Hendricks nips Lawler by UD in an epic slugfest

Published on Sunday, 3/16/14, at 3:05 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Let’s start with an apology to anyone that followed my picks for last night’s UFC 171 card — yikes!!

We have a new welterweight kingpin and his name is Johny ‘Bigg Rigg’ Hendricks, who narrowly defeated ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler in a stand-up war. BE Sports scored it 48-47 for Hendricks, who won by unanimous decision (48-47 three times) as a -350 favorite. The ‘over’ (3.5 rounds, +120) was a winner.

Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports had it 48-47 for Lawler.

I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a mixed martial arts fight where two sluggers stood in the pocket and went at it for at least 20 of the 25 minutes. Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell and Wanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva did the same in their epic battle, but that was just a three-round match.

I gave Hendricks the first two rounds, but both stanzas were close. ‘Bigg Rigg’ landed a little more and mixed in some nick kicks, one of which left a big welt on Lawler’s right shin.

But the momentum shifted early in the third round when Lawler landed a thunderous uppercut. He followed with a combination that backed up Hendricks, who was clearly in trouble. By the end of the round, Hendricks had a cut over his right eye and his nose was busted up.

The fourth was more of the same in favor of Lawler, who continued to pour it on. Hendricks was battling back but the flow of blood into his eye was bothering his vision. Lawler had him in trouble at least twice, but he couldn’t finish the native Texan.

In the fifth, it was clear the winner of the round was going to take the strap. I felt like Hendricks had a slight lead in the first three minutes of the round, and he sealed the deal by going back to his wrestling roots. He was able to score a takedown on Lawler and keep top position for the rest of the stanza.

Both men produced brilliant performances with sharp boxing and demonstrated amazing abilities to take punches. Hopefully we’ll get a rematch in the next year or so.

In the co-main event, Tyron Woodley improved to 3-1 in the UFC by beating Carlos Condit via second-round TKO. Woodley hooked up his backers with a +160 payout. My only winner of the night was ‘under’ 2.5 rounds for this fight to get a +120 return.

BE Sports gave Woodley the first round by a slim margin, but Condit was starting to get loose midway through the second round. However, Woodley scored a takedown and Condit was clearly in pain as he went down. He managed to get back up but when Woodley landed a hard legkick moments later, Condit’s knee gave when he tried to plant it. And the fight ended in disappointing fashion.

The initial reports from Condit’s camp indicated a concern for a torn meniscus and/or an ACL tear. ‘The Natural Born Killer’ is awaiting the results of an MRI.

This is a huge victory for Woodley, who might move up into the top five of the UFC welterweight rankings.

It’s a bitter pill for Condit to swallow because he was in line for the next title shot had he beaten Woodley. And that would’ve been a rematch with Hendricks, who narrowly defeated Condit by decision in one of the best fight in 2013.

Myles Jury remained unbeaten with his fifth UFC win over Diego Sanchez by UD (30-27 twice, 29-28 once?!). Jury is on the rise in the 155-pound loop. He cashed tickets as a -185 ‘chalk.’

Hector Lombard dominated Jake Shields for a UD win as a -220 favorite. Lombard gave a beating to the former Strikeforce middleweight champ like none he had ever taken before in his career. Don’t be shocked if the 35-year-old Shields gets cut.

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