Matt Hughes: Johny Hendricks Didn’t Try To Go Out There & Win The Fight

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The trio of UFC welterweight champions fighting out of Bettendorf, Iowa’s Miletich Fighting Systems came full circle when Robbie Lawler joined Matt Hughes and Pat Miletich by edging out former champion Johny Hendricks in the main event of Saturday night’s (Dec. 6, 2014) UFC 181 pay-per-view (PPV) from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The decision was with some controversy after many believed Hendricks to have retained the belt with his wrestling and control, but the judges saw Lawler’s efforts to do damage as the more deciding factor.

And while Hendricks previously derided former nemesis Georges St. Pierre for his safe, grinding style during his long run as champion, he’s now garnering a lot of the same criticism after he spent the majority of the fourth and fifth rounds trying to take Lawler down along the fence.

One such critic is Hughes, who appeared on today’s edition of The MMA Hour to explain that Hendricks was trying to win with points similar to GSP:

“I believe that he got this from Georges St. Pierre. GSP is not a guy to go out and win fights. GSP wants to win three of the five rounds. He wants to win a round, then win another round, then win another round…and I think Johny really tried to do the same thing. Not go out there and win the fight, but go out there and win rounds. That’s not the most exciting thing to watch, watching a guy go out and try to win rounds. People want to see people go out and finish the fight.”

Hendricks rose up to his title shot largely on the strength of his highlight reel knockouts over Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, but his strategy has taken a much safer approach since he started fighting for gold, namely in his the fifth round of his close win over Lawler at UFC 171 and obviously again at UFC 181.

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Hendricks partly blamed cutting too much weight for the loss, noting that he “didn’t fight” like he normally does in the fourth and fifth rounds. Hughes noticed this, and believes that Hendricks, with the strength back in both of his arms this time, got too caught up in going for takedowns in order to win rounds.

“Bigg Rigg” was piecing Lawler up on the feet in the third round, but couldn’t seal the deal. It wasn’t his normal strategy, so Hughes believes that Hendricks will go back to the drawing board and come out more aggressive in the future:

“I think Johny got caught up in the whole aspect of trying to win rounds based on takedowns. You never saw Johny go out there and try to finish the fight. Even a couple of times, when he had maybe Robbie stumbling a little bit where he could have capitalized on that. I think Johny will go back…I think Johny definitely had a hard weight cut, and that’ll be corrected the next fight. And I think he’ll go in with a game plan of, I’ve got an opportunity to finish this fight, let’s not let it go to the judges.”

All criticism aside, Hughes knows that Hendricks truly goes into finish fights. He said that mindset changes a bit when one gets hit by Lawler, but ultimately the UFC doesn’t want a champion who’s prone to stalling on the cage:

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“Johny’s a finisher — he really is. I think that first fight with Robbie [at UFC 171 in March], he got hit a couple of times and he did not want to get hit by Robbie again like that and to take the blows. So I’m not saying it’s not a smart thing to do. I know how Robbie hits. I’ve trained with him many times.
But that’s just not the way to go about things. That’s not a champion the UFC wants. Maybe I’m speaking out of turn here, but they don’t want a champion who’s going to tie somebody up, put them against the fence and try to just win single rounds and not try and close the fight.”

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports