Johny Hendricks, Robbie Lawler and the Changing Welterweight Landscape

Fightland Blog

By Aurora Ford

Nothing I ever expect to happen on fight night actually happens. The outcome that most surprised me (besides watching one of my favorite fighters blow out a knee and crumpling in pain) was the main event, but not because a different winner emerged than the one I’d expected. I went into this weekend thinking Johny Hendricks would walk away with the title, no sweat. After Alexander Gustaffson nearly stomped Jon Jones last year, I decided I would never underestimate a fighter I didn’t really know that much about, ever again, and here I’d gone and done just that to Robbie Lawler. Because while I was very much rooting for Johny to pull out that win, thinking things over later I feel quite uncertain about the results.

Based on the 10 point scoring system, Johny won. But based on any kind of overall qualitative assessment of the fight, in my newb opinion, Johny lost. Technically, he won the first and second, Robbie won the third and fourth, and Johny won the fifth. According to the rules in place the answer was quite clear, and the judges all seemed to see it that way, too, except for Doug Crosby who scored the second round 10-8 for Hendricks. According to the UFC Rules and Regulations, “a round is to be scored as a 10-8 round when a contestant overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round.” Now, maybe in comparison to the first round, when not much damage was done really on either side, Johny ‘overwhelmingly dominated’ in some sense, but Robbie walked out of that round nearly unscathed and definitely not ‘dominated.’ So, if Johny’s performance in round two was worthy of a 10-8, how on earth could Robbie’s performances in three and four only warrant him taking them with a 10-9?

Unfortunately the way things are currently laid out, the judges are not allowed to step back and assign any value positive or negative to the fact that the three rounds Johny won were done so marginally, without having done a great deal of damage, or by landing that final takedown that he was too exhausted to do anything with. The two rounds that Robbie won, on the other hand, are some of the most brutal I’ve ever seen in any fight. I am a huge Johny Hendricks fan, and I was about to leap out of my skin during those rounds. He was hurt bad, bleeding profusely, probably unconscious on his feet there for a few stretches, and at one point looking in the direction of his corner or the clock, I’m not sure which, with an expression that clearly said agony. Robbie on the other hand, was grinning like a psycho killer and having the time of his life. It’s hard to not want to give Robbie some extra credit for the way he pulled out those rounds. When Joe Rogan, who has seen it all by now, calls you crazy, you’re a certifiable maniac.

In the court of public opinion, it seems like Johny is getting his first taste of what it must have been like in GSP's shoes when so many people thought Johny should have taken the belt, and Robbie has shifted into the role from which Johny just emerged, at least in some people's eyes, as the uncrowned king. It never ceases to amaze me how fast things change. 

Check out these related stories on Fightland:

Johny Hendricks and the Weight Cut

Jack Slack: The Evolution of Robbie Lawler

Countdown to UFC 171 - Hendricks Vs. Lawler