Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Rocktagon Recap of UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler!

Featuring a Ukrainian in a stranglehold of a different sort, a whole bunch of Welterweight white boys getting blasted and the crowning of of a new 170-pound champions for the first time since 2008!


For the last seven years, Georges St-Pierre has more or less dominated the UFC's Welterweight division. Yeah, there was that year-long period from '07 to '08 when the belt was strapped around the waist of Matt Serra, but since then, the 170-pound MMA world has unquestionably been owned by GSP.

Last November's GSP/Johny Hendricks tilt was easily the fight of St-Pierre's life, and I'd venture to guess a good 98 percent of the MMA community believes the wrong man's hand was raised at the end of that bout. With St-Pierre going into semi-retirement to battle obsessive-compulsive disorder (which sounds like a convenient enough excuse for a man who once claimed to have made contact with extra-terrestrials), tonight we shall be seeing a new Welterweight Champion crowned for the first time since George W.'s last year in office. In one corner, it's the man that many, many fans and analysts already consider the "uncrowned champion,"  Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks, and in the other, it's journeyman fighter Robbie Lawler, whose surprise victory over top prospect Rory MacDonald has given him an unexpected opportunity to take home UFC gold. Seeing as how both fighters are known for their explosive knockout power and never-say-die smash-mouth offenses, this very well could be one of the finest MMA brawls since Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama went full retard back in 2002. And also, there is a very, very strong likelihood that somebody will get their head punched off, probably somewhere around the vicinity of the fifth or sixth row.

But that's not all we have on tap this evening. In our co-main event, it's Welterweight stalwart Carlos Condit doing battle with Strikeforce-grad Tyron Woodley, in a match-up that may very well determine the next man in line for a crack at the 170 pound strap. And if you wants you some more Welterweight action, we also have ourselves a dream match-up (well, circa 2009, anyway) between Jake Shields and Hector Lombard. Rounding out the main card, we've got Diego Sanchez -- AKA, the fightiest fighter of all-time -- trading paint with Lightweight up-and-comer Myles Jury, and in the evening's curtain jerker, it's Ovince St. Preux taking on Nikita Krylov. And folks, if you ain't sensing all kinds of knockouts and slobberknockers transpiring tonight, your radar most be crooked or something.

Welcome, one and all, to the Rocktagon Recap of UFC 171: Hendricks vs. Lawler!

The show is emanating from Dallas, Texas, which legend has it is populated solely by homosexuals and cattle. Meanwhile, I'm having to call this shindig from BUFFALO'S WILD WINGS, because our much-beloved Bailey's mysteriously went-out-of-business, I kid you not, just hours after the horrendous Hendricks/St-Pierre decision was read.

Our announcers tonight are that dude from Fear Factor and, as I have once overheard, "that pumpkin-headed Jewish fella.'" This here BWW is such a bizarre sight: I mean, there are actual CHILDREN here, instead of the barsexual skanks and random dwarves that I'm used to at shows of the like. But as a bonus? They have one of those multi-arcade cabinets set up in the middle of the room, so if this thing is a snoozer, I guess I can always go play some "Super Pac-Man" or something.

Light Heavyweight Bout
Ovince St. Preux vs. Nikita Krylov

Haitian-by-means-of-Knoxville,Tennesee, OSP has been on a three fight tear, with a kinda-sorta impressive 2-0 record in the UFC. Before that, he went 6-1 in Strikeforce bouts, losing just once to Gegard Mousasi by decision. Meanwhile, Krylov -- whose nickname, "Al Capone," is officially the best MMA moniker this side of "The Axe Murderer" -- is 1-1 in UFC contests, but before that, he did pretty well for himself in the Ukrainian circuits. I hate to let my biases show here, but I'm really hoping for a Krylov victory -- you know, just so he can cut a really, really awkward promo afterwards about the whole Crimean crisis, preferably through slurred speech and the most broken of broken English.

Well, this one was pretty simple. OSP shot for a takedown, Krylov tried to guillotine, and St. Preux responded by locking in a rarely seen Von Flue Choke. And if there was ever a name I didn't think I would be bringing up in a 2014 UFC show recap, it would probably be "Jason Von Flue."

