Age: 30 Height: 5'9" Reach: 69"
Fight camp: Team Takedown
Record: 16-2 (8 knockouts, 1 submission)
Last Three Fights
Def. Robbie Lawler (UD), UFC 171
Lost to Georges St-Pierre (SD), UFC 167
Def. Carlos Condit (UD), UFC 158
Takedown Average: 4.25, Takedown Accuracy: 47%, Takedown Defense: 61%
Johny Hendricks' wrestling credentials are beyond dispute. He is one of the 20 best high school wrestlers of the modern era, and his three state championships and two wins at the Fargo Juniors were just a prelude to an equally stellar college career. At Oklahoma State he competed for the national championship three times at 165 pounds, winning twice. Those accomplishments speak to his gifts on the mat—loudly.
It should come as no surprise, then, that his wrestling in the MMA cage continues to be superlative. While much of the focus has turned to his powerful left hand, it's wrestling that allows his undisciplined striking to thrive.
Despite often wild and reckless standing attacks, he is able to keep himself mostly upright. Even the best wrestlers in the division, such as Josh Koscheck and Georges St-Pierre, had trouble getting Hendricks off his feet, completing just half of their takedown attempts against him.
Offensively, wrestling is of secondary import for Hendricks. But, while he's constantly fantasizing about that big left hand, he's not afraid to deploy his wrestling attack as a change of pace, especially if an opponent has no answer for it. Carlos Condit hit the mat 12 times in their fight, and T.J. Grant was tossed eight times when Hendricks sniffed out a weakness.
Make no mistakes—while his training might focus on different areas, if he's on his game, Hendricks is one of the very best wrestlers in MMA. How would he match up with Ben Askren in this department? Hendricks beat him in both his junior and senior year of high school and certainly has the tools to compete with the sport's best wrestler.
Submission Average: 0.4
In 2009, before Hendricks had discovered his identity as a fighter, he followed standard operating procedure in the cage. When Ricardo Funch gave him the opportunity to try a guillotine choke at UFC 107, he took it. When Funch gave up his back, Hendricks looked for the rear-naked choke. This was MMA, after all, and that's what MMA fighters do.
That's notable, because soon after he would reinvent himself as a different kind of fighter. In his ensuing 11 fights, he would attempt just a single submission, a halfhearted guillotine against Rick Story that was mostly designed to get him back to his feet after a takedown.
Today, that's mostly the extent of Hendricks' grappling game. When he finds himself on his back, he's quick to get back to his feet. Nothing more, nothing less. On the flip side, although he took Condit down 12 times, "Bigg Rigg" couldn't hold him there or manage much damage.
It's a weakness that should actually give future opponents solace—but it should also give them pause. One day Hendricks might actually show up in the cage with a solid grappling game to go along with his other gifts. What then, welterweights of the world?
Significant Strikes Landed per Minute: 3.61, Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute: 3.62
Once Hendricks discovered the dynamite in his left hand, he was like a kid at Christmas. This new toy was his favorite—and he used it to the exclusion of all others.
The result wasn't always pretty. He literally leaped into every punch, throwing himself off-balance, dropping his hands and hoping the fear he inspired would take care of the rest. Sometimes, it worked wonders, like when he took Martin Kampmann's head from his shoulders. Against resilient tough guys like Rick Story and Mike Pierce, however, the limitations of this approach became clear.
Today, the power in Hendricks' hands remains, but he now realizes that with great power comes great responsibility. He's more judicious now, more willing to combine his left hand with his other tools, like a wrestling collar tie, to double its effectiveness.
In every fight, he seems to discover a new weapon, like the step-knee he used to give St-Pierre grief and knees to the thigh in the clinch that will continue to give foes fits. The result is a fighter who is not only among the most dangerous in the sport but also one who is improving as well.
Ted Ehrhardt took a risk, as all visionaries do, when he signed a crop of wrestlers to join his new Team Takedown. Rather than sign Hendricks and a collection of other collegiate stalwarts to standard management contracts, Ehrhardt decided to do things differently.
Instead, he invested in success. Hendricks was never a struggling young fighter who had to worry about making his monthly bills and his rent like so many others. He had a stipend, a place to live and the kind of training that is usually reserved for superstars.
The result was the freedom to grow as a fighter without having the financial pressure that requires short cuts or bad decision making. Hendricks only had to worry about winning—and a championship eventually followed.