UFC 171 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Hendricks vs. Lawler
Saturday night, for the first time in six years, a fighter not named Georges St-Pierre donned the UFC welterweight title belt.
For the UFC and its fighters and fans, the vacuum that opened when St-Pierre abruptly and indefinitely left MMA in December carried a double-sided implication. On one hand, the sport lost the best welterweight it's ever had, and maybe the second-best competitor in its entire history. On the other hand, when St-Pierre relinquished his stranglehold on the welterweight division, it released a wave of talent and interest (not to mention the title) at 170 pounds.
UFC 171 was tailor-made to capitalize on the latter, while doing its level best to help fans shake off the ghost of the former, which will linger precisely as long as the fighters in its shadow allow.
At the vanguard of this land rush are Johny Hendricks, a college wrestling champion who has coveted a UFC belt ever since discovering he had C-4 in his left hand, and Robbie Lawler, a veteran who turned pro at 18 and used his own tremendous punching power to pave an unlikely (if not unconvincing) path to the title shot.
One of those men walked out of Dallas with the strap around his waist. But the main event was merely the end of the beginning. The UFC 171 co-main event pitted the precision and dynamism of perennial welterweight contender Carlos Condit against the power grinding of Tyron Woodley. Just a bit farther down the card was an intriguing 170-pound striker/grappler matchup between Hector Lombard and Jake Shields.
All four of those welterweights were jockeying for a seat at the newly open welterweight table.
So the welterweights were the main course, but UFC 171 was loaded from Fight Pass to finale. As always, the stat lines only reveal so much. Here are the real winners and losers from a new day in Dallas.
Winner: Johny Hendricks
So 2014 is young, but it already has a clubhouse leader for the best fight of the year.
After five bloody and scintillating rounds, the judges gave the nod to Johny Hendricks and made him the first new UFC welterweight champion since 2008.
Hendricks mixed up his attack early, adding kicks to his combinations to help keep Lawler guessing. Lawler then came storming back, brandishing his incomparable power to seemingly even the score entering the final frame.
That was the championship round, and it was the one Hendricks won. The UFC's official Twitter account had a statement from Hendricks: "In the fifth round, I wanted to leave everything out there. 5 mins could change your world."
As Lawler gassed and faded, Hendricks found a way through his exhaustion. In the waning minutes, Hendricks carved out a steady home for his fists and ultimately scored a deal-sealing takedown along the fence.
To get to that point, Hendricks—who missed weight Friday in his initial weigh-in attempt—walked through a gargantuan amount of punishment. His bloody face seemed to show every blow. But in the end, there was no doubt who wanted it more, and there was no doubt as to the best welterweight in the UFC. Tip your cap to the champ.
Winner: Robbie Lawler
Throughout fight week, Lawler said his story was that he didn't have a story. He was just a guy trying to fight, a guy who once upon a time came too early to the UFC but took his lumps, learned his lessons, got better and came back stronger.
It doesn't matter whether you like that story or not. After UFC 171, Robbie Lawler is a star.
Lawler gave Hendricks everything he could handle. Throughout the fight, he kept the favored fighter on the end of a tree trunk of a jab and hurt him badly with uppercuts and overhands. He also displayed stellar takedown defense, holding the national champion wrestler to 2-of-10 in takedowns (according to UFC stats provider FightMetric).
Finally, Lawler literally smiled through the kinds of powerbombs that felled plenty of other guys. There aren't many with that kind of toughness.
He'll undoubtedly be back. And after UFC 171, there's probably only one active welterweight in the world who could render him an underdog.
Loser: Tyron Woodley's Title Shot
No one wants to win a fight, lose a fight or watch a fight that ends in the fashion of Tyron Woodley vs. Carlos Condit.
But in getting the victory, Woodley defied serious odds and got the biggest win of his career.
After a fairly even opening round, Condit grimaced in pain early in the second during a Woodley takedown. It as hard to tell in the moment what, if anything, had happened. But a few moments later, it became all too clear. After the referee stood up the fighters, Woodley immediately fired a kick to Condit's right knee; Condit spun around in agony and collapsed to the mat. The fight was over.
It was a sad way to see a great fighter like Condit lose. We will see what the doctors have to say about his apparent knee injury, but it did not look good.
But at the same time, it's important to give credit where it's due. This wasn't entirely a freak injury; these things happen. Woodley saw the weakness and attacked it, as he is paid to do. He will go down as the first man to knock out Carlos Condit, and he deserves a tip of the hat.
Woodley entered this fight at No. 11 in the official UFC rankings. He'll move up, but he may not move much closer to a title shot, at least for now. Woodley himself is a winner; his chances for gold are not.
Loser: Hector Lombard's Title Shot
See previous slide.
Yes, Hector Lombard defeated Jake Shields by decision Saturday. And yes, it was a one-sided beating. One could even call it a clinic.
Yet it wasn't the kind of performance that's going to establish Lombard as a welterweight title contender, even in a moment when the UFC is actively accepting new applications for the position.
Why? First of all, Shields looked bad. Real sub-UFC-level fighting from Shields. Everyone knows striking is not his forte, but it is so slow and jerky and bad that it is still jarring to watch even with that knowledge.
Even more jarring was Shields' total inability to get anything going on the ground. According to UFC stats provider FightMetric, Shields went 0-of-7 on takedown attempts as Lombard finished 5-of-5. And Shields was unable to generate any kind of scramble or control advantage, save for a Hail Mary guillotine choke in the fight's waning seconds.
Second, Lombard did not do very much with the high ground once he gained it. He punished Shields badly in the first round but then seemed content to ride Shields for the rest of the contest to an easy, though uninspiring, win.
I'm not saying Lombard wasn't impressive. He was. He is very, very good in all phases, and his power is very hard to deal with.