Some bullrider, whom I only can assume is an HIV-infected misogynist running an illegal drug trading business out of a Fort Worth hotel room, is in attendance tonight. We get a preview for the Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva coached season of "TUF," and yeah, it looks pretty entertaining, I guess.

Welterweight Bout
Jake Shields vs. Hector Lombard

Prior to their actual entries into the UFC, both Shields and Lombard were considered two of the hottest "free agents" on the planet. For years, Shields was the sport's consensus number 2 Pound-for-Pound Welterweight when he was in Strikeforce, while Hector Lombard was considered arguably the best non-Zuffa contracted 185-pound fighter in the world. Unfortunately, both fighters have kinda' languished in the UFC, with Shields dropping three bouts in a row -- including a failed piss-test reversal -- and Lombard looking like last week's garbage against Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami. With both fighters on upswings of sorts -- Lombard, with a recent KO of Nate Marquardt and Shields on a three-fight winning streak -- this is definitely a must-win bout for both competitors. Simple MMA-Math here: whoever wins gets one step closer to a potential title shot, and the loser? Hope he enjoys fighting on UFC on Fox prelims for awhile...

Lombard has Shields down early with two thick jabs that didn't connect 100 percent. Trust me, if they had, Jakey-Boy would be counting sheep right now. Shields tries to pull guard, but Lombard ain't falling for it. Shields shoots for a takedown, but Lombard stuffs it and rattles off some heavy shots of his own in the clinch. Shields goes for another takedown, but Lombard sprawls. Lombard with his own takedown, and he makes Shields eat some big hands on the ground as the bell sounds.

Round two. Lombard throwing some bombs, and he gets Shields on the mat with a sweet Judo sweep. The ref orders a stand up. Shields goes for another takedown, but it ain't happening. Lombard busts Shields open, and secures one more leg sweep before the round concludes. It's gotta' be 20-18 for Lombard. 

Lombard begins the third stanza by immediately kicking Shields in the balls. Brief time out, and Shields goes for ANOTHER takedown, which allows Lombard to set up his own takedown. Lombard with some shots on the ground, and another stand up is ordered. Lombard with one final takedown; Shields tries for a guillotine with about ten seconds left, but its nowhere near enough time to pull off the miracle. 

An unanimous decision victory for the resurgent Cuban. After a performance that lackluster, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the next time we see Jake Shields in action, it'll be inside a World Series of Fighting cage. 

A promo for UFC 172 airs

For all of my pseudo-vegetarian kin out there: BWW's black bean burger is actually pretty good, especially with the in-house honey BBQ sauce

Lightweight Bout
Diego Sanchez vs. Myles Jury

Diego Sanchez is a fighter known primarily for three things: that one time he came out holding a crucifix like he was Van Helsing or something, being the mastermind behind Bryan Danielson's shamelessly stolen "Yes!" chant, and of course, fighting like a coked-up baboon who thinks his heart will explode if he even thinks about letting a split second transpire in a fight without lobbing a punch at something. His opponent tonight is Myles Jury,  an undefeated lightweight, whom since landing a spot on one of the four million different seasons of "The Ultimate Fighter," has gone 4-0 in UFC contests. While something of a stylistic clash, all it takes is one look at Diego's fight record to know that this dude, even in losing efforts, just flat out brings it -- if "The Fury" wants to win this one, he's going to have to weather one hell of a barrage or two, that's for sure. 

Jury has to be the least intimidating MMA fighter I've ever seen. He's so nerdy, he makes Kenny Florian look like Perry Saturn by comparison. Sanchez, of course, comes out screaming and looking all shades of retarded. The referee, it should probably be noted, also looks like a reformed meth salesman. 

Sanchez with a spinning kick, to which Jury responds with a head kick. Sanchez shoots for a takedown, but he's stuffed. Now Jury looks for a takedown, but he can't get one either. Stalemate. Sanchez breaks free, and now he's taunting his adversary. Jury then pops him with a right, whiffs on a high kick, and makes good on a follow-up right. Jury with a takedown, as Sanchez unsuccessfully seeks a heel hook as the round expires.

