UFC 181: Johny Hendricks Plans to “Threaten” Robbie Lawler With Vaunted Wrestling Game in Rematch
By Kelsey Mowatt
Although Johny Hendricks narrowly defeated Robbie Lawler in March to become UFC welterweight champ, and has yet to defend the title, there are many who believe that the “Bigg Rigg” era has only just begun.
Of course, since many observers had Hendricks defeating one of the sports all-time-greats in Georges St-Pierre last November, one can understand why the decorated wrestler has received so much praise. In addition, Hendricks has also defeated leading and or former contenders in Carlos Condit, Jon Fitch, Martin Kampmann and Josh Koscheck, and has showcased fearsome knockout power along the way.
While Lawler pushed Hendricks to his limits at UFC 171, and remains one of the welterweight division’s most dangerous finishers, the champion is a considerable, betting odds favorite heading into this Saturday’s rematch. The 31 year-old champ is a favorite in the -200 to -250 range, despite the fact he hasn’t fought since March, while Lawler has gone on to defeat Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown.
One of the key reasons so many believe Hendricks will still be carrying the welterweight belt come Sunday morning, is because the consensus is that the champ wasn’t at his best when he faced Lawler before. Hendricks says he injured his bicep approximately a week out from their March 15th fight, and that the injury only got worse, as the bout progressed.
In other words, how will Hendricks perform in his second go around with Lawler, when he does so without a torn bicep? While appearing on FOX Sports 1’s “UFC Tonight”, Hendricks was asked if his wrestling will play a bigger factor, since he’s not fighting with a torn bicep (quote via FOX Sports 1 press release):
“I’m definitely going to threaten him with it. I don’t go in with the wrestling mentality. I try to set things up, if opportunity is there, yeah, I need to threaten him with that. In the last fight, he got a little confident thinking he could defend my takedowns.”
According to Fight Metric, Hendricks was only able to secure 2 of the 10 takedowns he attempted versus Lawler. Of course, the injury would have also limited the champ’s striking power in that arm as well.
Although Hendricks will presumably be healthier when he takes on Lawler at UFC 181, there is also the question of the layoff, and whether that might hinder the champion’s performance. Not surprisingly, however, Hendricks says that won’t be an issue.
“I’m used to competing all my life,” Hendricks told FOX Sports 1. “In college wrestling, we’d have a four month layoff and then had come back and be well prepared. Sometimes you come back at your best when you have that time off and time to get refocused.”
While Hendricks may not have been at his best when he decisioned Lawler at UFC 171, the latter and his coaches will have fine tuned the feared striker’s approach for round two. Hendricks is clearly confident that he’ll retain the title, but he’s certainly not dismissing “Ruthless” at the same time.
“He’s a very tough fighter, has heart, has good movement and was well prepared for that fight,” Hendricks said about the challenger. “Hopefully, I can showcase better skills this time and get a better win.”
UFC 181 will be hosted by the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.