MMA Review: #452: UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler

-After a couple of PPVs that weren’t quite so loaded to open the year, the UFC really went to town with this one with some massive fights. Main focus was the newly GSP-less Welterweight division, with three of the top five bouts featuring the 170lbers including the main event for the newly vacant title. Oh, and DIEGO SANCHEZ was on the card, meaning I was fucking pumped, dude.

UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler

03/15/14
Dallas, Texas

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Featherweight Fight: Rob Whiteford vs Daniel Pineda

And of course we open with a likely loser leaves town match because why not? In this one the UFC’s first Scottish fighter Whiteford (and no Braveheart references in sight surprisingly enough!) was looking to pick up his first Octagon win after losing a short-notice debut to Jim Hettes, while Texan Pineda hadn’t won in the UFC since April 2013 and had lost four of his last five.

Round One and they circle and exchange some early strikes with Pineda catching Whiteford with a couple of really hard body kicks. Whiteford clinches and they exchange in the clinch for a second before the Scot looks for a takedown. Inside trip attempt from Whiteford but Pineda does a good job of blocking it. Looked like he might’ve held the cage, though. Good knees inside for Whiteford and he muscles Pineda down and takes mount for a second. Pineda scrambles though and gets back to his feet. He gives his back though and Whiteford trips him down again, landing in side mount this time. Pineda manages to work half-guard back in and looks to post up the fence, but he takes a solid knee to the body as he stands. Whiteford stays stuck to him like glue though until ref Don Turnage calls a break. They exchange from the outside again before Whiteford stuffs a takedown. Good leg kick from Pineda. Counter combo lands for Whiteford. Round ends on the feet. Gotta go 10-9 Whiteford there.

Round Two and Whiteford shoots right away and gets the takedown in the middle of the cage this time, landing in Pineda’s guard. Few solid shots land for the Scot on top as he looks to pass at the same time. He stands free of the guard and surprisingly lets Pineda up, before clinching. Slam from Pineda puts him on top, but Whiteford pops right back up and they separate. Left hand lands for Whiteford as does an inside leg kick. Head kick lands for Whiteford too and Pineda looks a bit wobbled. He’s also really bloody from his right eye now. He tries to answer but he’s visibly checking the cut which is never good. Kick from Pineda is caught but Whiteford can’t get a takedown. Big head kick lands again for Whiteford and then he shoots and gets Pineda down again. Pineda stands but gives his back, and then rolls for a leglock, but Whiteford seems okay to me. He tries to switch to a heel hook but Whiteford gives the thumbs up and then works his way into side mount. Pineda tries to scramble up but Whiteford lands a Silva-esque knee to the body with Pineda seated. He works to his feet, but Whiteford stays on him with another knee and then they separate. Seconds to go and Pineda’s busted up badly. He still pushes forward to end the round though. 10-9 Whiteford.

Round Three and Whiteford catches a lunging knee and hits a takedown to half-guard right away. Pineda works back to full guard, but he’s clearly slowing down at this point and the action stalls out a lot. Ref calls a stand-up unsurprisingly, and Whiteford goes for another takedown right away but Pineda stuffs it. Both guys look exhausted. Takedown from Whiteford but Pineda rolls right into a kneebar and it looks tight this time! Whiteford manages to scramble though and pulls the leg free, popping to his feet before hitting another takedown to half-guard this time. Triangle attempt from Pineda but Whiteford postures up high to avoid and frees himself, taking side mount. Pineda immediately works to full guard, but he doesn’t look capable of doing much from there. Ref stands them up again, and this time Pineda gets a takedown to half-guard. He lands some elbows to the legs from there, and then works for a kimura, but he can’t get it locked and the fight ends. 10-9 Pineda maybe? Round was tough to score. It’s Whiteford’s fight overall though.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Rob Whiteford. This was fine for the first two rounds, but the third really suffered from both guys being gassed out I think. Still, decent enough fight to open the card with – few nice exchanges standing and on the ground but nothing outstanding – just your basic UFC fight.

Middleweight Fight: Sean Strickland vs Bubba McDaniel

Originally this would’ve seen a clash of TUF 17 veterans with Tor Troeng taking on McDaniel, but when the Swede got hurt, KOTC champ Strickland stepped in on relatively short notice. Despite the short notice I was taking him to win, mainly because he had an undefeated record and the nickname ‘Tarzan’. Plus, no offense but does anyone like Bubba McDaniel?

Fight begins and McDaniel opens with a low kick, but Strickland catches it and nails him with a right hand counter. Good low kick from Bubba. Few strikes miss for both men. Nice counter combo from Strickland. Takedown attempt from McDaniel and he lifts Strickland and almost gets a slam, but Strickland shows some excellent strength to just reverse back to his feet. Bodylock from Strickland and he muscles Bubba down. Bubba tries to get back up but takes some punches, and Strickland ends up landing on top in half-guard after a scramble. Strickland postures up to pass, dropping back into half-guard, and he lands a couple of good elbows too. Nice shots from Strickland and he’s keeping Bubba firmly grounded. Really hard shots land for Strickland and Bubba’s in trouble here. Nice pass to side mount follows and then he takes the back with both hooks. Bubba tries to roll, but Strickland locks up a rear naked choke and McDaniel taps out there.

Awesome debut for Sean Strickland. I know people rag on Bubba McDaniel and sure, he probably isn’t quite UFC level but to blow through him that easily means you probably are ready for the UFC and when you consider Strickland came in on late notice, yeah, that’s impressive to me. Short and exciting fight too. Strickland looks like an excellent prospect to me.

Flyweight Fight: Justin Scoggins vs Will Campuzano

Another fight that saw an injury-related switch, this would’ve seen Campuzano taking on Darrell Montague, but instead he was faced with young prospect Scoggins, who had smashed through Richie Vaculik in one of the more impressive debuts of 2013. Despite Campuzano’s status as a solid veteran, the smart money seemed to be on Scoggins here.

First round and they trade kicks to begin with Campuzano countering a low kick with a hard right hand. Scramble sees Scoggins take the back standing, and he forces Campuzano down to his knees. Campuzano turns into him but Scoggins gets him down again, this time into a butterfly guard position. He does a good job of pulling Will away from the cage and drops into half-guard for better control. Good job from Campuzano to pop right back up, and they separate. Head kick glances for Scoggins. Right hand connects for Scoggins too. Campuzano tries to close the distance but eats a knee. Scoggins is seriously fast. Couple more kicks land for him. Scoggins continues to pressure him and then hits another takedown to guard. Campuzano scrambles back up again though before Scoggins can capitalise. Clinch from Scoggins and he lands a hard knee. Big right hand glances for Campuzano. Body kick into a spin kick from Scoggins. Head kick follows up and then he slams Campuzano down. This guy looks awesome. Campuzano tries to work back up, but this time Scoggins springs onto his back. Campuzano manages to stand though only to eat an elbow on the break. Round ends with a Scoggins body kick. 10-9 Scoggins.