What I am saying is that the UFC doesn't tend to reward conservative matches like this, in which a finish probably could have happened but didn't for lack of trying.
Will Lombard ever get a shot? It's entirely possible. Will he get it based on this win alone? Probably not.
Loser: Welterweight Title Picture
Hendricks vs. Lawler was an instant classic. Outside of those two, everything else in the division is just as clear as mud.
Tyron Woodley got a win but did so in less than definitive fashion.
Hector Lombard got a definitive win but did so in less than exciting fashion.
Carlos Condit might miss extended time with an injury.
Jake Shields may not be long for the UFC.
Nick Diaz is still semi-retired and, while popular and willing, not particularly credible as a challenger in an absolute-value context.
There are options. All of Saturday's winners deserve to move up the ladder and will do so. Rory MacDonald is in the mix as well, as are a couple of others.
UFC 171 still marked the beginning of a new era for the division. But it could have produced a very clear pecking order at 170 pounds, conceivably teeing up title and No. 1 contender fights through the end of the calendar year. That didn't happen. But hey, I guess this is why we have Nick Diaz.
Loser: Diego Sanchez
"That's what Diego Sanchez does best: wild charges."
Truer words were never uttered. Broadcaster Joe Rogan, who spoke those words early in the third round of Diego Sanchez's fight with Myles Jury, hit the nail on the head.
How many times have we seen this movie, the one he acted out for us once again Saturday, this time opposite Jury? Sanchez takes the center of the cage, pumps up the crowd, implores his opponent to brawl with him, enters into and then loses wild exchange, bleeds, rinses, repeats.
Congrats to Jury, who passed this heat check with flying colors and will now enter the upper crust of the lightweight division. But this is now three violent losses in four contests for the 32-year-old Sanchez. Sure, his crazy style nets him a lot of admirers and bonus checks, but it's also netting him a lot of losses and bodily damage. How many more of these bloodbaths can he take? How many should we want him to take?
No matter how exciting or satisfying the means, if the end is no longer justifying them, it might be time to rethink your approach.
Winners: The Young Guns
One slightly overlooked subtheme from Saturday was the considerable number of younger fighters who saw action—and success—at the event.
Of the 26 fighters on the card, seven were 25 years old or younger. Five of those—Sean Strickland, Justin Scoggins, Jessica Andrade, Kelvin Gastelum and Myles Jury—emerged victorious, while only two—Raquel Pennington and Nikita Krylov—came up short.
Particularly impressive were Strickland, 23, who netted a first-round submission in his UFC debut (and on short notice at that), and Scoggins, 21, who dominated Will Campuzano to run his pro record to 9-0, including a 2-0 mark in the UFC octagon.
Winner: Dennis Bermudez
We have a new contender in the featherweight division.
All Dennis Bermudez does is get better—substantially better—every time he steps in under the lights. This third-round TKO of Jimy Hettes was his magnum opus.
Hettes is a tough fighter, but Bermudez made him look like a grade-schooler Saturday night. His hand speed and striking power was superior. His takedowns were almost impossible to handle. His top control and clinch work were exhausting just to watch.
Perhaps most importantly, though, the always aggressive Bermudez was more controlled in his approach. Overeagerness led to his last loss, a 2011 submission to Diego Brandao. It is clear he has now tamed that part of himself, without losing it. That can't be an easy line to walk.
Hettes had never been finished in his 13-fight pro career. That is, until Saturday. Bermudez was the UFC's No. 12 featherweight coming into this fight. How high will he go next week? In winning his sixth consecutive bout, Bermudez made it look easy. Who else could he beat with ease?
Winner: Jason Von Flue
Full disclosure: That is not Jason Von Flue in the picture there. Allow me to explain.
Early in the first round of their fight, Nikita Krylov tried for a guillotine choke against Ovince St. Preux while underneath St. Preux's side control. St. Preux countered by wrapping an arm around Krylov's neck and lowering his upper arm and shoulder onto Krylov's throat. Before anyone (including the referee and the broadcasting team) could figure out what was going on, St. Preux was motioning for the fight to end. Krylov was unconscious, and that was that.
The fight-winning maneuver is known as the Von Flue choke, named after Jason Von Flue, a fair-to-middling fighter who retired in 2009 and is probably best known for appearing on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter.
So props to Von Flue for the screen exposure Saturday night, even if he was nowhere in sight. It was quite a little walk down memory lane, thanks to a beastly performance from an underrated but rising light heavyweight in St. Preux.
Winner: Guys with One Consonant in Their Names Where There Are Usually Two
Don't look at me like that, Johny. You have an oddly spelled first name. I'm sorry. You do.
And not only was Johny Hendricks on the UFC 171 card, but so was Jimy Hettes. It's true. Go ahead, check the undercard if you don't believe me.
Are we actually supposed to believe this was some kind of coincidence? Heh. You can keep dreaming, bro. But I'm wide awake, and I am through the looking glass.
Full Card Results
Johny Hendricks def. Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision (new UFC welterweight champion)
Tyron Woodley def. Carlos Condit by TKO, 2:00, Rd. 2
Myles Jury def. Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision
Hector Lombard def. Jake Shields by unanimous decision
Ovince St. Preux def. Nikita Krylov by submission, 1:29, Rd. 1
Kelvin Gastelum def. Rick Story by split decision
Jessica Andrade def. Raquel Pennington by split decision
Dennis Bermudez def. Jimy Hettes by TKO, 2:57, Rd. 3
Alex Garcia def. Sean Spencer by split decision
Francisco Trevino def. Renee Forte by unanimous decision
Justin Scoggins def. Will Campuzano by unanimous decision
Sean Strickland def. Bubba McDaniel by submission, 4:33, Rd. 1
Rob Whiteford def. Daniel Pineda by unanimous decision