Happy Friday fight freaks! The Cowboy is here with the hotly anticipated preview of tomorrow night’s stacked UFC card that you’ve all been waiting for. Before we get to the preview, I’d like to let everyone know some of what’s going on here in PBTN’s MMA. I’ll be appearing as a regular guest on PTBN’s bi-weekly Extra Point podcast. The first episode is available on the site now and includes a brief preview of this Saturday’s action. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the CowboyCast. The plan is to bring you a monthly MMA themed podcast hosted by none other than myself in the very near future. I hope you are all as excited as I am!
Now that we’ve gotten new business out of the way, let’s concentrate on UFC 171. This card is jam packed with important fights, particularly in the Welterweight division. The Main Event, of course, is the Welterweight title tilt between “Big Rig” Jonny Hendricks and “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. Hendricks is coming off a hotly debated decision loss to GSP in a fight that most cageside observers thought Jonny did more than enough to pilfer GSP’s welterweight crown. At the very least, Hendricks can take solace in the fact that he was partially responsible for sending longtime champion GSP into semi-retirement. With the champ out for the foreseeable future, Hendricks and Lawler were chosen to fight for the belt. Also on the card are two more welterweight bouts: Carlos “Natural Born Killer” Condit takes on decorated wrestler Tyron Woodley and Jake Shields squares off against Bellator sensation Hector Lombard.
Jonny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler – 5 Rounds for the vacant UFC Welterweight Title
This has the potential to be an absolute shootout. Both Hendricks and Lawler possess concussing power in their fists and can end the fight with one shot. They are, arguably, the two heaviest handed guys in the division. Hendricks is the more well rounded fighter as he is a highly decorated wrestler. In most cases, he has used these wrestling chops in a defensive manner to keep his fights standing where he can land his TNT-packed left hand. Against Lawler, this could be a dangerous proposition. Robbie is a brilliant striker who has an impressive resume of one punch knockouts on his ledger. My personal favorite was his come from behind blasting of gifted kickboxer Melvin Manhoef. If you haven’t seen that fight I suggest getting your hands on a copy of it. You will see exactly what Hendricks has to fear being on the feet with Lawler.
The smart path for Hendricks would be to work for takedowns and use his punishing ground and pound to take Lawler out late or win a decision. Lawler has good, but not great, takedown defense. This appears to be the path of least resistance for Jonny. The longer the fight goes on, the more it favors Hendricks. For Lawler, his best chance is to keep the fight standing and catch Jonny with a big counter on the way in. Both guys have great chins which will most certainly be tested.
While the fan in me hopes that Hendricks tries to put on a show by standing and trading with Lawler, my head says that Jonny will fight the smart fight and take Lawler to the mat repeatedly. He will soften him up with ground and pound before taking him out late.
Cowboy’s Call: Hendricks by 4th rd TKO
Carlos Condit vs Tyron Woodley – 3 Rounds at Welterweight
This is a very interesting fight. Condit is certainly the more battle tested of the two and has, by far, the more impressive resume. He is an excellent striker and submission artist who is capable of finishing the fight at any time on the feet or the ground. He has shown one Achilles heel in his career, though, and that is an inability to avoid takedowns. Against Woodley, Condit has a somewhat limited and inexperienced fighter in front of him. The problem for Carlos is that Woodley’s strength is a very solid wrestling base. Throughout his short career, Woodley has shown improvement on the feet. In particular he has vicious power in his right hand. To win this fight, though, Tyron will have to go back to his roots and use stifling top control against Condit.
They say styles make fights and Woodley’s style is all wrong for Condit. For Carlos to win he will have to score as much as possible while the fight is standing and stay active off of his back when Woodley inevitably takes him down. Given Woodley’s recent string of KO victories the possibility does exist that he will be more willing to stand than he has been in the past against superior strikers. This would play right into Condit’s hands. Woodley’s gameplan, in my eyes, should be simple: take Carlos down early and often and stay active enough in top control to not get stood up.
This is a tough fight to call. Condit is almost certainly one win away from challenging the winner of the main event for the title. Dana has not done him any favors, nor should he, by putting him in there with Woodley. If Woodley was a bit more experienced I would feel very confident in picking him for the upset. With that said, I am still going to go out on the limb. I feel that Condit won’t be able to stay off his back and Woodley will do just enough from the top to secure the close points victory.
Cowboy’s Call: Woodley by Unanimous Decision
Jake Shields vs. Hector Lombard – 3 Rounds at Welterweight
The last fight that we’ll preview today is also an intriguing contest. Both Shields and Lombard entered the UFC with tons of hype. Shields came in to the promotion as the reigning Strikeforce champion fresh off of a dominant win over the great Dan Henderson. Lombard came over from Bellator having not lost since 2006 and looking like an absolute destroyer. Both have had somewhat mixed success in the UFC and are coming off the biggest victories of their respective UFC careers: Shields a tough decision win over red hot Demian Maia and Lombard with a vicious KO of former Middleweight title contender Nate Marquardt. The winner of this fight has an excellent chance of landing a title shot in the near future, particularly if Woodley pulls the upset on Condit.
Shields is a grinder. His fights are not the most exciting to watch, but he does an excellent job of neutralizing his opponents and landing just enough strikes and takedowns to win decisions. His path to victory against Lombard should be similar. Lombard is a powerhouse who has looked great since a moving to Welterweight. He possesses brutal knockout power in his hands and will have a decided edge in this area over Shields. His best chance is to catch Shields similarly to how Jake Ellenberger did and simply overpower him. Lombard has not shown a great gas tank and Shields should certainly look to drag him into deep water.
The going will be difficult for Jake early but I feel as though he will weather the storm and take Lombard the distance for yet another close decision win.
Cowboy’s Call: Shields by UD
Cowboy’s Call Year-to-Date: 6-0