MMA: Johny Hendricks becomes Welterweight Champion at UFC 171 after see-saw contest against Robbie Lawler

The title had been vacated by long-time champion Georges St Pierre

For the first time in almost seven years, the UFC has a Welterweight Champion who is not called Georges St Pierre (GSP).

Back in November GSP barely hung on to his title by winning a split decision over Johny Hendricks. Most believe that the decision was unjust, yet it was what it was. In the aftermath, GSP announced that he was stepping away from the sport due to personal reasons and he would relinquish his title. At UFC 171 last Saturday Johny Hendricks would get another shot at the belt against veteran, Robbie Lawler, in his hometown of Dallas, Texas. 

There was an interesting atmosphere. Fighting for a vacant championship is far more common in boxing than in the UFC. In the UFC there is a feeling of needing to beat the champ to become the champ. Johny Hendricks, though, has always been absolute in his goal. He has never been bothered with beating the champ or any particular individuals. All Hendricks has ever wanted was the Welterweight Championship, whatever it took. 

In Robbie Lawler, there is a UFC story for the ages. He made his UFC debut at UFC 37 way back in May of 2002 at the age of 20. After two losses on the trot to Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner, and seemingly no longer motivated to participate at the highest level, the UFC dropped Lawler from the roster. Lawler would fight for various promotions until 2009 when he made his Strikeforce debut. The UFC acquired Strikeforce in 2011, and merged it into the UFC at the start of 2013. At this time, Lawler had three wins and five losses in Strikeforce; hardly something for him to write home about. Then something happened, something clicked. Lawler went on a tear! Josh Koscheck, Bobby Voekler and the ridiculously talented Rory Macdonald all fell by the wayside and finally, after 12 years in the game, Robbie Lawler had a shot at the title. 

So it was, two fighters with unrivalled knockout power in their arsenal stepped into UFC’s Octagon on Saturday night, ready to fulfil their dream. Hendricks was certainly favoured, though everyone suspected the fight would be over quickly with either contender securing the win by knockout. How wrong we were. 

Hendricks took the first two rounds, seemingly landing at will and using his striking combinations to great effect. Lawler seemed to just stand in front of Hendricks, and it was obvious that he was looking for one big knockout punch. It was Hendricks’ variety that was so impressive and after two rounds, a large hematoma had formed on Lawler’s leg resulting from Hendricks’ brutal leg kicks. Lawler though was still in there. 

Round three began. The situation changed dramatically. Lawler looked fresh as a daisy, Hendricks looked slightly gassed out. The day prior, Hendricks had been slightly over the necessary weight limit. With legendary trainer, Mike Dolce in his corner, this was very uncharacteristic and it transpired that the scales they had been using were damaged. On those scales they had been on weight, though not on the official scales. Hendricks lost the weight needed in the allocated time, but there was a question in the air as to how this might affect his condition. Was it now showing?

All of a sudden, Lawler started landing powerful shots. Half way through round three and Hendricks seemed out on his feet. Could this actually be happening? Was he going to miss out on the title yet again? Was Robbie Lawler going to complete his amazing career revitalisation? Lawler took round three, though had potentially missed an opportunity to finish the fight. He might have pressed more when Hendricks had been in trouble, but chose to reserve some energy. Hendricks showed his granite chin and somehow recovered. 

Round four, and more of the same. Lawler took it to Hendricks and was landing enormous punches to the head of Hendricks. Two rounds all. Hendricks was well aware of the situation and told his corner he needed the 5th. It was back and forth and the with little time to spare, Robbie Lawler’s tank became immediately empty. He had simply no energy left. Hendricks summed the last of his will and determination and scored the takedown necessary to win the round, the fight and the championship. This, though, had been a war. 

There is a new landscape in the UFC Welterweight division. Dominant champions are great for a sport, but so too is change, and that time for change has come. The division that seemed dull stuck in GSP’s stalemate has now opened wide up. There are at least three people who would deserve a chance to fight Hendricks for the belt. 

It was a staggeringly exciting fight card. The UFC, again, defied the odds and produced a masterclass. With dilution of quality due to the quantity of fights they put on this year being a real point of discussion, they somehow continue to produce. Extraordinary. 

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past