Second round and Campuzano comes out more aggressively, but Scoggins’ movement allows him to easily avoid the rush. Chopping inside leg kick into a combo connects for Scoggins. Head kick and then a hook kick land for Scoggins as he’s almost in full karate mode now. Low single leg from Scoggins but Campuzano grabs a guillotine and looks to lock it in. Scoggins manages to sneak into half-guard though which alleviates it and then he pops his head free. Campuzano manages to work back to full butterfly guard, but makes the mistake of trying to roll free and he gives his back. Scoggins tries to get the hooks in as Campuzano rolls, but he can’t quite pull it off and Campuzano winds up back in guard. Campuzano rolls again and gives his back, and this time Scoggins gets a hook in. Campuzano again rolls though and gets half-guard back. Full mount for Scoggins but Campuzano quickly bucks and escapes. Back to the feet and Scoggins connects with a knee. Round ends with Scoggins dodging a combo with head movement and then countering with some heavy shots of his own. 10-9 Scoggins.

Third round and Campuzano’s cornerman tells him he believes in him, but Will actually looks like a broken man. Hook kick opens things for Scoggins. Knee from Campuzano and he manages to stuff a takedown and land a combo, but Scoggins tackles him down to full guard. This time he passes right into full mount, but Campuzano manages to get guard back right away. Good punches land for Scoggins from the top now and Campuzano looks hurt. Scoggins passes into side mount and then takes the back with Campuzano turtled up. Really good shots land for Scoggins and Campuzano has to drop to his back again in side mount. Scramble from Campuzano but it allows Scoggins to take his back again, and the youngster controls him with a waistlock. Campuzano manages to stand, but gets dragged back down into half-guard. Looks like he’s beginning to wilt as he’s taking a lot of punches cleanly. Brutal left hand connects for Scoggins from inside the guard. He works to pass again and continues to land, getting into side mount. Heavy knee to the body as Campuzano turtles up. Campuzano works to his feet, but Scoggins slams him back down and continues to work him over. Campuzano is taking a beating in this round. Round ends with Scoggins continuing to dominate. Clear-cut 30-27 for Justin Scoggins, no other possible score.

Judges have it 30-27 all round for Justin Scoggins. Pretty one-sided fight in the end as Scoggins looked awesome, chaining his grappling and striking together brilliantly for a guy who’s only 21 years old. I fully expect this guy to be a title contender within 2-3 years, especially when you consider he’s with American Top Team now too. You’ve got to feel for Campuzano in a way as he worked hard to get back to the UFC, but then got matched with two of the top prospects in the game when he did return and ended up getting thoroughly beaten twice. Poor guy. Fight was fun overall due to Scoggins’ hyperactive offense.

Lightweight Fight: Francisco Trevino vs Renee Forte

I’ll always have a bit of a soft spot for the fighters from the first TUF Brazil season and so I was more interested in this one than most fans, I’d guess, especially after Forte had been thoroughly owned by John Makdessi in his last outing. Still, despite an 11-0 record, Trevino didn’t look that impressive to me in the clips I’d seen and I’d heard he was one of those signings caused by his ethnic (Mexican) background rather than his skill, so I was taking the Brazilian.

Round One and they circle and trade some strikes from the outside. Good right hand from Forte sets up a takedown and right away he gets the back with both hooks in. Trevino might be in trouble. Good control from Forte as Trevino rolls, but he can’t catch the choke. Forte loses a hook and that allows Trevino to escape, working to his feet. Forte immediately looks to get him back down, using a single leg to put him on his back. Butterfly guard from Trevino allows him back up but Forte puts him down again in full guard this time. The Brazilian passes into half-guard and looks to get full mount, but Trevino does a good job of reversing him and he scrambles to his feet. Right hand glances for Trevino. He stalks forward, landing a body kick, but Forte comes back with a quick combo. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Forte.

Round Two and Trevino pushes forward, but he eats a solid counter right from Forte. Lot of kicks from Trevino early on. Hard leg kick connects for him. Kick is caught though and Forte tackles him down. Trevino pops right back up and manages to escape the clinch. Wild right hand misses for Forte. Good right hand from Trevino. Body kick follows and he’s got Forte backing up. Another two body kicks land for Trevino and Forte is clearly slowing down. Combo from Trevino lands. Body kick answers for Forte. Couple of low kicks from Trevino. Trevino begins to taunt Forte now and lands a couple of side kicks to the body. He looks super confident suddenly. Takedown from Forte though and he lands in the full guard. Forte stacks up to attempt to pass, but it allows Trevino enough room to scramble to his feet and now he hits a takedown. Forte looks gassed. Good punches from Trevino and he grabs a front headlock as they stand, then lands a couple of hard knees to the head. Knee to the body from Trevino and the round ends there. 10-9 Trevino to even things up.

Round Three and Trevino opens with a right hand. He’s much more comfortable now and he lands with a body kick and a combo. Forte slips to his back coming forward, and Trevino lands before letting him get back up. Surprisingly Trevino looks to take him down again, and dumps him to the ground before taking the back as the Brazilian stands. Forte turns into him and they remain clinched, and Forte looks absolutely gassed. Spinning elbow breaks for Trevino. Big right elbow misses for Trevino and Forte takes him down, but the newcomer pops back up. Trevino looks for another takedown, and winds up taking a rear waistlock again where he lands knees to the legs. Good elbow breaks again for Trevino. Combo follows and Forte is in trouble. He tries to wade in for a takedown, but eats some knees and can’t keep hold of him. Nasty right hand from Trevino has Forte covering up a bit. Combo comes back for Forte and forces him to back up, and then the Brazilian hits a takedown to guard. Trevino gives his back and Forte slaps both hooks in, but he can’t keep them in and Trevino stands and turns into him. Less than a minute to go and they exchange inside the clinch with Forte landing a solid knee and a right. Trevino breaks and Forte presses forward now, but he fails on another takedown and Trevino lands the final shots of the round. Close round but 10-9 Trevino for a 29-28.

Official scores are 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 for Francisco Trevino. Close fight in the end as Trevino pretty much allowed Forte back into the fight in the third after he gassed in the second (apparently from a shitty weight cut), but in the end he did just enough to pick up the win. Fun fight for the most part but you could tell, no offense, that both guys are near the bottom of the UFC totem pole and indeed Forte was released after this effort. I don’t think Trevino goes that far in the division but hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Welterweight Fight: Alex Garcia vs Sean Spencer

Now this one I was super-excited for as Alex Garcia was a guy I’d been pimping as one of the top prospects in the 170lbs division for a while prior to his 2013 UFC signing. Dude is built like a tank, carries brutal power in his strikes and can throw guys around like ragdolls. And he’s part of the Tri-Star gym so you know he’s getting the proper advice. Sure enough he lived up to the hype in his UFC debut and crushed an admittedly overmatched Ben Wall in seconds. His second outing seemed more challenging – Spencer had at least won two UFC fights and was a legit 170lber – but I didn’t see Garcia having any issues with him at all if I’m honest.

