Will Johny Hendricks gas?
That is now the big question after the welterweight initially failed to make weight at the weigh-ins, then shed the 1.5 pounds on his third attempt afterwards.
UFC president Dana White admitted he was not prepared for that situation, and said they would have fought still, but only Lawler would have been eligible to win the title.
Welcome back to The Crossfire.
He chalked up the situation to a problem with the scales Hendricks was using, as he has made weight previously for every other UFC fight.
So, after some drama, we are here.
After the controversial victory by Georges St-Pierre over Hendricks at UFC 167, fight fans now get to see the two biggest contenders go at it for the welterweight strap vacated by St-Pierre.
Many fight fans, MMA Crossfire included, feel Hendricks won the fight and should be defending the belt here; it is all sauce for the goose as “Bigg Rigg” gets his chance to redeem himself against another vet who feels the same.
Robbie Lawler has kareemed back and forth between some of the top MMA organizations since UFC 37 in 2002 (!) At 32, he’s found his stride and maturity to challenge for the sport’s biggest prize.
All under the watchful eyes of the of the other top welterweights; Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley square off in the co-main event while Jake Shields and Hector Lombard stake their claim for the title mix.
One thing is clear: Many questions in the welterweight division should be answered Saturday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Can Hendricks repeat his standout performance against GSP? Can Lawler continue to ride the momentum with his convincing wins over Rory MacDonald, Bobby Voelker and Josh Koscheck?
MMA Crossfire readers keeping score know Hendricks has been focusing on his quicks for this matchup. Both Hendricks and Lawler use the Vertimax training system:
Hendricks is the favourite coming in, in large part to his performance at UFC 167. But it would be foolish to discount Lawler, who matches up well on the feet.
MMA Crossfire Expert Cassie Wiseman breaks down the fights:
UFC FIGHT PASS EARLY PRELIMS (6PM ET/3PM PT)
DANIEL “THE PIT” PINEDA (18-10-0) VS ROB “THE HAMMER” WHITEFORD (10-2-0)
Wiseman: Grappler vs striker. Pineda is able to submit anyone while Whiteford relies solely on his KO power. Whiteford isn’t decorated enough yet to swim in this division. This is where Pineda is setup to win. I see him testing out the striking, Whiteford swinging for the fences, Pineda scoring the takedown and transitioning into a submission from there. I have this finishing quickly to start off the card.
Wiseman Prediction: Daniel “The Pit” Pineda via submission (1st rd).
BUBBA “THE MENANCE” MCDANIEL (21-7-0) VS SEAN “TARZAN” STRICKLAND (13-0-0)
Wiseman: Bubba has yet to show me that his experience is really an asset. While he is a good grappler and submission fighter, there always seems to be some reason why things don’t go his way. Strickland is coming with a perfect record and the power advantage, but I’m not sure how he will do entering into the octagon fresh off the boat.
Wiseman Prediction: Bubba “The Menance” McDaniel via decision.
WILL CAMPUZANO (13-5-0) VS JUSTIN “TANK” SCOGGINS (8-0-0)
Wiseman: At 125, it’s hard to believe that these guys have KO power, but prepare to be surprised. Campuzano will try to damage from a distance while Scoggins is always aggressive and pushing forward. The problem with Scoggins is that he tend to rely on his power. Campuzano mixes things up more. With that said, Scoggins still has this fight. If not while standing, it will happen when he takes Campuzano to the mat via ground-and-pound. A TKO finish.
Wiseman Prediction: Justin Scoggins via TKO.
RENEE FORTE (8-3-0) VS FRANCISCO “SITKAYAN” TREVINO (11-0-0)
Wiseman: I like this match for Trevino. He is going against a well-rounded fighter in Forte, but their skills match well. They both like to strike, but are calculating. Trevino is the finisher of the two and has more power, plus a better submission game. Forte is great in the clinch and a powerful grappler, but Trevino is going to have people saying his name after this fight.
Wiseman Prediction: Francisco “Sitkayan” Trevino via TKO.
SPORTSNET 360 PRELIMS (8PM ET /5PM PT)
SEAN SPENCER (11-2-0) VS ALEX “THE DOMINICAN” GARCIA (11-1-0)
Wiseman: Finishers tend to be the favorite in a fight, therefore Garcia looks to win this match. Spencer has KO power, but nothing in comparison to Garcia. Spencer isn’t a fool on the mat, but Garcia is superior. When it comes to finishing, Garcia will find a way to take judging into his own hands.
Wiseman Prediction: Alex Garcia via submission.
#12 DENNIS “THE MENANCE” BERMUDEZ (13-3-0) VS JIMY “THE KID” HETTES (11-1-0)
Wiseman: Bermudez is the more well-rounded fighter, but what Hettes does, he does extremely well. It’s similar to how Rousey does armbars, you know it’s coming, but you can’t do anything to stop it. Hettes’ ground game is like that. He is able to control where the fight goes with his grappling ability, takedown defence, and takedown set ups. When on the mat it’s the Hettes show. Bermudez has the power advantage, but without he isn’t going to be able to use that power while in the clinch.
