For six years, Georges St-Pierre held the UFC Welterweight Championship. On Saturday, a new fighter will emerge with the title in the main event of UFC 171.
Johny Hendricks will take on Robbie Lawler, with the vacant championship on the line. It’s Hendricks’s first fight since being defeated by St. Pierre on Nov. 16. Hendricks lost a controversial split decision, in which many thought he should’ve been named the winner. Lawler beat Rory MacDonald in a split decision on the same night.
After St. Pierre’s retirement, the title may be Hendricks’ to lose. He almost won it four months ago, and is a heavy favorite in Saturday’s fight. Bovada.lv has his betting odds set at -450. Lawler is a +325 underdog.
A year ago, It would have been difficult to predict Lawler’s run towards this title fight. After struggling with Strikeforce, though, “Ruthless” was terrific in 2013. He went 3-0, defeating MacDonald, Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker. After his comeback, he’s set to go head-to-head with the best the welterweight division has to offer.
Both fighters possess a lot of power, and are always a threat to knock out their opponent. Hendricks is one of four UFC fighters to record three knockouts in less than a minute. Of Lawler’s 22 MMA victories, only four have not been knockouts.
The edge for Hendricks comes in wrestling. The favorite had an impressive collegiate career as a wrestler, winning two NCAA national titles. Lawler can hold his on in this department, but his skills are not up to par with that of Hendricks.
“I believe Johny Hendricks has an edge in the fight, especially in the grappling department, because of his experience in wrestling," St. Pierre recently told the Dallas Morning News. "He has a very good team. … I believe Johny will come more well prepared, maybe I’m wrong, that’s just my opinion.”
Lawler looked unstoppable in 2013, and he should give Hendricks a challenge. His ability to end a fight quickly gives him a chance to pull off the upset. However, if he doesn’t stop Hendricks early, he might not have much of a chance.
Prediction: Hendricks by unanimous decision