UFC Welterweight title challenger Johny Hendricks is in for the fight of his life this Saturday when he steps into the Octagon to face off with longtime champion Georges St. Pierre.
Many believe that Hendricks is GSP’s toughest challenge yet thanks to his NCAA championship wrestling pedigree and awe-inspiring knockout power. They may be right, but Hendricks still seems to think he has his doubters, as well. ‘Bigg Rigg’ spoke up to MMA Fighting to detail his feelings about the blockbuster tilt, stating that he doesn’t even have to show all of his skills to win:
"Here's the thing, is that I don't have to showcase my whole skillset to win fights. I haven't had to. Now this fight I might have to. I have jiu-jitsu, I have wrestling, I have power, I have striking. So where is the inexperience or the lack of something? Everybody keeps saying (it) every fight. ‘He's fighting Kampmann, better striker. ‘He's fighting Condit, a better striker.' Where did I win those fights at? Everybody keeps doubting me, and I love that. I absolutely love that."
It’s highly debatable as to whether or not everyone is doubting him. Actually, it seems like more people are giving him much more of a chance than any of St. Pierre’s previous opponents. His recent knockouts of Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch have the MMA world on the ropes about who will win this one.
It’ll be on the big stage of the UFC’s twentieth anniversary show at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It’ll also be in the form of a five round fight, something Hendricks has never participated in before. And that could be his one Achilles’ heel, if he has one. Critics noted that Hendricks seemed to fade against Condit at UFC 158 after putting forth a huge volume of power strikes in the first two rounds. However, ‘Bigg Rigg’ believes he has shored up that part of his game:
"I was pushing myself to the limit everyday that I possibly could. I think, now, I am ready. One thing I've learned, if you watch all my fights, I push very, very hard the first two rounds, because I have to win two out of three, right? Well now I've got to win three out of five. So that changed up the way I'm looking for stuff. I've worked a lot on my boxing, a lot on my kickboxing, to not only just go for the kill, but also to set up the kill. That's something that I'm looking forward to, to see how that adapts, see if I can translate what I've learned these last four months into the Octagon."
There’s not much doubt that Hendricks will definitely have to pace himself against St. Pierre. He’ll shock the world if he can score the huge knockout early on, but if he doesn’t he ‘ll be at a huge disadvantage heading into the later rounds. St. Pierre is well known for weathering the initial storm of his opponents and then drowning them in deep water.
Hendricks has enough faith in his wrestling to believe that GSP won’t be able to take him down. However, many a talented wrestler thought the same thing. Hendricks is arguably the most decorated amateur wrestler St. Pierre has ever faced in the cage; it’ll be interesting to see if that translates into success at UFC 167.
But Hendricks’ offensive weapons were never in question. The real questions will be how he responds to adversity and how much gas he has in the tank come Saturday. Does ‘Bigg Rigg’ have the stamina to hang with the greatest grinder the UFC has ever seen?