Johny Hendricks outworked Robbie Lawler to win the vacant UFC welterweight title Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Hendricks earned an early lead with effective outside kicks to southpaw Lawler’s lead right leg and with mixed combinations. Lawler rallied with steady, measured boxing to take rounds three and four and closed the distance heading into the final round. Hendricks clinched the final stanza with effective striking and a fight-turning takedown with only seconds remaining on the clock.
With the voluntary exit of former champion Georges St. Pierre, incumbent Hendricks becomes the division's first new champion since 2008.
Johny Hendricks def. Robbie Lawler - Unanimous Decision (48-47 all)
Tyron Woodley def. Carlos Condit - TKO (Kick) 2:00 R1
Myles Jury def. Diego Sanchez - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Hector Lombard def. Jake Shields - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Ovince Saint Preux def. Nikita Krylov - Submission (Van Flue choke) 1:29 R1
Check out our round-by-round live blog of each fight in the sections below.
Welterweight Championship: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
This is a fight I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement. We’re all familiar with Hendricks’ (15-2) brilliant climb to the top of the welterweight heap, his controversial split-decision loss to St. Pierre and this divine opportunity to fight for the vacant title. Against Lawler, Hendricks should have the edge in wrestling and ground game (Lawler is susceptible to submissions). Of course, if the fight goes the way everyone wants it to, this one will end explosively on its feet, where it’s a pick ‘em.
I have to openly disclose that Lawler (22-9) is a sentimental choice for me. He was fighting 13 years ago when I began covering the sport – a young pup on the once-great Miletich Fighting Team. Lawler was discovered by Pat Miletich in an Iowa wrestling room, then discovered again by UFC president Dana White, who called the blessed brawler his “Christmas present” when White brought him over to the UFC with only four pro fights to his name. Lawler has the qualities that White loves to see in a fighter – heavy hands and a devil-may-care attitude. Lawler enjoys getting into scraps. Lawler has blazed up the Octagon with three straight wins, the last a virtuoso where he made groomed contender Rory MacDonald look like a novice. Like Hendricks, Lawler has the God-given gift to end it all with one punch. Don’t blink.
R1 – Two southpaws. Hendricks low kick. Lawler swarms Hendricks on fence, trying to land head punches, but Hendricks circles out. Back to center. Hendricks Low kick that Lawler checks. Lawler with left; Hendricks with counter uppercut and moves into clinch on fence. Hendricks has a hook in; kneeing Lawler till he escapes; Hendricks with a shot that Lawler stuffs. Hendricks with overhand left that Lawler thwarts. Hendricks misses again. Hendricks with inside kick to Lawlers’ lead leg. Solid exchange that leaves Lawler grinning. Hendricks has opened up his striking; Kicks, punches and another shot that pushes Lawler to fence. :20 to go. Stall here to bell. Hendricks 10-9
R2 – Lawler with a nice left. Both bobbing and weaving. Lawler land that left again, kind of a short hook. Hendricks pushes it to fence, but Lawler backs him out. Hendricks with hard kick and follow-up combos. Lawler looks like he’s slowing down. Hendricks mixing up his arsenal and that’s making the difference here. Lawler starting to defend more than attacking. Lawler’s standing right in front of Hendricks, who’s hit his stride. 2:00 to go. Hendricks shoots; no go. Hendricks with another left; he not throwing enough anymore to win this round. Lawler also looks to be tiring. In the last 30 seconds, Lawler starts to throw again, but it’s not enough. Lawler lands a big left at bell . Hendricks 10-9/20-18
R3 – Lawler’s lead leg is visibly battered, so Hendricks goes after it. Lawler a little more awake for this round, moving around, circling out. Hendricks with a knee, punch, kick combo. It’s landing beautifully and Lawler is just eating it. Lawler with a left inside and he attacks another left on the fence. Lawler, with another left. He looks a bit hurt. 2:15 to go. Hendricks slows considerably, trying to get out of the way. Hendricks shoots, misses, but breaks Lawler’s rhythm. Hendricks coming back. Looks like he’s recovered enough with one minute left. Both standing in front of each other, landing here and there. Bell. First good round for Lawler. Lawler 10-9
R4 – Lawler gets in a good exchange, finishing with a knee. Hendricks fires back. Hendricks looks slowed. Lawler is slowly breaking him down. Lawler with another back. Hendricks feels threatened and pushes forward with a shot; stuffed by Lawler. Hendricks cut bad under right eye; blood effecting his vision as he wipes it away. Lawler is plodding, but it’s effective. They continue to trade; Lawler’s left continues to get through. Hendricks with outside kick. Lawler with left uppercut and Hendricks fights back again with a counter. Hendricks eyes is swelling and closing up. Lawler lands a right. 1:00 to go. Lawler starts pumping that right jab. Hendricks with another outside kick. Hendricks gets a TD with second to go. Lawler to his knees at bell. Lawler 10-9
R5 – It’s tied up, folks, with each man claiming two round. Hendricks shoots around 4:30 and holds Lawler to on fence. Hendricks landing knees, as Lawler holds a wide base. Ref separates them and it’s back to center. Lawler with a jab. 2:30 to go. Hendricks shoots again; not close, but it stops Lawler’s striking. Lawler with an overhand left, then a right and another. Hendricks answers with a left and another. Crowd heating up. 1:35 to go. Hendricks with another left to an outside kick. Lawler’s equilibrium seems off. Hendricks digging deep. A left to a TD. :30 to go. Lawler sitting on fence. It’s slipped through his hands. Bell Hendricks 10-9
Official Result: Johny Hendricks def. Robbie Lawler - Unanimous Decision (48-47 all)
Welterweight: Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley
The 29-year-old Condit (29-7) is still a big part of the UFC’s welterweight picture, especially with Georges St. Pierre out of the frame. Condit is a rare mixture of lithe movement and killer instinct; his ability to access opponents in the midst of battle makes him very dangerous.