Fight begins and Spencer quickly pushes forward and looks to establish his jab. Garcia cracks him with a powerful right hand early though and largely avoids the jab. Combination from Alex and he hits a double leg before dragging Spencer’s legs back from the fence, allowing him to drop a big right. Spencer pops back to his feet but Garcia forces him right back down. He tries to pass, but Spencer works up to his knees and then stands. Garcia stays on him for a moment before breaking off. Strikes miss for both guys and Garcia glances on an uppercut. Left hand lands for Spencer. Good right answers for Garcia. They continue to circle and Spencer does a good job of staying elusive. Beautiful head kick lands for Garcia but Spencer takes it well. Uppercut follows. Hard combo from Alex sets up another takedown and again he drags the legs back to land a right hand. Spencer again works back up instantly though. One minute to go and Garcia lands uppercuts in the clinch and a right hand to break. Good inside leg kick from Spencer. Exchange continues with both men glancing on shots until the round ends. 10-9 Garcia.

Into the 2nd and Garcia lands a glancing combo to begin. Uppercut into a left hook. Pair of left hands land for Spencer. Front kick from Spencer but Garcia counters with a solid right. Head kick glances for Spencer. Good uppercut from Alex again. Nice takedown from Garcia and again he uses the ankle drag to keep Spencer down. Spencer does an excellent job of working back up though only to eat a nasty uppercut. He fires right back with a BIG RIGHT though and suddenly Garcia looks hurt! He wobbles back and Spencer clips him with a left kick, looking to swarm on him, and Alex has to clinch. Good shots land inside for Spencer and Garcia still seems hurt, but then he breaks off and LEVELS SPENCER WITH A RIGHT! Holy shit! Spencer pops up but he’s all over the place and Garcia OPENS UP looking to finish, but somehow Spencer manages to hang in there. Incredible exchange. More shots have Spencer on rubber legs, but Garcia doesn’t seem totally recovered himself and so he hits a takedown. Reversal from Spencer and he gets on top, but Garcia pops back up and nails him with an overhand right. Both guys look exhausted now. They keep exchanging and Garcia hits him with another hard right hand that sends Spencer wobbling back. Action finally slows down but they’re still exchanging and Garcia’s landing the harder blows. Takedown follows and Alex gets into half-guard, finally keeping Spencer down. Spencer manages to escape out the back door with seconds to go, and again he wobbles Alex with some punches. Garcia responds with another takedown attempt and that’s the round. Tremendous round. 10-9 Garcia though as he got the takedowns and appeared to land the harder shots.

Third and final round and Spencer comes out swinging, recognizing that Garcia might be tired. Garcia manages to clock him with a couple of counter lefts though. Good low kick from Spencer. Jab and a right hand from Spencer. Garcia misses on a takedown and eats a glancing left kick. One-two lands hard for Alex. Exchange continues with both men landing shots. Good right hand over the top from Garcia. Left hand lands nicely for Spencer. Takedown attempt from Garcia but Spencer works to defend by getting his back to the fence. Alex rips him away though and forces him down into guard. He’s not near the fence this time either which makes it more difficult for him to get up. Tremendous job from Spencer to spider his way back to the fence though and he works to his feet and clocks Alex with a pair of left hooks. Two minutes to go. Spencer pushes forward but walks into a stiff jab. Another takedown from Garcia and he lands pretty much in half-guard, and then takes the back with one hook as Spencer tries to get up. Full mount follows. Spencer manages to shove off the fence though and escapes to his feet again, landing a quick combo. Left head kick glances for Spencer. Right hand sets up another takedown for Garcia but Spencer works to defend it. They break off and Alex lands a left hook. Spencer keeps pushing the pace though but he can’t land anything major and the fight ends on the feet. 10-9 Garcia for a closer-than-it-sounds 30-27.

Judges actually have it a split decision; 29-28 Garcia, 29-28 Spencer and 30-27 for Alex Garcia. No idea how you’d score that fight for Spencer really as I thought each round was semi-close, but really Garcia was getting all the takedowns and landed the more significant strikes too, even if he did get stunned a bit in that incredible second round. Tremendous fight though as Spencer acquitted himself much better than I expected him to against the uber-prospect Garcia, who for me lived up to the hype with a measured, well-paced performance that was excellent for his second UFC outing.

Featherweight Fight: Dennis Bermudez vs Jim Hettes

This fight promised fireworks as both guys tend to deliver excitement every time they step into the cage. Bermudez had been on a quiet but pretty spectacular five-fight win streak since coming off his TUF run, while Hettes had looked back to his best in an October win over Rob Whiteford. Close one to call but I was picking Dennis.

Round One and Bermudez opens with a nasty overhand right. Hettes fires back with a switch kick but Bermudez is really pushing forward and he lands with some leg kicks. Clinch from Hettes and they muscle for position on the fence, exchanging some knees inside. Good takedown from Hettes but Dennis pops right back up and separates. Takedown attempt from Bermudez now but Hettes blocks it and they’re back to the clinch. Beautiful trip takedown from Dennis but again Hettes pops back up. Inside leg kick from Dennis. Hettes comes back with a left hook and a knee, but Bermudez shoves him right to the ground and then pops him with a right hook as he stands. Single leg slam from Dennis showing ridiculous strength but again Hettes pops up. Bermudez stays on him and ragdolls him down again, but again Hettes stands. Big combo lands for Bermudez back into the clinch. Again they exchange knees and muscle for position before Bermudez breaks with a hard combo. He continues to land from close range but Hettes fires back with a left hand. Nice slam from Dennis and he lands in side mount. Hettes right away slides back into full guard. Good elbow from the top from Bermudez. This is a crazy pace to be setting early on. More elbows land for Bermudez but with seconds to go Hettes reverses to his feet. Takedown attempt from Hettes but Dennis blocks and rolls for a guillotine, but the time runs out before he can finish it off. 10-9 Bermudez in a really fun round.

Round Two and Bermudez comes out swinging for the fences before clinching and forcing Hettes back into the fence. Hard knee from Dennis as Hettes separates and then he gets right back on him in the clinch. Crazy aggression from Dennis here. He drops for a takedown but Hettes does a good job of keeping vertical this time. Nice knee inside from Hettes but Bermudez goes for a single leg again. Hettes blocks and they exchange knees, and suddenly Hettes looks like he’s taking some deep breaths. Bermudez isn’t giving him any space whatsoever here though. Trip attempt from Hettes fails and Bermudez winds up on top with Hettes on his knees. He stands and eats a vicious combo from Bermudez and down he goes. Hettes is in trouble. He tries to get a high guard, but Dennis moves right through it to side mount and he lands some nasty shots on the ground. Hettes manages to regain half-guard but Bermudez continues to land. Really big shots land for Dennis as he stacks up with Hettes in full guard now. Reversal from Hettes allows him back up to his feet but Bermudez whacks him with an overhand right and follows with another takedown. Hettes tries to reverse on the ground and almost goes into donkey guard (!), and in the scramble he manages to take Dennis’ back as they stand. Dennis tries to throw him but botches it and Hettes works one hook in. Thirty seconds to go and Hettes tries to slap the second hook in, then switches to a body triangle. Bermudez seems fine though and lasts out the round. 10-9 Bermudez.

