On Nov. 17, top welterweights Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann will battle at UFC 154.
The winner will undoubtedly be "in the mix" for a title. But that's not good enough. UFC leaders should come right out and announce that this winner of this fight will receive the next welterweight title shot.
Why? First, the fighters themselves. Martin Kampmann, the 30-year-old well-rounded Dane (20-5, 15-4 UFC), fights to win and to be remembered. His electric Muay Thai and warrior's chin are increasingly buttressed by an improving jiu-jitsu game, which netted him Submission of the Night honors in March after he choked out Thiago Alves.
Hendricks, 29 (13-1, 8-1 UFC), is an accomplished wrestler with thunder in both fists. He's not afraid to tangle on the ground, but he'd much rather keep it standing.
They are both excellent and dynamic fighters, and they've earned their way here. Between them, they've beaten the very top of the division, big names like Jon Fitch, Josch Koscheck and Jake Ellenberger.
But their claim is made of more than bona fides (and as you know, in the real world, that's not always enough). Both of these men are young, and they bring new blood to the welterweight title picture.
Many of the UFC's championship stories have, in recent years, grown stagnant. In some divisions, you see the same two or three faces over and over again. At welterweight, injuries to champion Georges St-Pierre have all but put the division on ice. When he faces interim champion Carlos Condit (also at UFC 154), this will be a battle of two belt holders who have defended their belts a combined zero times in the past 19 months.
Now take Hendricks and Kampmann. Hendricks has never fought either current champion. Kampmann beat Carlos Condit by split decision back in 2009. Neither has ever fought for a belt in any promotion. Talk about new blood.
Perhaps more importantly, though, both of these men love to stay active. This will be the fifth fight for both Hendricks and Kampmann in 2011 and 2012.
And make no mistake: Both men are hungry for the shot, and confident they could do something with it.
Kampmann has asserted that, yes, he deserves the shot, and pledged to prove it this month by knocking Johny Hendricks out.
Meanwhile, Hendricks has asserted that, yes, he deserves a title shot, and pledged to prove it this month by knocking Martin Kampmann out.
What more do you need to see? Two talented, accomplished, young and hungry competitors who put on a show and do it often. Two men who have taken no shortcuts to reach this point should be rewarded for doing the right things by being assured of the shot they both want and deserve.
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