Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks finally did it. On Saturday night at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, he captured the UFC welterweight title. In a thrilling bout with “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler, he won the all-important fifth round in a back-and-forth battle.
Bleacher Report MMA was right on the money with this comparison:
Hendricks was overcome with joy when the decision was announced. Afterward, he spoke to ESPN’s Todd Grisham about his accomplishment and more:
He will have a few weeks to celebrate, but he’ll have to go back to work soon. The line to be the first challenger for his title has already begun to form. Some of the top contenders won in earlier bouts on Saturday’s card. Then there’s always the chance for a rematch with Lawler after such an awesome fight.
Only Dana White and the UFC matchmakers know what’s next for Hendricks, but in any case, he’ll have his hands full in his first defense.
Here’s a quick look at the immediate outlook for the other winners from Saturday's main card.
Ovince St. Preux
OSP’s future is looking bright after scoring a technical-submission win over Nikita “Al Capone” Krylov.
Previously known as more of an athletic and powerful striker, OSP showed great grappling and submission chops against a man who has made a name for himself with his submission game.
Though he's only 21, Krylov has scored 10 of his 16 wins by submission.
With such a solid win, OSP is turning into a player at light heavyweight. He has scored three straight wins in the UFC and should be moving his way up to a higher spot on the next main card he fights on.
Prior to the bout, he wasn’t ranked in the Top 15 at light heavyweight by the UFC. So he’ll still likely need a couple of wins to be up for a title shot.
After having displayed some diversity to his game, he’s one to watch moving forward.
After a dominating performance over veteran Jake Shields on Saturday night, Lombard is finally looking like he's ready to fulfill the promise he had when he arrived in the UFC. After the fight, he talked with Grisham about his performance and prospects:
Lombard beat up Shields for three rounds and displayed expert takedown defense against one of the sport’s premier wrestlers.
The win will put him firmly in the Top 10 at welterweight and perhaps a win or two away from a title shot. With Hendricks holding the title, Lombard can set his sights on him.
He might have to wait at least two fights to get his crack at the title, though. You would think Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley are ahead of Lombard currently. MacDonald might deserve the next shot after dismantling Demian Maia at UFC 170. I'll make the case for Woodley a little later.
Also, fans likely wouldn't scoff at Lawler vs. Hendricks II. As good as Lombard looked, he’s in a stacked division, and that could prolong his wait.
Jury proved his superiority over Diego Sanchez as an MMA fighter on Saturday. He curtailed Sanchez’s aggression and kept him on his back enough to win an easy unanimous decision.
It was an impressive win that should land him close to the Top 10 in the UFC lightweight rankings.
He still has some work to do, but a bout between him and Jim Miller would be interesting.
While you can never count the "The Natural Born Killer" Carlos Condit out, the truth is, Woodley was dominating him with strikes and takedowns before Condit’s knee gave out during a Woodley takedown.
Who deserves the first shot at Hendricks?
A leg kick weakened his base enough, and that was it.
Woodley’s explosiveness and wrestling ability are impressive. You worry a bit about his defense—especially if he has to face a guy like Hendricks for the title—but there is no question how powerful, quick and dangerous he is.
Condit is one heck of an overall fighter, but Woodley wasn’t intimidated and was workmanlike and aggressive in the fight. He might even deserve the title shot over MacDonald.
The Canadian's last loss is more recent than Woodley's, and "T-Wood" just beat Condit, the No. 2-ranked welterweight who knocked MacDonald out in 2010.
We’ll see if Woodley is allowed to leapfrog other contenders and land the first crack at Hendricks’ title.
Follow me. I dig combat sports.