Round Three and Bermudez comes out with a hard combo that leads to the clinch again. Big righ hand breaks for Bermudez and he continues to push forward. Hettes fires right back this time but it turns out to be an error as he goes for a jumping knee and eats a BIG RIGHT HAND COUNTER from Dennis that drops him hard! Bermudez instantly drops down and begins to punish him with forearm shots from inside the guard, and shows some smarts by not getting too wild and leaving his arms in jeopardy. Hettes tries to roll into almost a reverse guard, but he’s getting smashed to pieces here. To his credit though he’s keeping guard well. Dennis stacks him up though and continues to land shots. He decides to stand back and let him up, and from there he cracks him with an inside leg kick. Takedown attempt from Hettes fails and Dennis channels his inner Cro Cop and WAVES HIM BACK UP!~! Body shot from Bermudez drops him once more but again Dennis is having none of the guard and waves him up. BIG SHOTS land for Bermudez and finally a CRUSHING KNEE drops Hettes and he looks done. Sure enough the ref decides to call it there before Dennis can destroy him on the ground. Wow.

Tremendous fight and a tremendous showing from Dennis Bermudez. Hettes tried but Dennis was just ruthless here, setting an insane pace that gassed Hettes out and on the feet he largely outclassed him too, stringing together some great combos with some quality leg kicks. On the ground I expected Hettes to be more of a threat but Dennis was too savvy for that as well, slicing through the guard and stacking him up to deliver some brutal ground-and-pound. I didn’t expect it coming off TUF but I think Bermudez might be a legit contender at this point and I’m super-excited to see him step up another level to face Clay Guida later this month.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Jessica Andrade vs Raquel Pennington

Any time there’s a relatively new division, it’s always interesting to see fighters trying to establish themselves in the pecking order and so that made this one intriguing, as despite a questionable record, Pennington had looked excellent during her TUF run while Andrade had recovered from a one-sided loss to Liz Carmouche by really beating on Rosi Sexton in her second UFC fight. Despite Andrade’s impressive showing there I was leaning towards the toughness and size of Pennington to pull her through here.

Round One and they circle and look to trade punches. It’s Pennington who gets the better of it, using her reach well early on. Takedown attempt from Andrade but Pennington blocks it and lands a couple of hard knees inside the clinch. Andrade muscles her into the fence, but it looks like Raquel’s setting up for a guillotine choke. She begins to slide her arm through to get a clean choke rather than the arm-in variant, but Andrade manages to free her head and then works the body with a couple of rights. Beautiful hip throw from Andrade and she lands on top in half-guard. Pennington does well to work back into full guard, but Andrade lifts her up to deliver a nice mini-slam. It winds up going against her though as it allows Raquel to get to her feet using the fence. Another throw puts her right back down though in half-guard. Not much damage from Andrade but she shows good top control. Pennington manages to get back to guard, but Andrade postures up and now she opens up with some hard shots. Armbar attempt from Pennington and it looks quite deep actually. The Brazilian manages to work her arm free though and lands in side mount. Raquel gives her back and Andrade tries to roll into a choke, but Pennington hits a scramble and escapes to her feet. Good knee lands for Pennington in the clinch but Andrade throws her again. Pennington pops back up and that’s the round. 10-9 Andrade.

Round Two and a hard leg kick opens for Raquel. Trade follows and Andrade swarms on the TUF veteran with a flurry. Pennington has to clinch and muscles her into the fence, then secures a plum clinch to land a couple of knees to the body. Takedown attempt fails for Andrade and they trade punches with both girls landing. Good takedown from Andrade though and she plants Raquel on her back in guard. Quick scramble and Pennington’s up on her feet. Nice combo from Pennington. Andrade pushes forward with a front kick to the chest. Another hard combination lands for Raquel but Andrade is still stalking forward. Good low kick from Andrade. WILD TRADE follows and Pennington looks stunned for a second and has to clinch. Good knees answer for her though. This is turning into a hell of a fight. Combo from Pennington after they break off. Flurries land for both girls and they just EXCHANGE VIOLENTLY with both taking heavy shots. Takedown attempt from Andrade is stuffed. Good knees inside the clinch from Andrade before they break off. Hard low kick from Raquel. Stiff jab follows and she’s beginning to put together some combos. Andrade is quite happy to oblige though and they continue to trade with Andrade charging forward with reckless abandon. Holy shit this is a SHOOTOUT. Clinch slows things down and Pennington goes for a standing guillotine and really leans back into it, but she can’t quite force the tapout despite jumping to guard, and Andrade escapes and goes for her own guillotine on the buzzer. Fucking tremendous round. 10-9 Pennington.

Round Three and they exchange shots right away but it looks like Pennington’s trying to use more movement now to avoid Andrade’s rushes. Andrade backs her into the fence but Pennington fires back with a couple of real hard shots that slow the Brazilian down. This fight is so awesome, seriously. Andrade manages to clinch her against the fence, but Pennington lands with a heavy knee. This only seems to piss Andrade off and she opens up with a HARD combo. Pennington comes back by circling out and landing some good punches. Another combo lands for Andrade and backs Raquel up. Big flurry from Andrade and Pennington looks a little hurt but she still fires back in reply. Not sure why Andrade’s given up on the takedown now. They clinch and Andrade does indeed go for a takedown, but Pennington blocks it. Flurry again from Andrade and they trade off along the fence like Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida! Nice plum clinch and elbow from Pennington. Takedown attempt from Andrade is stuffed and Pennington lands a hard knee. Combo answers for Andrade and she backs Raquel up again. Another BIG TRADE follows and both girls land heavily. Pennington manages to sneak onto the back in the clinch and she drags Andrade down and lands some hammer fists. Looks like some were to the back of the head but the ref lets it go. Andrade pops back up but a suplex puts her back down, and more hammer fists follow. Andrade fights back up but Raquel’s making her wilt now and a fence grab prevents another takedown. BIG FLURRY ends the fight for Raquel and I think that gives her the round. 29-28 Pennington.

Judges have it 29-28 Andrade, 29-28 Pennington, and 29-28 for Jessica Andrade to pick up the split decision. Wouldn’t have gone that way myself but it was a wildly close fight to call so I wouldn’t label it a robbery or anything. Regardless of the result I think this was one of those fights with no real loser, as the women came out and absolutely THREW DOWN for three rounds, probably giving Dana White a heart attack and/or an orgasm at cageside. And quite rightfully so too – this was a tremendous fight that’s been unfairly forgotten this year I think! One of the best women’s fights I can remember since the division was introduced to the UFC in fact. Pennington might not win all of her fights but I think she’ll end up carving out a reputation as the Chris Lytle of the division in that she’ll brawl and have an exciting fight with pretty much anyone, and that’s a recipe for a long UFC career, so good for her. Andrade I think needs to hope the UFC institutes a 125lbs division for the girls soon as she’s a great fighter but seems too small to pack real heavy power into her shots at 135lbs.