Woodley (12-2), a Strikeforce prospect, has come into his own lately with two brutal knockouts (Jay Hieron, Josh Koscheck) book-shelving an unfortunate split decision loss to Jake Shields (June 2013). A wrestler by trade, fans much prefer to see the scary striker that’s emerged out of the 31-year-old Woodley of late.
R1 – Woodley with opening right punch. A big one that sends Condit back. Then he lands another. Condit tries to engage but is backed away and bounced off the fence. Woodley flurry into a clinch. Woodley has one hook in but a solid bear hug. Woodley looks strong. Still clinching but moving on and off fence. Woodley won’t let up that hold, now with double underhooks. Condit finally breaks free. 2:00 to go. Condit tags Wood with a left. Condit with a Superman punch and Woodley wisely drops levels. Condit with rubber guard to triangle choke. Woodley shrugs him off and backs out standing. Woodley pushes in with a combo that misses. Woodley with a second TD into Condit’s guard. Condit stacked, looking for another triangle. Up to its feet. Missed spinning backfist by Wood to close out round. Woodley 10-9
R2 – Condit with a low kick. Woodley with another big right. Woodley shoots for another TD. 3:45 to go. Condit winces in pain. Something’s wrong. Woodley posted to his feet. Condit trying to land head shots. Re-stand. Woodley with low kick to the lead knee and Condit spins and spills to the ground. Referee steps in immediately. In replay, it looks like Condit’s right knee (the back one) pops going down. It’s over.
Official Result: Tyron Woodley def. Carlos Condit - TKO (Kick) 2:00 R1
Notes: Woodley's two right punches out of the gate were as good as it gets. Totally took Condit out of his game. Woodley had a great mixture of wrestling and striking. He moves into the title conversation with this win, but is still at least a fight away, in my opinion.
Lightweight: Diego Sanchez vs. Myles Jury
There’s not much more to do with the long-toothed Sanchez (only age 32, but more like 50 in MMA years) but put him on the card for entertainment value. His title-chasing days seem over, but fans love his off-kilter wackiness outside the cage and his demon-possessed fighting style. After a dog-fight loss to Gilbert Melendez last October, we’ll see if Sanchez (24-6) still has more in the tank – but we know he will.
Jury (13-0) will likely have to walk through fire tonight for the win, but if he does it will be the biggest win of his career over a well-known fighter. A protégé of San Diego’s Alliance MMA gym, home to Dom Cruz and Alexander Gustafsson, chances are the TUF 15 veteran is ready.
R1 – Sanchez with a spinning back kick, but Jury counters well. Sanchez eggs him on, which means he was hit. Jury with a low left kick. Sanchez in with a flurry – lands at least one punch and pushes Jury to fence. 3:00 to go. They’re stalling here, exchanging light knees. Separation and back to center. Sanchez is liking his kicks tonight. Jury using his angles; moving well. He might frustrate Sanchez with his conservative approach. Another flurry from Sanchez and he lands as Jury circles out. Jury with a right. Jury with a head kick; starting to pick up his pace. Getting comfortable. Sanchez starting to chase. Jury with first TD. Jury standing, jumps in with punch and Sanchez grabs a leg. Nothing there. Brief scramble to bell. Jury 10-9 (though Sanchez might get it on a card)
R2 – Sanchez with another flurry around 4:30, but Jury wisely circles out. Jury with a punch that opens a cut under Sanchez’s left eye. Sanchez comes back with a landing punch, but Jury is avoiding that firefight Sanchez loves. Sanchez continuing to initiate a wild trade; Jury continuing to circle out. 2:20 to go. Sanchez face is very bloodied. Sanchez lands a body kick. Jury with a right into a TD. Sanchez trying to cinch up an arm-in guillotine. Sanchez squeezing with all his might. Jury gives thumbs up. Jury out and lands an elbow to the cut as they stand. Jury with an uppercut on fence. Sanchez gets in a high kick at bell. Jury 10-9/20-18
R3 – Jury continuing to use his footwork and angles to avoid a Sanchez burst. Jury with a kick, Sanchez counters with a straight. Sanchez connects with an outside kick. And another. Sanchez with a counter body shot. Sanchez with another outside kick, but pays for it with a Jury counterpunch. 2:00 to go. Sanchez’s corner screaming for him to go for it. Jury ties Sanchez up on fence. He’s going to try and eat time here. They separate and Jury continues to avoid the charging bull. Jury with a third TD. 1:00 to go. Jury posted to his knees, avoiding a tie-up. Sanchez out and drops to guard for a guillotine attempt right at bell. Jury 10-9/30-27
Official Result: Myles Jury def. Diego Sanchez - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Notes: Jury won solidly, but looked pretty boring in the process. It's hard to pin what his style is. This is a name-brand victory that the UFC will use to build him, but he needs to engage opponents more to win over the crowd.
