Opinion: Johny Hendricks as the No. 1 Contender
By Jesse Heitz
Lately there seems to be an unusual amount of chatter circulating about the MMA world regarding who should be next in line to challenge Georges St-Pierre for his UFC Welterweight Championship. Many folks are saying Nick Diaz, while others are throwing their support behind Johny Hendricks. Both would make solid and highly entertaining fights, but in my opinion, only one is worthy of challenging for the title at this point in time.
Recently, members of the Nick Diaz camp have spoken about the possibility of Diaz challenging GSP for the title, let alone their assertions that Diaz should challenge Anderson Silva. Even GSP’s own trainer, Firas Zahabi, believes that Diaz should be the next man to step into the Octagon across from the champion, going so far as to state:
“I think Diaz is the guy who deserves it most, his fight with Carlos (Condit) was so close. Who knows? People judge it both ways.”
“[Diaz is] the guy who is the Strikeforce champion. He climbed up the ladder all the way. Johny deserves it very much, but Diaz has been there longer and done more fights and has bigger wins.”
“If you want to be really fair about it, he is the guy who beat the most amount of names in the biggest fights.”
I will not yet levy the charge of ducking against those in GSP’s camp, or that of insanity on the part of the Diaz camp, but such a charge is certainly on the horizon. Perhaps a Diaz vs. GSP fight would draw the most pay-per-view buys and ticket sales and would be a worthwhile fight, but in no way can anyone rightfully claim that Nick Diaz, who hasn’t fought in a year and is coming off a loss to boot, is at the front of the title challenging line.
Johny Hendricks is by far the clear number one contender for the UFC’s Welterweight Championship. It’s certainly good to see that at least for now, that the UFC brass feels the same way.
As far as comparing recent in-cage accomplishments, it becomes truly absurd that anyone, Firas Zahabi included, would find that the résumé Nick Diaz puts him in a better position than Johny Hendricks to challenge for the title. The last three wins for Diaz (taking into account his year-long suspension) was over: an aging BJ Penn, Paul Daley, and “Cyborg” Santos. Meanwhile Hendricks has obtained three consecutive wins (two by knockout) over three different top 10 welterweights in: Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Martin Kampmann.
In the end, I sincerely hope that Johny Hendricks gets his title shot, as he may very well be one of the few remaining men capable of capturing the strap that GSP has held for so long.