Welterweight Fight: Kelvin Gastelum vs Rick Story

TUF 17 winner Gastelum had looked very impressive in his first post-TUF fight – a one-sided win against Brian Melancon – but at just 21 years old the highly experienced, formerly top-ten ranked Story seemed like a massive step up in competition. I was tempted to pick Story here but then I figured that Zuffa wouldn’t want Gastelum to lose and so must have a lot of faith in him, and so I decided to go with the TUF winner.

Fight begins and right away Story pressures Gastelum back by coming forward and landing a body shot. Gastelum pegs him back a bit with a stiff jab and circles out. Another one follows. It must be said that Story doesn’t look nearly as huge for 170lbs as he once did, like in his peak in 2011. Combo glances for Story as Gastelum does well to get out of the way, and he lands with another hard jab. Inside leg kick from Kelvin. Story is really swinging but he’s having a hard time landing on the TUF winner. Looks like he’s cut from the jab too. Jab connects for Story. Flurry glances for Story but a hard left hand stops him in his tracks. Another heavy left lands for Kelvin. He follows pretty much out of nowhere with a BIG LEFT HEAD KICK and Story stumbles all over the place! He looks in trouble and Gastelum follows him down and looks to finish, swarming with punches as Story desperately tries to get guard and hang on. He manages to get a butterfly guard hooked in and slows Kelvin down enough to survive. Sweep attempt from Story fails and Gastelum moves to side mount and then takes the back off a scramble. Another scramble follows and Story escapes out the back door and stands. He looks recovered now but he’s busted up. Beautiful counter right lands for Gastelum and he shrugs off a clinch with a knee. Hard combo from Kelvin. Story just looks bewildered. Couple of leg kicks land for Gastelum. Seconds remaining and Story lands a leg kick of his own, but eats a left hand to end the round. 10-9 Gastelum in a pretty great round for him. Close to a 10-8 in fact.

Into the 2nd and Story rushes out but again Kelvin’s movement allows him to dodge the flurry. Gastelum continues to fire out with straight punches that catch Story cleanly. Gastelum’s jab is looking phenomenal. Nice leg kick from the TUF winner too. Story’s left cheek looks cut up. He’s swinging and missing. Sick combo from Gastelum has Story a little rocked again. Looked like a big left hand did the damage. Low kick from Kelvin but Story answers with a hard right to the body. Body kick follows. Two minutes to go and Kelvin connects with another jab. Counter combo lands for Story though as Kelvin’s movement is beginning to slow down slightly. Story’s definitely beginning to land more. Body kick connects for the veteran. Combo glances for Gastelum and he takes a left hand counter. Right hook from Kelvin comes over the top. One minute to go and Gastelum stings him with a jab. Double jab answers for Story. Nasty combo snaps Story’s head back. Leg kick lands cleanly for the TUF winner too. Kelvin comes forward but this time he walks into a HEAVY LEFT HOOK and looks stumbled! Story charges in sensing a finish, and opens up with a WILD FLURRY! Kelvin tries to answer, but he’s outgunned and STORY DROPS HIM HARD! Gastelum looks DONE, but manages to just about hold on until the round ends. Jesus Christ that was close. Erm, 10-10 round as Gastelum was winning it comfortably but Story came SO CLOSE to a finish at the end there.

Third and final round and this could still go either way. Nice leg kick opens things for Story. Jab connects for Gastelum and his movement seems to have returned as he dodges a combo. Another good leg kick from Story sets up a left hand. Left hook glances over the top for the veteran. Leg kick from Gastelum. Stiff jab follows. Takedown attempt from Story but Gastelum blocks it. Story drives him back into the fence and keeps looking for it, but he eats some nasty elbows to the side of the head in the process. Gastelum turns him around and forces him back into the fence, where he lands a solid knee to the body. Three minutes to go and they break, and Gastelum hurts Story badly with a combo, then drives him to the ground with a double leg. Story looks to pop back up but a trip puts him back down and Kelvin takes the back. Story scrambles though and manages to get top position, taking Kelvin’s back with one hook! He gets the second hook in and looks to set up the choke, but Gastelum defends and looks pretty calm to be fair. He tries to turn into Story, but the veteran controls him well and continues to look for the choke. One hook slips out for Story and Gastelum manages to spin over and gets on top. Story explodes to his feet and they break off. Seconds to go and Gastelum comes forward swinging, landing a right hand that snaps Story’s head back. Takedown is shrugged off by Gastelum who tags him with a left, but Story fires right back and it’s a SHOOTOUT to end the round! Really difficult fight to score. I’d probably call it a draw actually giving Story the 10-9 third, but you could argue Gastelum took the second based on like four and ¾ minutes of dominance.

Judges have it another split decision; 29-28 Story, 29-28 Gastelum and 30-27 for Kelvin Gastelum to remain undefeated. Another really exciting, back-and-forth fight although I wouldn’t say it was as good as either Pennington/Andrade or Garcia/Spencer. Like with the previous fight you could argue for the win going the other way but couldn’t claim a robbery, as Story winning the second round was based on him making a dramatic comeback after getting the worst of the five minutes. Big win for Gastelum to knock off a former top ten fighter in just his third UFC outing and ninth overall, but I don’t think that’s a sign to rush him up the ladder right away and I’d argue in favour of giving him at least two guys lower down than Story in fact as he’s so young and has plenty of time to develop.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ovince St. Preux vs Nikita Krylov

This was the lone fight on the main card that didn’t interest me that much, but to be fair I don’t have a problem with them trying to showcase some new blood in a thinner division like 205lbs either. OSP had looked good since coming over from StrikeForce, taking wins over Gian Villante and Cody Donovan, but he was still looking for that signature win inside the UFC, while Krylov was dropping to 205lbs for the first time following a 1-1 run at Heavyweight. Given that one of those fights was arguably one of the sloppiest fights in UFC history, I was taking St. Preux to win here.

Round One and it must be said, St. Preux’s tattoos are weird. Like implants under his skin or something. Krylov looks in far better shape at 205lbs. He pushes forward early on with some kicks but doesn’t really land cleanly. Takedown from OSP but Krylov grabs a guillotine. OSP moves into side mount to avoid it but Krylov keeps hold of the neck. Good control from OSP and he moves Krylov towards the fence. OSP moves his left leg across Krylov’s right arm, and suddenly the ref steps in as Krylov’s unconscious. Wow.

Announcers didn’t even notice what was going on but the replay shows OSP locked his hands together around Krylov’s neck and shoulder and busted out the ultra-rare VON FLUE CHOKE to turn his lights out. Crazy stuff as nobody had pulled that submission off since, well, Jason Von Flue himself back in 2006. Not much of a fight really but massive kudos to OSP for recognizing that the choke was there when Krylov kept hold of the guillotine despite being underneath side mount.

Welterweight Fight: Hector Lombard vs Jake Shields

The first big fight for the 170lbs division on this card, both of these men were coming off big wins (Lombard over Nate Marquardt, Shields over Demian Maia) and were looking to put their name into the hat of title contenders – especially for Shields now that GSP was out of the way. I couldn’t see him beating Lombard though – on paper Hector looked like a disastrous match for him, a far superior striker with awesome takedown defense – but then I said the same about Tyron Woodley and somehow Shields beat him.

