There’s a curiosity in changing weight classes. Guys do it all the time hoping to reinvigorate a stagnant career, and as soon as there are more weight classes available to them in the UFC you can bet that women will be doing it too.
On Sunday night in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Johny Hendricks took to the cage with an eye on doing exactly that. A loser of three straight welterweight fights and four out of five in the class, Hendricks attempted to tackle the 15-pound chasm northward in a venture to middleweight.
The results were steady, if unspectacular.
He was paired with Hector Lombard, a four-fight welterweight himself who has never been a large middleweight and only hit 182 pounds for their Fight Night 105 scrap.
Hendricks came out with a modest paunch and started a little slow, working his way into a groove.
He looked mystified by Lombard at certain points, attempting to solve the puzzle of an Olympic caliber judoka and doing it to mixed results until he began to score with knees up the middle and lively clinch work.
He slowly figured it out, and as he did, he actually came on in a way he hadn’t for quite some time. Hendricks ended up securing a unanimous decision win, his first success in two years.
“I was beating him on the feet so I didn’t have to wrestle. I used my wrestling to setting up knees, my hands,” he said after the fight.
There’s reason to doubt that this is some sort of resurgence for the 33-year-old, who has been fighting the very best 170-pounders on Earth for years and is still badly undersized for a middleweight, but there were positives in the lead-up and in the cage itself.
“When was the last time you saw me putting things together? It’s been what, two years? I’m going to take what I got. I’m looking at the fight and playing it through my mind. The first thing I told my coaches was that I actually flowed out there.”
Still, it wasn’t perfect, and Hendricks wants to make some changes going forward.
“We didn’t get a strength and conditioning coach. It was a quick turnaround. The next fight, I’m going to be better. I’m going to have better cardio. Those are things that sort of even scare me a little bit, and excite me at the same time. How much better could it be if I knew my third round was going be as good as it was today? I could have pushed harder in the second round. I could have pushed harder in the third.”
Now with some excitement about how he looked in Halifax and what the future might hold, for the first time in a long time he appears content. In fact, he’s open about the idea that he should have moved up sooner.
“You make such a good mark at 170, it’s hard to give that up. Now that I look back I’m like [I’m] an idiot for not doing it sooner. But who’s to say [now’s] not the right time for me to move up? [I missed] by a quarter of a pound, and then [I missed] by two-and-a-half. Then [my] kidneys fail for five, I think six days and then they rebooted and I came back. Everything lines up. I believe there’s a purpose for everything.”
It’s too early to say he’s back for sure, but he hasn’t gone anywhere just yet. Based on how people have been talking about him over the past while, that’s a positive step for a man who was once one of the best in the business.
He’s even got an idea for a future opponent at 185 pounds.
“I love Canada. I’m 4-0 in Canada. Georges [St-Pierre] might be coming back. I just say sorry for the Canadians. I’m going to have to beat his face in, definitely if he comes to 185. That’s a fight I’ve been really looking for.”
All quotes were obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report unless otherwise noted. Some have been edited for concision.