Johny Hendricks was tapped as the man to push the champion, and he did.
The challenger fought valiantly for the full 25 minutes, and it seemed as if he had done enough to take the title away from the long-time champion. However, the judges saw it differently. Hendricks lost a split decision to GSP in Vegas, and then GSP announced that he would be taking time off, leaving the division in a state of flux.
Hendricks was visibly depressed by the result, and it is understandable to feel that way. Yet, to the UFC president and to the majority of media and fans, he was the rightful winner. Hendricks should be the champion. He is the champion that wasn't.
If GSP is gone for an extended period of time it seems almost a lock that Hendricks will make up one-half of the next championship fight. Even if GSP does return, it seems as if the UFC will put together an immediate rematch. Bigg Rigg will have his chance to capture UFC gold.
Much could be said about the state of MMA judging, but at this point it is beating a dead horse. Everyone knows MMA judging is terrible, and especially atrocious in Nevada, home to the most influential athletic commission. But in recent years, its judging in combat sports has put a black eye on its reputation.
UFC 167 did not help.
The result is of no fault to GSP. He fought hard. He didn't steal the scorecards and alter them. The backlash directed towards the champion is unwarranted. Regardless, his announcement after the fight has most scratching their heads.
Hendricks stated at the post-fight press conference that he only threw his punches at 75 percent power, and now he has proved to himself he can go five full rounds. In his next title bout, we may see Hendricks unleash 100 percent of his power. This fight will only make him more dangerous.
Whether it be GSP or another challenger, Hendricks will get another chance at gold. If he performs as he did at UFC 167, he will have his hand raised. He is now the “People's Champion.” Unfortunately, that doesn't come with the benefits of actually being the champion.
There are still a lot of things to figure out. UFC 167 has just concluded. Hendricks will come out of this event with more confidence, and as one of the division's biggest draws. There is some semblance of a silver lining for the Oklahoma State cowboy.
Hendricks is the champion that wasn't, as of UFC 167. As the calendar turns to 2014, it looks as though he will have the chance to become the champion that reigns.