Wiseman Prediction: Jimy “The Kid” Hettes via submission.
#13 RAQUEL “ROCKY” PENNINGTON (4-4-0) VS #9 JESSICA “BATE ESTACA” ANDRADE (10-3-0)
Wiseman: With a 4-inch reach advantage, Pennington is going to need it to outstrike Andrade and to stay away from a grappling match. Andrade thrives in close range, transitions to a takedown, then moves for a submission. However, when it comes to strikes, Pennington is the more technical whereas Andrade fires in flurries. I have Pennington being overwhelmed, note letting her strikes go like she needs, and Andrade being able to get things going in her favor.
Wiseman Prediction: Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade via submission.
KELVIN GASTELUM (8-0-0) VS #14 RICK “THE HORROR” STORY (16-7-0)
Note: Gastelum missed weight, coming in at 172.5 pounds at the weigh-ins.
Wiseman: Fantastic fight! Gastelum continues to show potential both on and post TUF. Gastelum’s best game plan in this fight is to bring things to the mat to take control. Story is explosive and fast. His power is insane, but Gastelum can time things during a rush with his own powerful striking. This is the highest level that Gastelum has ever faced, but keeping distance out of the equation and turning this into a grappling match will certainly be to his advantage.
Wiseman Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum via submission.
MAIN CARD (10PM PT/ 7 PM Pt)
OVINCE SAINT PREUX (14-5-0) VS NIKITA “AL CAPONE” KRYLOV (16-3-0)
Wiseman: The biggest advantage that OSP has is his power. He is a monster in the standup and his ground-and-pound is vicious. Krylov is fantastic on the mat, but it’s a different story when you have a powerful opponent pounding your face. OSP will be able to dictate where the fight goes simply with his grappling and power. Krylov will be on the defence early and unable to get things going his way.
Wiseman Prediction: OSP via TKO.
#6 JAKE SHIELDS (29-6-1, 1 NC) VS #12 HECTOR “LIGHTNING” LOMBARD (33-4-1, 1 NC)
Wiseman: While GSP stated that Shields is overlooked a lot, in this fight I’m going to have to do exactly that. I’ve never been impressed with Shields’ striking and the way he is always so flat-footed makes his movement seem awkward. Striking has never been a strong point for him and he lacks KO power. He isn’t a fighter to sleep on because of his wrestling and ground game, but the skills that Lombard brings to the octagon will certainly put Shields to the test. Lombard has a ground game, enough to stay out of trouble, but his best weapon is his striking. He is also able to set up a takedown yet stuff a takedown as well. The only way Lombard loses this fight is if he doesn’t mentally show up.
Wiseman Prediction: Hector “Lightning” Lombard via TKO.
#15 DIEGO “THE DREAM” SANCHEZ (26-6-0) VS MYLES “FURY” JURY (13-0-0)
Wiseman: If the term “savage” were looked up in the dictionary I’m sure there would be a picture of Sanchez beside it. He doesn’t quit, his warrior spirit is unquestionable, and he is in any fight until the end. Jury is coming with a load of heat behind him, and for good reason. However, when it comes to the battle that he is about to embark upon, I’m not convinced he is ready. Diego is a well-rounded fighter who sets an insane pace, throws a flurry of punches, and will frustrate Jury as he walks through strikes thrown against him.
Wiseman Prediction: Diego “The Dream” Sanchez via decision.
#2 CARLOS “THE NATURAL BORN KILLER” CONDIT (29-7-0) VS #11 TYRON “THE CHOSEN ONE” WOODLEY (12-2-0)
Wiseman: While no one can argue the talent of Condit, lets just be honest, he isn’t the strongest when it comes to stuffing a takedown. His unique striking combinations have really been his bread and butter. Woodley embodies everything that Condit struggles with, heavy hitter with tremendous wrestling. I’m going for the upset.
Wiseman Prediction: Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley via decision.
#1 JOHNY” BIGG RIGG” HENDRICKS VS #3 “RUTHLESS” ROBBIE LAWLER (22-9-0, 1 NC)
Wiseman: The weighins shocked me. There, I said it. Hendricks looked small in the face, dehydrated small. He was shaking with excitement, but was 1.5 pounds overweight. He did lose the weight after, but just wasn’t what I expected from Hendricks. When I look at the stats and compare fighting styles I have Lawler surprising everyone. I feel Lawler is a perfect matchup for Hendricks. Their takedown abilities, takedown defense, power, ground-and-pound, lack of submission attempts, etc. In all of these areas they are the same, but Lawler has a slight advantage in each. Hendricks rushes in more, but if we have the Hendricks that laid back more like we saw against GSP, Lawler will have time to put together his game plan and shock the majority of fight fans.
Wiseman Prediction: “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler via TKO.