Welterweight - Jake Shields vs. Hector Lombard
After losing his father in 2011 and having a win over Ed Herman overturned in 2012 for a banned substance suspension (the Colorado commission never identified what substance Shields was flagged for), Jake Shields (29-6-1, 1 NC) has done his best to right the ship. He has back-to-back split decision victories over Tyron Woodley (June 2013) and Demian Maia (October 2013), which keeps him in the title hunt.
Former Bellator middleweight champion Lombard (33-4) has been the UFC’s most expensive acquisition from the rival promotion to date. After a shaky start and a drop down to 170, the 36-year-old power-puncher has gone 2-2 for the promotion, with his last win a KO over Nate Marquardt. More of that Lombard is expected tonight, though Shields, far from a striking threat, has a knack for finding ways to win.
R1 – Lombard with a wild, landing left swing to the clinch to a slam TD. Shields rebounds to his feet again. Shields with head kick and slips. Stands up. Lombard lands a big left; which clinch and they separate. Lombard lands body punch; Shields keeping his distance till he shoots and fails. Lombard pushes him to fence. 3:00 to go. Lombard nails an uppercut as they separate again. Shields is cut on his left eye. Lombard ragdolls him to ground, but he’s up again. Lombard’s strength is just too much for Shields. Shields shoots again; another miss and Lombard throws a landing body kick and pounces. Shields floundering, but manages to get full guard. :50 to go. It stalls here to bell. Lombard 10-9
R2 – Shields pawing with his left jab. Lombard swings big and Shields just ducks it. Lombard tags him again into a trip TD. Lombard in side control. Shields recovers full guard. Shields throwing baby punches from his back; no power. Re-stand. 2:44 to go. Lombard lands a counter left, as Shields shoots in and stalls on his knees. Shields to his back and Lombard lets him stand. Pace has slowed considerably. Lombard looks like he’s headhunting until he hip-tosses Shields to the canvas. Shields trying to make something happen from his back. Bell. Lombard 10-9/20-18
R3 – Lombard looked tired between rounds. Shields still pawing, trying to keep distance. Lombard with a body shot. Low blow (kick) on Shields, who opts to start again right away. Shields with a single-leg shot; Lombard sprawls and maneuvers into a TD of his own. Shields is stacked on fence. Again, Lombard isn’t very active on the ground. He might be resting for the stand-up attacks later. Re-stand. 2:30 to go. Shields with a missed high kick. Shields with another failed shot; stalls on his knees, but gets to his back again. Shields face is bloodied everywhere. 1:25 to go. Shields gets full guard. Ref warns for another re-stand, which happens again shortly after. :50 to go. Lombard shoots and gets caught in a Hail Mary guillotine, but rides out the clock. Lombard 10-9/30-27
Official Result: Hector Lombard def. Jake Shields - Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Notes: Lombard's strength and power shots early on were too much for Shields, who was trying to catch up the entire fight. Neither fighter looked good enough to stake a claim at a title shot just yet.
Light Heavyweight: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Nikita Krylov
The 30-year-old St. Preux -- a former high school wrestler and track star, as well as a college defensive end – has a lot of raw talent for MMA, but still lacks in skills. His mediocre 14-5 record perfectly reflects his ability to ride on his natural athletic ability in some bouts and falter with experienced opposition. The UFC has brought OSP along gently so far, with wins against Gian Villante (April 2013) and Cody Donovan (August 2013). Stamina has been a factor for OSP in later rounds.
Ukrainian Krylov (16-3) is also on the third fight of his UFC career, with his most recent win over newcomer Walt Harris in January. Though he has favored striking of late, Krylov cut his teeth on the local scene with 10 submission wins, something he can use to his advantage against the greener OSP. This is Krylov's first bout at light heavyweight.
R1 - Feeling out with kicks and OSP gets a TD. OSP to side control to avoid guillotine choke. Krylov loses hold. OSP trying to pin Krylov’s left arm with his left knee. OSP latches on a Van Flue choke from side, as Krylov has one arm on OSP’s head. Krylov goes out cold.
Official Result: Ovince Saint Preux def. Nikita Krylov - Submission (Van Flue choke) 1:29 R1
Notes: OSP was super impressive with the unexpected submission win. This kid's learning curve is promising.
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