This Saturday will mark a new beginning for the UFC Welterweight division with the first title fight in almost 7 years that will not feature the legendary George Saint Pierre. With GSP finally releasing his strangle hold on the division, the dynamics of the 170lb weight class have drastically shifted and may in effect revive a heightened sense of competitive thrill and unpredictability to the title picture. The self admitted obsessive compulsive ex-champ impressively dominated the division for several years, but may have done so at the expense of excitement for the fans, with what evolved into a conservative point orientated strategy.
On Saturday night all of this is set to change when Johny Hendricks meets Robbie Lawler to decide the rightful champ of the vacant Welterweight title.
One significant common denominator between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler is that they both arguably posses the most devastating knockout power in the 170lb division. Johny Hendricks caught everyone’s attention with his first round one punch knockouts over top contenders Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann that sent their MMA careers into a downward spiral. Robbie Lawler has a rare type of explosive killer instinct that has resulted in 82% of his 22 wins coming by way of TKO. Throw in the fact they both resiliently press forward into battle and you have got a real barn burner on your hands.
From a technical standpoint, Johny Hendricks will have a clear advantage in the realm of wrestling as an established two time Division I NCAA champion. Robbie Lawler may have a slight striking advantage over Johny having several more years experience in the MMA game and more hours devoted to polishing his technique. A major deciding factor is whether or not Robbie will be able to ward off the well timed takedowns of Hendricks and manage to keep the fight on the feet. Robbie demonstrated his capability to out scrap a decorated wrestler with his TKO win over former NCAA Division I champion Josh Kosheck and may try to use the victory as a blueprint to defeating Hendricks, but will also have to deal with the complications of fighting a southpaw this time around.
Both fighters are hungry coming into the fight with sheer confidence and the unwavering belief that now is there time and no one is capable of standing in their way. Hendrick’s had a glimmering taste of what it is like to win the coveted UFC title as he truly believed he was the victor before GSP’s hand was raised in the controversial narrow split decision over Johny at UFC 167. Robbie Lawler has been in the UFC in the past before being knocked out after back to back losses, having to prove himself once again by grueling his way to hold multiple titles in smaller promotions before finally getting the chance to rise through the ranks of the UFC. Lawler comes with the belief that he has finally put all the pieces together and is at the pinnacle of his career.
Given the explosive reputation each of these fighters have coming into Saturday night the most likely outcome is by an early TKO. If each contender is able to sustain the onslaught of blows from one another for the full five rounds this fight may have the potential to reach epic proportions as that of Henderson v Rua or Bigfoot v Hunt. Tune in Saturday night to witness the redefining of 170lb title fights.