Nobody mistakes the power that exists in UFC welterweight title contender Johny Hendricks' hands, especially when it comes to his left hand. In 15 career wins, eight men tried to survive Hendricks' onslaught to no avail, while an official total of six men dropped decisions to him.
We say "an official total of six men" because while Hendricks did damage former UFC welterweight champion Georges "Rush" St-Pierre, he dropped a controversial split-decision verdict to St-Pierre, who to his credit, edged Hendricks out in significant strikes landed.
Still, Hendricks gets the chance for redemption this Saturday when he faces "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Much like Hendricks' career often stands out because of his career wins, Lawler's career is defined by the fact that most of his wins have come via knockout. In fact, he has 16 KOs, which comes as no surprise given his experience in the sport.
The fact that Lawler can put guys away with more than just a left or right hand makes him even that much more of a threat to Hendricks. It also serves as one of the reasons why a number of MMA fans anticipate this bout ending inside the distance via one form or another of a knockout.
While no question exists that both can knock each other out, does that mean it will happen when the cage door shuts?
Absolutely not, and while both men appear primed for an intense five-round battle that promises to end before the championship rounds, the matchup on paper suggests that a decision will determine the new UFC welterweight champion.
After all, when it comes down to the bare bones of the matter, the knockout ability only tells a portion of the story, in comparison to other overlooked aspects of the bout.
For instance, consider Lawler's three-inch reach advantage. Anytime he lays hands on someone, he always hurts them badly, even if he can't finish them.
In his UFC 167 win over Rory MacDonald, as well as in early-career bouts against Chris Lytle and Aaron Riley, Lawler proved that he can use his striking effectively to dictate the tempo of the bout while going the distance, even if he gets taken down a few times or put in precarious positions.
In other words, he won't worry if he finds himself in a situation where he swings and lands with deadly intentions and yet can't knock Hendricks out.
Lawler knows he can pick Hendricks apart if he needs to, even if it costs him the chance to finish the fight. Besides, no durable opponent on earth will discourage him from trying to blast someone with anything that might end the fight anyway.
"Bigg Rigg" will not go down on his home turf without making it a struggle, though. Remember, Lawler head kicked a durable young man in Bobby Voelker and earned a solid win, but rocking Voelker's dome like a hurricane does not compare to cracking Hendricks' jaw.
So far, no welterweight can claim to have done that.
Also, if the bout reverts more to grappling than striking, then interest begins to peak further.
If Hendricks does get rocked or hurt, he holds his wrestling experience in his back pocket. Lawler normally struggles with guys who can outgrapple him and overall remove him from his element.
While Hendricks does not fit the mold of a grappler, his takedowns and top control can bring bad news to anyone who cannot stuff his attempts.
Still, even his wrestling, which can stifle Lawler if Hendricks sets it up properly, sees a solid counter in the form of impenetrable takedown defense. Sure, Lawler can get taken down, but he has solid defense.
In this fight, he will need it.
How would anyone say that as a fact? Because even though Hendricks initially weighed in heavy at Friday's UFC 171 weigh-in, even a Bigg Rigg that looked zapped of his energy can still find a way to threaten Lawler with takedowns. If Lawler cannot stuff any of them, he will find himself in a world of hurt.
Once again, though, this bout is scheduled for five rounds, and just as Hendricks showed that he could go hard for 25 minutes against St-Pierre, Lawler can prove the same on Saturday night.
Even though both men can come in calm, calculated and committed to a game plan, fans should expect that they will show the hearts of a champion throughout the duration of the bout and not let the fight end inside the distance.
The result after the full five rounds may be controversial. If so, it will all but guarantee a rematch down the line.
Yet, with the vacant UFC welterweight title on the line, it would only be fitting that the bout end on the heels of an exciting, back-and-forth affair that gives us a tremendous look at the best of the welterweight division today—while helping us get excited to watch what happens in the UFC welterweight picture in the future.