Filed under: UFCJohny Hendricks, welcome to the big time.
That's what Joe Rogan said to Hendricks after his knockout victory over Jon Fitch at UFC 141, and it pretty well describes what has just happened in Hendricks' MMA career: There's now no doubt that Hendricks is one of the truly elite fighters in the welterweight division, and he might just be the welterweight with the best chance of dethroning the champion, Georges St. Pierre.
Am I getting ahead of myself there? Maybe. It's going to be a while before Hendricks would get a title shot. With St. Pierre shelved by a torn ACL, the welterweight division is in a state of flux, with Carlos Condit facing Nick Diaz for an interim title in February, and the winner of that fight expected to face St. Pierre next.
But think for a minute about what it means that Hendricks just knocked out Jon Fitch in 12 seconds. Prior to Friday night, Fitch had built up a UFC record of 13-1-1, fighting inside the Octagon for a total of nearly three and a half hours, and no one had been able to finish him. Whether Fitch was beating good strikers like Thiago Alves, or getting beaten up by a great, well-rounded opponent in St. Pierre, the one thing Fitch was never in danger of doing was getting KTFO'd.
And that's just what Hendricks did to him, with a vicious left hand to the jaw that knocked Fitch back so hard that the back of his head bounced off the canvas.
Hendricks said after the fight that he thought people didn't respect his left hand, and that may be true: Hendricks is still often described as a wrestler above all, thanks to his status as a two-time NCAA champion. But that punch he landed to Fitch's jaw informed everyone who didn't already know that Hendricks has serious power in his hands.
It might be a while before Hendricks gets a shot at the title, especially if the UFC decides to hold Condit or Diaz until GSP is healthy. But looking at what Hendricks brings to the table, with his wrestling background and his punching power, you'd have to say that he'd be a real threat to beat St. Pierre if he ever gets that opportunity. Johny Hendricks has arrived as one of the elite welterweights in MMA.
UFC 141 Notes
-- Watching Brock Lesnar's emergence as the UFC's biggest star has been fun, but I'm not surprised that he announced his retirement after losing to Alistair Overeem. Lesnar is a millionaire many times over and doesn't need to fight for the money. He tried MMA, had a lot of success, and has now lost twice in a row and needs to focus on his health. The UFC lost its biggest pay-per-view star, but the sport will be fine without Brock, just as Brock will be fine without MMA.
--It was great to see Dong Hyun Kim's use of the same front kick that Anderson Silva used to knock out Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida used to knock out Randy Couture. Kim's kick didn't have quite enough power on it to knock out Sean Pierson, but it showed that Kim is working on diversifying his striking.
--Anthony Njokuani hasn't evolved as a fighter at all: He's still an exciting striker but a very rudimentary grappler. Until his takedown defense improves significantly, Njokuani is going to lose a decision to any good wrestler he faces, as he did to Danny Castillo.
UFC 141 Quotes
"I want to thank Donald Cerrone for the fight. Sorry about all the s--t that went down." -- Nate Diaz, leaving all the bad blood behind him after whipping Cerrone.
"Jacob Volkmann, an outstanding grappler. Not the best joke teller." -- Joe Rogan, after Volkmann made an unfunny joke about wanting to give President Obama a glassectomy. The UFC should tell Volkmann to leave the jokes to Rogan.
"He's a good fighter, I look up to him, but I got the knockout. It was a good punch. It was my day to day. It was my dream to fight in Las Vegas and it was the biggest win of my life." -- Alexander Gustafsson after knockout out Vladimir Matyushenko, showing proper respect for an opponent 17 years his senior.
We're so used to bad judging in MMA these days that it sometimes comes as a surprise when all three judges get it right, but let's credit the judges in the three Facebook preliminary fights, because all nine scorecards on those fights were right on the money: 29-28 for Diego Nunes over Manny Gamburyan, 29-28 for Jacob Volkmann over Efrain Escudero and 30-27 for Dong Hyun Kim over Sean Pierson.
Herb Dean is usually one of the best referees in the business, but he made an absolutely horrible call by standing up Jacob Volkmann and Efrain Escudero in the middle of the third round of their fight. Volkmann had Escudero's back on the ground and was working for a finish, and Dean inexplicably stopped them and stood them up.
Volkmann is now 5-0 since moving down to lightweight. He doesn't have the most crowd-pleasing of styles, and he hasn't fought the highest quality of competition, but you can't argue with five straight wins. It's time for Volkmann to get someone in the Top 10, so we can get a feel for just how good he is.
Gamburyan has now lost three straight fights, and he was never really able to implement his game plan against Nunes, who succeeded in keeping Gamburyan at distance and stopping Gamburyan's takedowns. Gamburyan probably won't lose his job in the UFC because the promotion needs as many recognizable fighters as it can get in the shallow featherweight division, but he's fallen a long way since he was the division's No. 1 contender.
Fight I Want to See Next
Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem. A great battle of two great heavyweight strikers. I can hardly wait.