Round One and right away Lombard comes out swinging. Shields clinches but Hector THROWS HIM TO THE GROUND LIKE A CHILD and lands a hammer fist before avoiding a Shields takedown and coming back to his feet. Good lord. Head kick misses for Shields and Lombard shoves him to the floor again before calling him back up. Couple of weak jabs fire out for Shields but Lombard tags him with a heavy combo that forces him to clinch again. Knee breaks for Hector. Another combo tags Shields as he lumbers forward. Takedown attempt is easily blocked by Lombard and they end up clinched again. Things slow down slightly before another combo on the break has Shields hurt and retreating. Looks like Shields is cut over the left eye too. Takedown attempt is again avoided by Lombard and he throws Shields down and lands a flurry before letting him up. Jake looks terrified of committing to his strikes here. Another takedown is shrugged off and Lombard opens up with a flurry ending in a kick. Shields goes down and Lombard pounds away before Jake manages to cling onto guard. Lombard lands with some short ground-and-pound but doesn’t do that much damage and the round peters out on the ground. Basically a 10-8 round for Lombard though as he had Shields hurt like three times and Jake literally had no offense.

Round Two and Shields throws out a couple of kicks, but Hector tags him with punches again and forces him back. He tries to grab Lombard but Hector just trips him to the ground HARD again, landing in side mount. Shields works back to half-guard as Lombard lands a couple of shots. Full guard now and Lombard seems like he’s content just to chill in the guard with the odd punch and hammer fist. Ref Don Turnage decides to call a stand-up and both guys now look tentative. Shields’ striking is looking woeful, sorry. Left hand lands for Lombard and he sprawls to avoid a takedown, controlling Shields’ head before looking for a cradle. Instead he decides to stand, taking an upkick on the way. Shields joins him and manages to connect on a body kick. Nice short left from Lombard and he hits a SICK hip throw from the clinch that plants Shields in side mount. Seconds to go and Shields tries to reverse, managing to get to guard, but he can’t really control Hector and the round ends on the ground. 10-9 Lombard but he was almost being sucked into Shields’ awful striking game with both guys doing little near the end.

Round Three and again Shields opens with some kicks, not really doing much damage though. Lombard seems to have slowed down a lot as if he’s just conserving energy. Left to the body from Hector. Kick connects low for Lombard and the ref has to call time. Lombard is warned and they restart. Single leg attempt from Shields but Lombard stuffs it and then throws him down into full guard. Short ground-and-pound from Lombard but he doesn’t stay active and the ref stands them up again. Another takedown attempt is stuffed by Lombard and he spins out to the side, causing Jake to slide under and pull guard. Shields’ face is busted up badly. Lombard isn’t doing much on top to be fair. He keeps Jake down and lands some short shots but nothing major. One minute to go and the ref calls another restart, and Jake throws his usual jabs before Lombard takes him down again. This time Shields goes for a guillotine and it does look tight, but it’s too little, too late and the round ends. 10-9 Lombard for a 30-26 shutout.

Judges have it a unanimous decision for Hector Lombard, 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. No clue how you’d give Shields a round there but it’s Texas I guess. Blah. This was an odd fight as it was like, a bunch of short exciting moments padded out with tons of nothing as Lombard decided to play it smart-ish and never really blew his wad trying to finish Shields. It’s weird because if you watched this you’d think it wasn’t really an impressive win for Lombard at all – especially when you compare it to his other two UFC victories – but in reality you can’t understate how big a win it is given Shields had beaten Akiyama, Woodley and Maia in his last three at 170lbs. Somehow the guy just has a way of sucking opponents in with his cruddy striking game even if he can’t get them to the ground where he’s admittedly great. Lombard was able to avoid all of that though and basically shut him out to the point where he had zero offense. Not a flashy win for Hector but an impressive one then nonetheless. Shields was cut following this and while I like all the top fighters in the UFC, I’d be lying if I said I missed him.

Lightweight Fight: Myles Jury vs Diego Sanchez

After his incredible war with Gilbert Melendez at UFC 166, Sanchez’s name was back on everyone’s lips for the first time since like 2009 really, and so I expected Zuffa to match him with someone higher on the totem pole than Jury – even if Myles was unbeaten and had thoroughly whitewashed the currently streaking Michael Johnson when they fought in 2012. Personally – call it wishful thinking maybe – Jury was a matchup designed to give Diego a much-needed win to put him back into title contention.

First round and they circle with Jury throwing out some jabs. Spin kick misses for Diego and Jury cracks him with a right hand, causing Diego to tell him to bring it. They continue to exchange from distance with Jury showing a lot of movement. Quick flurry lands for Diego and allows him to get to the clinch despite eating a right counter from Myles. Few knees inside for Diego but Jury breaks off. Body kick from Jury. He’s clearly in counter mode here. Body kick from Diego is caught and Jury almost takes him down, but Diego hops out. Couple of decent counters connect for Myles. Diego tells him to bring it and then charges in with a flurry, but Jury avoids the brunt of it and lands some sharper counters. Jumping front kick misses for Diego but a leg kick connects. Good right from Myles. Head kick follows and he avoids Diego as he tries to chase him down. Nice job by Jury to avoid Diego and then he takes him down. Good right hand from the top lands for Jury but Diego rolls into a leglock. Jury avoids that and takes the back, but Diego stands and hits a switch to end the round. 10-9 Jury as he did a good job of avoiding being drawn into a shootout.

Second round and Jury again opens with a lot of movement and strikes from the outside. Good body kick from Diego and he glances on a flurry, but Jury lands with a right elbow that wobbles him a bit. Looks like Diego’s cut as per usual. He begins to chase Myles down some more, tagging him with a right hand, but Jury stays on his bike and lands a couple of counters again. Lot of blood coming from Diego’s face and Jury is potshotting him. Diego keeps trying to chase him down but it’s not working at all. Crowd aren’t really into Jury’s matador impression but it’s smart I guess. Good body kick lands for Diego but he takes some more jabs from the outside. Beautiful right lands for Jury and he follows with a double leg to guard. Guillotine attempt from Diego, but he can’t synch it up and Myles works free and connects on an elbow. Scramble from Diego allows him to his feet but he takes a nasty uppercut from Jury. Stiff jab from Myles and he avoids another rush to end the round. 10-9 Jury. He’s owning Diego here.

Third round and Jury looks confident, striking from the outside to begin again. Wild flurry lands for Diego and backs Jury up, but Myles isn’t hurt and he circles out to sting Diego with jabs and a body kick. Hard body kick lands for Diego. Head kick glances for Jury. Diego tries another rush but Jury circles out to avoid well. Decent combo lands to the body for Diego but he’s taking much more shots from Myles. Jury doesn’t seem to be wilting either even when Diego tries to rush and pressure him. They clinch and Myles moves him into the fence and drops for a takedown. Diego blocks it and they break off. Beautiful counter right catches Diego coming forward. Flying knee attempt from Diego and he rushes in desperately, but Myles ducks under and takes him down. Elbows land from the bottom for Diego as Jury works to pass. He stands over Diego and then drops back into the guard where Diego goes for an armbar, but Jury easily shrugs it off. Couple of punches land for Jury over the top, but Diego works to his feet to end the fight with a guillotine attempt. Got to be a 30-27 for Jury.