Sanchez comes out throwing punches like crazy, but he's not connecting with any of them. I mean, any of them. Jury with a right in riposte, and a head kick that sorta' connects. Sanchez with a right, and he's bleeding like crazy. Jury with another head kick and a ton of jabs. More jabs from Jury, and then, a takedown. Sanchez eyeing a guillotine, and he almost has it. Jury manages to snake his way out, however, and caps the round with a hard right on the ground. Has to be 20-18 for Jury.

Final round. Sanchez out swinging and tossing high kicks. Jury with a jab, and Sanchez retaliates with more body shots. Jury with a knee, and a successful takedown. Sanchez going for an armbar, but it's not going to happen. Back up, and Jury lands one more takedown for good measure. 

As expected, it's a unanimous decision victory for Jury, who is most certainly a top ten lightweight following tonight's performance.

Cain Velasquez gets a huge pop. 

Hey, aren't you exited about an online-only Roy Nelson/Big Nog match-up! What if I told you it had Kawajira taking on Clay Guida on the undercard, too? If you're not enthusiastic about the prospect, congrats on still having your sanity. 

Welterweight Bout
Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley

With just two losses on his record and a chiseled physique that most action-movie stars would kill for, Tyron Woodley is certainly the kind of media-ready breakout star the UFC sure would love to have on their championship roll call. A win here might just put him next in line for a shot at the Welterweight belt, but before he can set his sights on that lofty goal, he first has to get through perennial title contender Carlos Condit. While Woodley may have the more spectacular finishes, Condit is certainly the more battle-tested of the two; needless to say, whoever wins this bout is going to scrap like hell to pick up the 'W.'

Right out of the gate, Woodley cracks Condit with a right. Another right has "The Natural Born Killer" backpedaling. Now Woodley's looking for a takedown. Clinch against the cage, and Woodley gets the takedown. Condit eyes a triangle, but Woodley responds with a mini-power bomb. Woodley with another hard right, and Woodley with another takedown as the round expires. 

Round two. Woodley with another right (hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it) and another takedown. Stalemate on the ground, so the ref orders a stand-up. Woodley with a kick to the knee, and Condit does a double pirouette before collapsing to the canvas. That makes it s TKO victory for "The Chosen One," then. 

In the post-fight interview, Woodley said he deserved a title shot. It may be just a tad to soon for that, but with one more impressive victory of the like, this dude may indeed be a bona-fide 170 pound contender. 

Rounda Rousey gets a huge reaction, but what's really funny is how the camera man completely ignores Nick Diaz, who is setting right beside her.

And one more hard sell for tonight's main event, and folks...it's time to declare ourselves a new Welterweight champion. 

UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler

It's certainly an unorthodox championship bout: on one end, it's a punch-happy brawler whose title contention here is only slightly less believable than a resurgence in the popularity of Pet Rocks, and on the other, it's an Oklahoma-tough wrestler's wrestler, whom just so happens to lug about a left hand that could conceivably kill a dinosaur. Hendricks is definitely the favorite going into the bout, but as Lawler has proven to us time and time again, he's just one cocked-back fist away from victory at seemingly any point in a fight. Odds are, this one won't be a technical clinic, but if you like watching dudes hit each other, really, really hard? This, amigos, might just be your presumptive "fight of the year" frontrunner.

In case you haven't heard, Mr. Hendricks had a wee bit difficulty making weight the day before the fight: is there a possibility that hour or two in the sauna yesterday could impact his performance tonight for the worse? 

Hendricks, clearly, is the favorite in this one. 

Lawler comes out with both guns blazing, and he manages to tag Hendricks quite a few times. Hendricks backpedals, and then bullies Robbie against the cage. Big Rigg looking for a takedown, but he just can't grab it. Lawler sneaks out, Hendricks closes the gap with a few jabs, and has Lawler back up against the cage as the round concludes.

