UFC 171 features an Undisputed UFC Welterweight Championship bout without Georges St. Pierre for the first time since 2006.
Hendricks nearly captured the title back at UFC 167. A controversial decision went to the longtime champion, GSP, and Hendricks could not believe it. His opponent at UFC 171 also fought at UFC 167.
Lawler looked phenomenal in a split-decision win over the highly touted Rory MacDonald. The improbable title run started with a knockout over Josh Koscheck, and now could conclude by hoisting gold nearly 12 years after his UFC debut.
The title is up for grabs, and this is an early look at the non-GSP title matchup.
This is a fairly even category between the two hard-hitting fighters.
Hendricks' striking has slowly developed since he made the transition to the sport, and we saw just how far it has come along against quality strikers Carlos Condit and GSP. He has solid technical skills to back up his jaw-dropping power.
Lawler is much the same way, but he has more experience at this point. Although, that is not why he gets the edge standing.
The scale tilts slightly to Lawler's side because of his proven ability to mix it up. He has knee and head-kick stoppages to his credit. He is not just a power puncher. Lawler attacks leg kicks well, and digs to the body with hard shots.
He has a few more options then Hendricks.
If the fight stays standing, it will be a very fun fight to watch.
Lawler has a wrestling background, but it is nothing on the same level as Hendricks.
Very few fighters do have an equal background to Hendrick's. He is a highly accomplished wrestler who has brought those talents into the cage with him. No one need look any further than his fight against GSP for how good he is.
Lawler will not want to make this a grappling battle. Hendricks is going to dominate in close, and from top position.
There is little question as to who holds the edge in this category.
This slide feels like a bit of a waste considering how these two fight, but in the fight game you never know what will happen. The element of surprise is a big factor.
Between the two they only have two submissions. Lawer via armbar in 2005, and Hendricks via D'Arce choke in 2008. They are not submission specialists. They like to finish with knockouts.
Hendricks will probably be in better positions throughout the fight, but Lawler has more experience and tools as a submission fighter.
They both have excellent jiu-jitsu coaches, and a good amount of submissions they simply choose not to utilize. This is one where experience tips the scale.
Hendricks' X-Factor: Cardio
Lawler has only been to the championship rounds once before in his career, but that was years ago against Frank Trigg at middleweight.
Hendricks is just coming off a five-round bout with GSP that had a considerable pace to it, and he held up well. Now with another five-rounder on its heels he'll have even better cardio. Hendricks' wrestling can be used to suck the life from Lawler.
The longer this fight drags on the less likely Lawler is to land a big shot, and the more likely he will be a bigger target for Hendricks' offense. Hendricks needs to go uptempo and drag Lawler deeper and deeper into this fight.
Lawler's X-Factor: Take Chances
Lawler has KO power in his hands, knees and kicks. He needs to take chances to land them.
Hendricks can nullify Lawler's big weapons by initiating the clinch, and taking the fight to the mat. And at some point that seems like an inevitability. That is why Lawler needs to throw caution to the wind if he wants to become the improbable UFC champion no one saw coming.
Lawler should leave it all in the cage. It is what brought him to the dance.
Two hard-throwing welterweights will look for the knockout, but I don't think we'll see a showstopping KO in this fight.
The pressure of the title fight will force both men to be a bit conservative in their approach, and that will lead Hendricks to utilizing his wrestling early and often to pick up rounds on the judges' scorecards. Those takedowns will tax Lawler.
Eventually, Hendricks will be able to deliver fight-ending ground-and-pound on Lawler.
Hendricks will dominate this fight. He'll put Lawler in uncomfortable positions, avoid his power and grind on him until he can elicit the stoppage. Hendricks wears the belt after a stoppage in the championship rounds.
Prediction: Hendricks defeats Lawler by TKO in the fourth round