This Saturday in Dallas is the first day of the rest of Welterweight history, zero day in the post-GSP era. The four months since the Canadian’s controversial have been like a wake for the division, even if standout performances by the likes of Dong Hyun Kim and Tarec Saffiedine has reminded us that there is still life in 170lbs.
As of right now, the division explodes back into full life with a title match, no.1 contender’s bout and two more bouts between four accomplished fighters with their eye on the fluid peak of the division.
Topping the bill, Johny Hendricks (15-2) faces off with Robbie Lawler (22-9) in a match between reliably entertaining and heavy handed fighters for the biggest prize in the game.
Hendricks has only ever been defeated by grinding, tactical displays and Lawler’s losses have tended to come at higher weight classes and his lone KO loss is almost 10 years old…
Both men prefer to swing for the fences and even when they win by decision, it tends to be because they were the more aggressive fighter, rather than a canny game plan.
If the fighter’s records and pre-fight talk are any indication this should be a balls-out war that either ends in a highlight reel knockout or an epic, close fought five round decision.
I’d give Hendricks the edge on account of his chin, apparently heavier hands and his wrestling ability but Lawler is no slouch on any of those counts…
In the co-main event Carlos Condit (29-7) and Tyron Woodley (12-2) are set to duke it out for the dubious honour of being Hendricks or Lawler’s first defence of the title.
Condit has become a star in the UFC despite ‘only’ a 6-3 record in the Octagon thanks to his explosive performances and tendency to only lose to the very elite in highly competitive matches.
A striker by preference but with a capable ground game, Condit’s weakness has come against high level grapplers who can steal rounds against him with takedowns – although Condit’s ability for a flash KO has rendered the grinding of Rory MacDonald and Dong Hyun Kim obsolete in the past.
Grinding may be Woodley’s best tactic here as Condit is by far the more cultured striker and Woodley’s most consistent run of victories came via his wrestling. His recent form has been spotty, going 2-2 in his last four (which is also true of Condit, but against better opposition) with big KOs of the fading Josh Koscheck and Jay Hieron and losses to the canny Jake Shields and Nate Marquardt.
Woodley COULD knock Condit out but. I think Carlos stands the better chance of winning a gunfight.
Next up we have almost a classic grappler vs. striker match as Jake Shields (29-6-1) takes on Hector Lombard (33-4-1).
Both these fighters came into the UFC on epic winning streaks and as the highly regarded Middleweight champions of their former organisations but have found success harder to come by in the UFC.
Shields dropped his second and third outings but has gone undefeated in four fights since even if he’s not found a finish. Lombard sits on a 2-2 run in the UFC but looks a killer since his recent drop to 170lbs.
While Shields tendency for decision and submission wins shows his ‘American juijitsu’ style and Lombard’s 19 KO victories pay testament to his reputation as a striker, it’s worth remembering that Shields trains with the Diaz brothers and uses solid striking to set up his takedowns and trips, while Lombard is a Olympic level judoka who also has considerable submission and grappling skills.
This is a very significant fight, with the winner joining Dong Hyun Kim and Rory McDonald in the pool of fighters just outside immediate title contention, and as much as I want to see a Lombard KO win, I’ve learned not to bet against Jake Shields. Close one.
Once upon a time, Rick Story (16-7) was on a six fight winning streak and probably one win away from a title shot. Back to back losses followed by a period of win one, lose one has seen Story mired in the midcard and in order to put together his first back to back wins in three and a half years he has to stop the rise of TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum (7-0.)
Gastelum was the quiet man in his season of TUF, coming in from the dark to confidently dispose of more vocal and celebrated fighters like Bubba McDaniel, Josh Samman and Uriah Hall. He looked an absolute beast in his second UFC bout against Brian Melancon and then actively asked for a fight against the notoriously difficult story.
So, does the comeback continue for the veteran or does the new star continue to rise? I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.
Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler for vacant welterweight title
Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley
Myles Jury vs. Diego Sanchez
Hector Lombard vs. Jake Shields
Nikita Krylov vs. Ovince St. Preux
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Rick Story
Jessica Andrade vs. Raquel Pennington
Dennis Bermudez vs. Jimy Hettes
Alex Garcia vs. Sean Spencer
FIGHT PASS CARD
Renee Forte vs. Frank Trevino
Will Campuzano vs. Justin Scoggins
Robert McDaniel vs. Sean Strickland
Daniel Pineda vs. Robert Whiteford