On February 19th, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, plays host to UFC Fight Night Lewis vs. Browne (otherwise known as UFC Fight Night 105), featuring a hard-hitting heavyweight main event with Travis Browne taking on Derrick Lewis.
With the card fleshing out, it was recently announced that Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks will fight Hector Lombard in a bout which serves as the show’s co-main event.
Given the pair’s histories as welterweights, Hendricks vs. Lombard may look rather innocuous on paper, but the fight is in fact a middleweight tilt after Hendricks’ latest failed weight cut ahead of his fight—and subsequent loss—against Neil Magny at UFC 207.
Hendricks’ failure to make weight at UFC 207 was the latest in a string of issues he’s encountered in trying to make the 170lbs welterweight limit. Besides always looking gaunt on the scales, Bigg Rigg didn’t have any problems until his UFC 171 title fight against Robbie Lawler in early 2014, which saw him require an additional hour to make weight—which he barely managed.
However, at UFC 192, Hendricks was forced to withdraw from his fight against long-time collegiate wrestling rival Tyron Woodley a day before the event after suffering a kidney stone attack and intestinal blockage as a result of a poor weight cut. This was then followed by him missing weight against fellow serial failed weight-cutter Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 200 by a quarter of a pound.
The trifecta was achieved ahead of the Magny fight, which saw him miss weight by 2.5lbs despite plenty of media bluster regarding his new healthy eating regime. After the Magny incident, Hendricks said: “I’m done with fighting at welterweight. Unless they open a 175lbs division, I’m moving up to middleweight.” This quote is at odds with Hendricks’ previous reluctance to fight up a weight class despite his numerous discrepancies with the scales.
This could prove to be a pivotal fight for both men. After capturing the UFC welterweight crown against Robbie Lawler at UFC 171, Hendricks lost the resulting rematch and has went 1-3 since with three losses in a row. Likewise, Lombard’s last three fights have seen him lose twice by knockout and had a unanimous decision win against Josh Burkman overturned for testing positive for anabolic steroids. The former Bellator middleweight champion hasn’t won a fight for almost three years.
Hendricks appears to see this as an opportunity to revitalise his career. One thing which has irked both MMA fans and pundits alike is his perceived inability to take responsibility for any mistakes made in either a fight or his now-infamous weight cut regimen. True to form, Bigg Rigg told Australia’s Submission Radio he felt he won the Magny fight and how any in-cage problems are attributed to his failed weight cuts.
“Realistically, I thought I won that fight,” said Hendricks. “I rewatch it and I rewatch it and I rewatch it… I pretty much controlled him for 13 minutes, besides a minute of submission and 15 seconds of a submission. But, I made a slight adjustment and it went away. And all of a sudden you lose a fight because of that?
“So that’s why I’m looking at this going, it’s gotta be the weight. That’s why I want to do my last [fight] at 185 [pounds]. And I tried to move up to 185 before my last fight, but my coaches and everybody said, ‘Hey, let’s just try one more at ’70’.
“I said if I lost [against Magny] I would [retire], but if I fight good at ’85, well then I’m gonna stay there. But if I don’t do good, then guess what? It’s time. I had my fun, I had my time. It’s not worth going out there and training for 12 weeks and then being done, or going out there and just losing.
“There’s a time to listen to your body and there’s a time not to, and I’ve decided not to listen to it for the last year. Now it’s really time for me to listen to my body and say, ‘Hey, something’s got to give.’ I’ve either got to retire or I’ve got to move up. And why not? I’ve got one fight left on my contract, why not see what happens at 185?” Hendricks later added.
Trotting out a similar line ahead of his Magny fight, Hendrick’s success at 185lbs remains to be seen.
Hendricks has proved a controversial figure in MMA over the last few years. This new adventure—potentially a one-stop stay—at middleweight will certainly provide another interesting wrinkle to proceedings at UFC Fight Night 105.
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