Scorecards read 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Myles Jury. Like the previous fight I don’t know how you could give Diego a round here .Big win for Jury as he fought the smart fight, refused to get drawn into a brawl by Diego and basically played the matador for fifteen minutes, using his movement and counter striking to tag Diego and chaining his takedowns in there too for good measure. This was really disappointing as a Diego fan and supposed food poisoning notwithstanding, I don’t know whether it’s good for him to be fighting at this point, especially when guys like Jury who I don’t really think are like top five in the world or anything can beat him with relative ease like this. He’ll always be one of my favourite fighters to watch but it might be time for him to hang it up. In the very least if Zuffa want to keep him around they need to book him with fellow brawlers or grapplers to guarantee exciting fights, because this wasn’t exactly a barnburner either.

Welterweight Fight: Tyron Woodley vs Carlos Condit

From all sources, this fight was put together basically by Woodley badgering Dana White over and over for an opportunity to fight Condit, and as Dana likes guys who actually ask for fights rather than just saying “I’ll fight whoever UFC gives me”, he got his wish. Most people seemed to think – despite Woodley looking great against Josh Koscheck at UFC 167 – that Condit would probably be a step too far for him due to his well-rounded nature and great cardio, but I actually thought the styles matched up better for Woodley. After all, Condit’s takedown defense has always been his big weakness and I thought over three rounds, Woodley would be able to strike with Carlos enough to set up his takedowns and hold him down to take a decision.

Round One and Condit presses forward tentatively to begin, but Woodley suddenly springs forward and NAILS him with a right hand that forces him on the retreat. Good lord does Carlos have a good chin. Another right lands for Woodley to counter a kick but somehow Condit seems fine. More punches from Woodley tag Carlos as he looks to close him down. Spin kick lands for Condit but Woodley counters with a right and then clinches. Condit defends the takedown well and they trade short shots inside the clinch, landing with punches and knees. Nice uppercut lands inside for Woodley. They break off with two minutes to go and Condit pegs him back with a quick combo. Good leg kick sets up a high kick for Condit. Superman punch lands for Condit but Woodley ducks under and takes him down to guard. Triangle attempt from Condit but Woodley slams his way free and they stand. Combo from Condit but Woodley tags him again with another right hand. Head kick misses for Condit and Woodley gets another takedown to guard. Woodley decides to stand free when Condit goes for the triangle again. Combo glances for Woodley. Spinning backfist lands for him but Condit walks through it and clinches before landing a combo of his own to end the round. Interesting first round; 10-9 Woodley.

Round Two and Condit comes out throwing a lot of kicks that glance off Woodley. He’s forcing Tyron back now. Good right hand lands for Woodley on the counter though. Takedown from Woodley and Condit visibly grimaces as they hit the ground, causing the announcers to suspect he’s hurt his back. He gets full guard at any rate and lands some elbows from his back as Woodley peppers him with punches. Ref Kerry Hatley calls a stand-up and Condit seems okay. HEAVY leg kick lands for Woodley though and Condit spins all the way around and goes down, and evidently it’s a knee injury as the ref has to step in and call it there. TKO for Tyron Woodley.

Unfortunate ending to what was shaping up to be an excellent fight. The first round went exactly how I suspected the fight would go, and in all honesty I think Woodley was on his way to taking a decision, but we’ll never truly know. Terrible break for Condit though as not only did he lose this fight but it turned out he’d blown his ACL which means a long time on the shelf, and in a division as stacked as 170lbs that’s a terrible thing to happen, particularly when you have red-hot prospects like Brandon Thatch and Gunnar Nelson shooting up the ranks, as well as contenders like Matt Brown and Rory MacDonald still in there too. I thought this would be enough to get Woodley a title shot actually but I guess the asterisk alongside the win made Zuffa think twice and he’s since lost to MacDonald in a disappointing fight. This however was an exciting fight until the abrupt ending.

UFC World Welterweight Title: Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler

Main event was of course put together when Georges St-Pierre made the decision to vacate the title he’d held since April 2008 (!), basically citing burnout and the stress of being champion as his reasons. Hendricks was a no-brainer to be one half of the fight for the vacant belt as a lot of people would probably argue he should’ve won the title from GSP in November anyway, but his opponent was a trickier proposition. I thought they’d go with Carlos Condit actually as Condit’s first fight with Hendricks had been incredible and also razor-close, but in the end Lawler – who had had an amazing 2013, returning to the UFC with wins over Josh Koscheck, Bobby Voelker and most importantly Rory MacDonald – was chosen. Pretty incredible story given Lawler first burst into the UFC at 170lbs back in 2002 – even before St-Pierre himself! As far as a pick went, I was rooting for Lawler, but couldn’t see past Hendricks as I felt that if he got into trouble standing, he could always fall back on his phenomenal wrestling game. Still, you can never count a guy with Lawler’s power out – especially after Hendricks missed weight on his first attempt.

Round One and Hendricks opens with a leg kick. Another one follows but Lawler flurries on him and backs him up into the fence. Knee connects for Lawler and they break off. Left hand glances over the top for Hendricks. Both men flick out some jabs before Lawler lands with a left. Clinch from Hendricks and he moves Robbie into the cage. They muscle for position with Hendricks connecting on some knees to the thighs. Pair of lefts break for Hendricks. Combo glances for Lawler and Hendricks goes for a takedown. Lawler manages to stay on his feet, but he takes a knee and a left hand in the process before they break. Nice leg kick connects for Hendricks. Couple of jabs land for Lawler as he looks to set up his left hand. Nice combo into an uppercut from Hendricks and Lawler grins at him and lands a jab. Nice combo from Hendricks sets up another takedown attempt, but still he can’t get Lawler down. Seconds to go in the round and they remain clinched. Hendricks works some more knees and that’s the round. Close-ish round. 10-9 Hendricks I think.

Round Two and Hendricks shows some nice head movement to avoid an early combo. Jab does connect for Lawler and he follows with a hard left hand. Crowd are behind Lawler. He’s moving around more early in this round and still flicking the jab out. Uppercut lands for Lawler but Hendricks meets him with a right and a low kick. Combo from Lawler but Hendricks comes over the top with a left hand and follows with a really hard leg kick. Good combo lands for Hendricks. Both men are looking to work the jab now. Jab sets up a left cross for Hendricks and he follows with a knee to the body and another chopping leg kick. Lawler tries to open up with a combo but Hendricks does a good job of avoiding a lot of it and he tags Robbie with a combo of his own. Hendricks appears to be the crisper and more varied striker here. Lawler doesn’t seem worried though and is quite happy to continue the exchange. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Lawler and he tries a front choke but Hendricks quickly pops free. Couple more jabs from Lawler and he’s really trying to use head movement now. Hard left hand lands for Hendricks. Lawler continues to push forward though and both men land jabs. Hendricks is putting together his combinations nicely though. This is becoming a great fight. Right hook into a head kick just misses for Lawler. Big knee and a left hand land for Hendricks and he lands the leg kick again, but Robbie cracks him with a left on the buzzer. Awesome stuff. Hendricks got the better of the exchanges though so I have him 20-18 up thus far.

