We’ve been having trials and tribulations with Fight Pass the last few weeks, but the UFC comes roaring back with a UFC 171 PPV card worthy of the money. Our main event is for the vacant UFC Welterweight title, as Johny Hendricks looks to right the wrongs of his decision loss to GSP. He’ll face old school battler born anew in Robbie Lawler, who has carved his way through the division since rejoining the UFC.
We also have the number one contender spot up for grabs at UFC 171, as Carlos Condit takes on Tyron Woodley, both with eyes towards the future in the welterweight division. We have a lot of event to break down, so let’s get right into the UFC 171 Fight Report.
Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler: A title fight that would have caused me to laugh in your face a couple of years ago is a very real and very exciting event this Saturday. Coming off a controversial decision loss to GSP in his last bout, Hendricks looks to exorcise that demon with his crushing fists and mean streak. Packing horrific power in his strikes and with a proven five rounds of endurance, Hendricks stands as a hard bout for any fighter, yet Lawler just may be up to the challenge.
Lawler himself has looked like a million bucks since his return, putting Koscheck and Voelker on ice with a vengeance, while hustling Rory MacDonald to a decision win. A power striker with a wealth of technically expertise to pair with that physicality, Lawler is masterful in every position, has the poise to fight smart offensively and defensively, and is just as hungry as Hendricks.
This fight, on paper, may be the most epic showdown you can conjure up in terms of power and will. Hendricks is simply built to deal a punch and has the grappling skill from a lifetime in the wrestling room to force the fight he wants. Lawler is one of the most underrated technical fighters on the planet however, being exceptional in the striking department, and having a well-rounded grappling game that Hendricks can’t really match. What this comes down to is who can take and dish out the better punches and keep on their feet when the other goes for takedowns. This is close from first bell to the last, but Hendricks has the balance to keep his feet, the slight edge in functional wrestling, and his kill shots in the first minute and a half are like the man himself in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out: One hit and you’re done. Look for a nasty scrap for the first round but one where Hendricks put together better punches and puts Lawler on the defensive, finally crushing him with body and head combinations against the fence.
Carlos Condit vs Tyron Woodley: Two worthy combatants will be at each other’s throats, as Carlos Condit works back towards a title fight with Tyron Woodley being his only obstacle. Condit has been honing his exceptional skill set for years now, and with a vicious beating dished out against Martin Kampmann last time out, he looks primed and ready for another shot at Hendricks, or a first chance at Lawler if that’s how the UFC 171 main event plays out.
Woodley is no joke himself though, taking that familiar path for wrestlers; learning to fire punches from their strong wrestling base and blending styles into something perfectly suited for MMA. While Woodley has had hiccups against elite grapplers and strikers, Condit isn’t the style of fighter that can impose himself against Woodley, and could well find himself on the defensive for much of this fight. While Condit could turn this around in the last round, the fact of the matter is I think he gives up the first two and Woodley has the better chance of a clean finish early. It could be a grueling bout or a one shot insta-nap, but I like Woodley to zap Condit and make a strong case for a title shot himself.
Diego Sanchez vs Myles Jury: A fight that could play out to be either really fun or terribly tragic, Diego Sanchez will lock his mangled and battle-worn horns with surging fighter Myles Jury. Every time Sanchez steps into the cage I have a legitimate concern for his well-being, as he’s too tough for his own good and not fit for this level of competition anymore. While on paper he stands a solid chance of beating Jury through sheer force of will, I’m afraid the reality of the situation will play out much less heroically for the elder fighter. Jury has the sharp timing of youth, a substantial skill set, and the timing on his slick punching to shut Sanchez brain off in one shot. While I’m hoping Sanchez gets out of this fight, and this sport, in one sound piece, Jury should be able to hustle the TUF 1 champ to a decisive decision victory with much blood in play.
Jake Shields vs Hector Lombard: While we’re loading up the Welterweight division with the exit of GSP, we have another set of top fighters as Jake Shields takes on Hector Lombard. Shields put on a grappling master class against Damien Maia his last time out, but now faces a very different fighter in Hector Lombard. While the mat would prove to be an embarrassment for the Cuban fighter in most cases, I suspect Shields is the only one visiting the mat here, courtesy of a Lombard volley early in the fight. Look for Shields to start slow to get his bearings, but for Lombard to want none of that, lashing Shields with a left-right combo that puts him out cold in the first.
Ovince St. Preux vs Nikita Krylov: The heaviest fighters on the card make for a weak sauce opening bout, as OSP takes on Krylov. I have no idea why Krylov was signed in the first place, and laying out a novice fighter with a head kick doesn’t exactly place him high on my list of prospects either. While OSP isn’t going to get much done in the division himself, I like his tenacity and the power on his strikes, which should be more than enough to dump Krylov on his ass within the first round, sending the young Russia packing.
Kelvin Gastelum vs Rick Story: A great pairing that should really be on the main card, Gastelum will look to keep his momentum going against UFC mid-carder Rick Story. When you really break it down, Gastelum is a better version of Story, having a smooth grappling game, a bit more variety in his overall game, and having far less wear and tear on the body. While Story does have his murderous punching style, his endurance and lack of dynamic entry will cost him against the smoother fighter. Gastelum should shoot under the incoming Story and consistently outwork him on the mat, leading to a late finish or decision.
Raquel Pennington vs Jessica Andrade: A decent women’s scrap, Raquel Pennington will fill in for Julianna Pena, taking on bruiser Jessica Andrade. Pennington is a crisp striker, but her lack of real heart and grappling skills will play poorly for her here against a strong competitor in Andrade. Don’t expect much of a feeling out process, as Andrade drives Pennington to the mat and unloads for two rounds, with a TKO coming late in that second stanza.
Will Campuzano vs Justin Scoggins: A fighter who has consistently frustrated me in his career, Will Campuzano will facilitate his own exit from the UFC on Saturday. A skilled fighter with plenty of tools, Campuzano has never had a second gear in fights, allowing fighters to dictate his every moment while he lives his cage life on the back foot. If there was one guy to not play that game against, it’s Scoggins, whose elite level kickboxing and blazing speed will light Campuzano up early and often. Look for Scoggins to come out strong and tear into Campuzano’s plodding footwork with leg kicks before taking him out with a well-timed head kick.