Hendricks vs Lawler Delivers in Big D

Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks at media day for UFC 171. Photo Courtesy: Kelly Reed
Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks at media day for UFC 171. Photo Courtesy: Kelly Reed

By Kendrick E. Johnson

In a fight which had everything a true UFC fan could want in it, adopted Dallasite Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks defeated Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler to become the undisputed UFC Welterweight Champion. Hendricks edged Lawler in a rough tumble affair, the tilt was so exciting and close all judges had Hendricks winning 48-47 unanimously on all the judges’ scorecards.

“I knew I had to go win that fifth round because I knew it was 2-2 and I’m true to myself” an excited and exhausted Hendricks said. “I looked over to (my) wife before going back out there and that’s all the motivation I needed to give my all in the final round.”

Hendricks won the fifth and deciding round on all three judges’ scorecards, thanks to securing a late takedown with a minute and a half remaining in the fight.

After controlling the first two rounds with a stiff left jab and very good combinations, Hendricks went ahead 20-18 on most cage side observers and two judges’ scorecards. The tide would turn severely against Hendricks as “Ruthless” came out of the gates at the beginning of the third round like a house on fire.

Lawler landed a flurry of blows in the third round that sent Hendricks reeling.

“I saw his legs buckle a little bit but he recovered pretty fast and was throwing back.  He’s a dangerous opponent, and once again maybe I should’ve pressed a little bit more and brought the fight to him a little bit earlier,” the American Top Team fighter Lawler said.

With Lawler coming on strong and Hendricks reeling, the American Airlines Center crowd of 19,324, sensing the tide changing, began chanting, “Johny! Johny! Johny!”

The fourth round would be the same as Lawler’s evolution would be on full display. The “Ruthless” one was landing some serious blows to “Bigg Rigg’s” right eye forcing blood to drip down the right side of Hendricks face as the fourth round came to a close.

All to set up the climactic fifth and deciding round – Hendricks landed flurries late in the round and finished it with a takedown to secure the decision. It easily earned Fight of the Night honors.

“I just didn’t do enough tonight, they thought. I need to go back to work, obviously. Work on some things. Work on throwing a little bit, maybe, some more punches,” a dejected Lawler said.

While Lawler was on one side of the press thinking about what could have been, a just as beaten and battered and newly crowned champion Hendricks was looking to the future.

“I am definitely happy to officially have this strap around my waist,” Hendricks said. “But I’ve only been at this for six years fellas and I’m fighting guys with 8, 9 and 12 years’ experience so I’m expecting myself to continue to get better than where I am at today.”

Hendricks (16-2, 11-2 UFC), who lives in Midlothian and trains in Pantego, could be pitted in his next fight with Tyron Woodley, who won his bout against Carlos Condit in the co-main event or Rory McDonald who would have been his opponent had he not lost a split decision to Lawler at UFC 167.

The UFC came to Dallas for their second time and first since 2009 and sold out within hours after tickets were released. The UFC packed the house with popular fighters such as Cain Velasquez, Urijah Faber and Ronda Rousey, who hugged former Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin.

Kendrick Johnson writes for a daily newspaper and is an independent sports television, and print journalist who has covered championship boxing and UFC Fights, the NBA Finals and done numerous one on one’s with some of the biggest names and personalities in sports. He can be reached at kendrick_e_johnson@yahoo.com or on Twitter @kendrickjohnso