For the first time since UFC 185, Johny Hendricks is in the win column. At UFC Fight Night 105, the former welterweight champion likely saved his career by taking a unanimous decision win at the expense of former Bellator champion Hector Lombard.
While this was an incredibly high-stakes matchup for the fighters, it wasn't necessarily a memorable one for the fans.
Both men were tentative in the early goings, but Lombard found success early with his left hand, tagging Hendricks every time they entered and exited the clinch. With both men owning relatively small gas tanks, however, neither was willing to expend much energy, and Hendricks did little to answer Lombard's sparse-but-efficient offense.
The second round saw Hendricks tease his wrestling early, shooting for a takedown and feinting shots. That opened up new opportunities for Hendricks, but a groin strike by Lombard halted his momentum and resulted in Hendricks being slower and less effective on offense. Lombard took control again from there, but a couple of well-timed knees from Hendricks kept the Cuban from sustaining offense for any length of time.
Lombard looked to assert himself as the dominant fighter by maintaining the center of the cage early. Hendricks avoided taking any serious damage, though, began finding success with his counterpunches and decisively out-landed Lombard in the final frame.
The final horn sounded with the winner unclear to most observers...except for the judges. While a hotly debated split decision seemed like an inevitability, Hendricks wound up taking a unanimous decision to the tune of 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.
To say this is a fortunate break for Hendricks would be a profound understatement.
Since dropping the welterweight title to Robbie Lawler in 2014, Bigg Rigg's career has been downright miserable at every level. Consistent struggles to make weight have been followed by consistent struggles to perform at a high level in the Octagon. The result has been back-to-back-to-back losses that have left him looking nothing like the man who tore apart the 170-pound division with his dynamite left hand.
With the UFC handing out pink slips like candy on Halloween, there was a strong chance the former champ would have been sent packing with another loss. While the win wasn't decisive enough to make any sort of "Hendricks is back" declarations, this was easily his best performance in the last two years and should be enough to keep him around in the UFC for a few more fights.
That, unfortunately, isn't the case with Lombard. Despite the fact the former Olympic judoka has actually looked very solid in his three most recent fights (and very easily could have won all of them with different officials), there is no nice way of packaging a three-fight losing streak.
This decision, despite being a questionable one, could easily punch his ticket back to Bellator. That's a shame, but WME-IMG's gallows know no mercy. And looking over the list of recent releases, it's safe to say they don't know talent.