appear out of nowhere in 2017. He also fails the ole’ USADA smell test to an extreme degree, but that’s none of my business until a test result comes back positive.
Whenever a guy like Borrachinha emerges with giant muscles and a history of crushing cans, a lot of people get excited immediately. More cynical members of the MMA world like myself question his gas tank and skill set, assuming he’ll falter at the first stiff test.
After all, I remember when Erick Silva was supposed to smash Jon Fitch.
Nevertheless, Borrachinha has thoroughly impressed in his pair of UFC fights. He scraps with the intention of beating down his foe quickly, but it isn’t sloppy. Borrachinha doesn’t over-extend too often or waste energy on foolish stuff: He sticks to hard punches and kicks that quickly turn his opponent into pulp. Last time out, he wrestled well and kept his pace into the second round too. That’s all quite promising for Borrachinha, who should be looking to pressure Hendricks and smash with power shots. He has a massive size and power advantage, so if he could keep his conditioning and defensive wrestling in check, it should be a great night for him.
Bottom Line: It’s a crossroads fight for both men.
This is Hendricks’ last chance. It almost has to be. He’s missed weight and lost three of his last four, looking thoroughly unmotivated the whole time. Another loss shows that even all that hardship cannot motivate him to get back in the cage, and it spells doom for future fights.
On the flip side, a win would be big. Borrachinha is a prospect with some real momentum, and defeating him in a strong showing is a sign of positive change for “Big Rigg.” For Borrachinha, it would likely expose some areas the Brazilian needs to improve in ... not a terrible fate for a young prospect.
For Borrachinha, this is the biggest opponent (insert weight class joke here) he’s faced, and it’s coming on a massive card. UFC has given Borrachinha an opportunity to really make a name for himself, and a win could push him into the rankings and build his following considerably.
At UFC 217, Johny Hendricks will fight for his career opposite Paulo Borrachinha. Which man will have his hand raised?