Both men swinging to begin the second, with Lawler appearing to rattle off the more impressive shots. Hendricks fires back with some punches and knees. Hendricks with a low kick, to which Lawler responds with two hard jabs. The two exchange lefts, and Hendricks comes roaring back with the knees. A real back and forth standing battle as the second wraps up. 20-18 Hendricks in my eyes.

Hendricks with a body shot to begin the third. Hendricks with a left, and Lawler with a left in response. Lawler staggers Hendricks with a left. And then another left. Hendricks backpedaling. Hendricks with a takedown attempt, but no dice. Hendricks gets some good shots off, but this was clearly Lawler's round, from start-to-finish.

Fourth. Lawler with a flurry of punches and knees, and Hendricks is bleeding pretty badly. Lawler once again staggers Hendricks with a left, but he remains upright. Hendricks shoots for a takedown, and a shot from Lawler really busts him open. Both men delivering some heinous lefts now. Lawler seems to be winning the exchange, but Hendricks finally lands a takedown in the dying moments of the round. An absolute dead heat, 38-38, heading into the fifth and final round. Whoever wins this one, fellas, wins the 170 pound strap.

Lawler begins the final round with a left-right combination, and Hendricks, repeating his strategy from the first round, bullies him up against the fence. Hendricks has Lawler tied up, bashing him with knees to the legs. The two exchange more shots, and Hendricks shoots for a takedown. No dice. Another awesome left-and-right exchange from both competitors. Hendricks with a left, and another, and he finally has Lawler staggering. Another left, and Hendricks completes a takedown. About a minute and a half left in the round. Hendricks keeps his adversary tied up, and rattles off a few punches on the ground as the final horn sounds.

48-47 across the board, for your NEW Welterweight Champion of the World -- Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks!

SO, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? While a rematch between Hendricks and GSP would be the most desirable (and profitable) route to take here, the much more realistic path is most likely a Bigg Rigg versus Rory MacDonald match this summer, with the winner of that bout taking on the winner of a Hector Lombard/Tyron Woodley battle before the year's over. And since Robbie Lawler demonstrated that he is still a top ten Welterweight fighter, why not put in the cage against Dong Hyum Kim for a midsummer's night bloodbath? Don't look now, but OSP is 3-0 in the UFC; why not have him do battle with fellow Strikeforce alum Rafael Cavalacante next? And lastly: why not put Jury up against either Michael Johnson or the winner of the upcoming Jim Miller/Bobby Green contest next? 

THE VERDICT? This was definitely the best UFC card of the year so far, with what is definitely the early frontrunner for match of the year in Hendricks vs. Lawler. Pretty much every fight on the main card delivered, and the undercard was much stronger than usual. With all of the grueling, stand-up battles we witnessed tonight, UFC 171 really did feel more like a Strikeforce show than your standard Zuffa PPV -- and that is a very, very good thing, of course. 

SHOW HIGHLIGHT: Hendricks vs. Lawler, for sure: two ugly ass people punching the hell out of each other for 25 minutes, complete with a bloody come-from-behind fifth round reversal of fortune.

SHOW LOWLIGHT: I guess the Lombard/Shields bout had a few doldrums, but since most of that fight consisted of Jake Shields having his face punched in, I'm really kinda' hesitant to call it a "lowlight" at all. 

ROGAN-ISM OF THE NIGHT: "Aww, he ain't hurt. If he was, he wouldn't be standing right now." -- OK, so it isn't exactly a quote from Joe Rogan (it was said by some frat boy behind me during the Woodley/Condit decision), but to be fair...that does sound a whole hell of a lot like something you'd hear the Rog-Meister utter on live television.

FIVE THINGS I LEARNED FROM TONIGHT'S SHOW: 

  • It's entirely possible to choke out a motherfucker while he's choking you out.
  • Judo sweeps are approximately 600 percent more successful than traditional wrestling takedowns.
  • In MMA contests, throwing a million billion punches only matters if, you know, those punches connect with something.
  • It's entirely possible to do a triple axle spin on one leg. 
  • You know when's a really good time to start connecting with your jabs? The fifth round.

Well, that's all I've got for you this week. Crank up "Waydown" by Catherine Wheel and "Angel of the Morning" by Juice Newton, and I'll be seeing you in a few.

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