Round Three and Lawler comes out with a pair of right hooks into a leg kick. Hendricks answers with a combo ending in a pair of leg kicks. Lawler fires back with another one of his own. They’re pretty much openly exchanging now. They exchange some jabs and Hendricks goes to the body with a left. Low kick from Lawler. Another nice combination lands for Hendricks but Lawler grins at him and fires right back. These guys just don’t care at all about taking a hit to give one. Hard left connects for Hendricks. Both men continue to land the jab. Good combo lands for Lawler. Short left from Lawler wobbles Hendricks’ legs and he retreats, and Robbie closes in with a BIG COMBO and Hendricks is ALL OVER THE PLACE! Left lands again for Lawler and Hendricks is in deep trouble. He’s swinging back but taking the bigger shots from Lawler. Another combo wobbles Hendricks bad. Lawler’s landing cleanly almost every time at the minute. Another combo has Hendricks wobbled and he decides to shoot. Lawler defends though and they break off. Hendricks seems somewhat recovered and he’s swinging back but Lawler’s still landing the better blows. They’re basically just standing in the pocket exchanging now though. BEAUTIFUL combo from Hendricks but Lawler NO-SELLS IT AND NAILS HIM BACK! This is tremendous. Knee and a jab snap Lawler’s head back. Exchange finally slows down a little to end the round. Incredible stuff. 10-9 Lawler.

Round Four and both guys come out swinging and it’s a CRAZY EXCHANGE to open with Lawler landing the slightly better shots. Big left hand over the top glances for Hendricks. Pair of lefts and a big knee land for Lawler and another left have him a bit wobbled. Lawler OPENS UP but Hendricks pegs him back with a left hand. Hendricks looks BUSTED UP. Brutally stiff jabs land for Lawler and he’s chaining his combinations together and landing at will. Hendricks fires right back but right now he looks outgunned, total turnaround from the first two rounds. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Lawler. Heavy left hook lands to the body for Robbie. Hendricks is bleeding badly now, practically wearing the crimson mask. Lawler for what it’s worth barely has a scratch on him. Exchange continues and now Hendricks seems to be coming back before Lawler slows him down with a left. Plum clinch from Lawler but he can’t quite land a nasty knee. Leg kick from Hendricks but Lawler NAILS him with an uppercut that snaps his head right back. Somehow though Hendricks TAKES IT LIKE A MAN and comes back SWINGING. Lawler answers with some stiff jabs and neither man is backing down an inch. It’s beginning to look like a Rocky movie. Holy shit does Hendricks’ right eye look bad. Good leg kick from Lawler too. Hard left into a leg kick from Hendricks. Takedown attempt from Johny with seconds to go and this time he gets it, going into the low Kawajiri mount before grabbing a front facelock as Lawler scrambles. Buzzer goes there. Lawler’s round though as he clearly outlanded Hendricks again. So it’s all even going into the fifth!

Between rounds Marc Laimon tells Hendricks to “stay focused, with JOHNY VISION ON”. That’s fucking brilliant, dude. Johny vision!

Round Five and the crowd are LOUD. And of course we open with an exchange of jabs because why the hell not? Crowd seem to be behind Lawler still. Heavy left lands for him as Hendricks pushes forward. Looks like Hendricks is going to push the pace here though. Single leg takedown attempt from Hendricks and he drives Lawler into the cage. Lawler works to defend it though and stays upright, but Hendricks won’t get off him and lands some knees to the right leg. Lawler defends it well and Dan Miragliotta calls a clean break. Jab and a left hand from Lawler. Heavy combination lands for Hendricks and a leg kick has Lawler slightly hurt. He keeps on firing back though and both men are landing. Two minutes to go and the fight’s still in the balance. Nasty right hook from Lawler and another one rocks him, but somehow he fires back and STUNS LAWLER WITH A COMBO! Hendricks really starts to pour it on, landing a pair of vicious left hands that hurt Robbie and pop the crowd. Somehow Lawler’s still standing though and he fires back but takes another heavy uppercut. Left hook slightly wobbles Lawler. Brutal combo ends in a leg kick for Hendricks and he follows with a BIG TAKEDOWN. Less than a minute to go and that might secure the round and title for him. Lawler sits up but he looks furious with himself and he shakes his head. He tries to work back up, but Hendricks keeps him down and lands some short punches to the body. Round ends with Hendricks on top and I’ve got him winning 48-47. Incredible fight.

Official scores are 48-47 all round for the NEW UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION…..Johny Hendricks. Crowd seem pretty split actually but I’d call it the right decision for sure. Basically these guys just came out and threw caution to the wind and WENT TO WAR, giving us what I’d say was one of the top five UFC title fights of all time off the top of my head. Certainly the best Welterweight title match since Hughes/Trigg in 2005 and perhaps even better than that. GSP was great of course but he was so dominant that he never needed to get into a crazy war like this one! Basically Hendricks came out stronger, chained his combos together better and took the first two rounds, but it looked like Lawler really found his range and settled into a rhythm in the third round and from there *he* took over and to be honest, had Hendricks hurt in the third and the fourth more than Johny had been able to hurt him in the first two. But the fifth was the important round and when it came down to it, Hendricks just had more left and he basically tore the title from Lawler’s grasp, and that to me is the mark of a true champion. Does Lawler deserve a rematch? If he takes out Matt Brown in a couple of weeks (after taking out Jake Ellenberger in May) I’d say so yeah, but it’s a pity that it has to be an immediate rematch for Hendricks who’s been on the shelf since this one – if only because another crazy war like this could well shorten his career! Fight of the Year thus far in my opinion.

-Highlight reel rolls and it’s goodnight from Texas.

Final Thoughts….

Okay, let’s get the cons out of the way first. This was a LONG SHOW, with thirteen fights of which ten either went the distance or finished in the third round, which means it’s a hell of a lot of MMA to sit through. Thankfully though the majority of it is really high-level stuff, with no truly crap fights and a bunch of crazy wars (Garcia/Spencer, Pennington/Andrade, Gastelum/Story, Bermudez/Hettes) on the undercard to go along with that insane main event. Rest of the main card wasn’t overly great as Diego’s fight was a little disappointing and obviously Woodley/Condit ended in a bad way, but even then, there’s still the Von Flue choke and who could knock that? I’d give this one a high recommendation for the main event alone, and so many other great fights are a bonus. Best UFC of the year thus far? Probably.

Best Fight: Hendricks vs. Lawler
Worst Fight: Jury vs. Sanchez

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com