Johny Hendricks’ days at welterweight are numbered.
It was profound disappointment when the UFC announced it would be scrapping Hendricks vs. Tyron Woodley on Saturday’s UFC 192 pay-per-view card. The smack talk between Hendricks and Woodley had persisted since their collegiate wrestling days, and Saturday’s fight represented a chance to finally put some of the talk to bed.
It also represented an opportunity for a shot at UFC gold. The winner of the upcoming welterweight title fight between Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit was likely going to fight the winner of Hendricks and Woodley sometime next year.
But the UFC’s unofficial title eliminator bout was scrapped at the last minute when Hendricks was rushed to the emergency room during an attempted weight cut. The official diagnosis, according to Hendricks’ manager Ted Ehrhardt, was intestinal blockage and a kidney stone.
It was no surprise that UFC President Dana White wasn’t exactly pleased with having to scrap a big fight on a major pay-per-view card a couple of days out from the event. When speaking with UFC correspondent Megan Olivi, White said he never wanted to see Hendricks compete at 170 pounds again:
“He blows up when he’s not competing, and as you continue to get older, it makes it harder to make the weight. He has to figure out a diet. He just lost a huge opportunity here tonight. So he needs to figure this thing out. I consider him an ‘85 pounder right now. I do not want to see him at 170 again.”
Hendricks, who turned 32 last month, typically balloons up to 200-plus pounds before cutting down to 170. The strenuous weight cuts have taken a toll on Hendricks’ body for quite some time. According to MMAFighting’s Luke Thomas, Hendricks contemplated retiring after UFC 181 because the weight cut was so bad.
Hendricks is caught between a rock and a hard place in his career. On one hand, he could continue to put a lot of stress on his body and internal organs with extensive weight cuts, or he could move up to the middleweight division. The level of difficulty would increase exponentially for Hendricks at 185 pounds, but given his walking weight, he should fit right in with the rest of the middleweight sharks.
Today, we’ll take a look at how Hendricks would fare against the top 185-pound fighters in the world.
5. Vitor Belfort
Post-TRT Vitor Belfort hasn’t looked anywhere near the same guy.
It was the year of “The Phenom” in 2013, as a reinvigorated Belfort torched the likes of Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson.
But then the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned TRT usage, and Belfort instantaneously went from The Hulk to Bruce Banner. Chris Weidman used his wrestling and ground-and-pound to dominate the MMA legend at UFC 187.
There is no hope for any man attempting to stand and exchange directly with Belfort in the opening moments of the first round, but if you weather the storm, opportunities begin to open, particularly in the wrestling department. Belfort has struggled against hard-nosed wrestlers his entire career.
As long as he sticks to his wrestling, Hendricks is the perfect style opponent that normally gives Belfort fits.
Prediction: Hendricks by Unanimous Decision
4. Yoel Romero
It’s safe to say the referee will be watching Yoel Romero’s stool like a hawk in this fight. (Warning: Video Contains NSFW Language)
We’d have to look to gold medalist Henry Cejudo to find a more accomplished wrestler than Romero, an Olympic silver medalist. The 38-year-old fighter moves around with the versatility of a 28-year-old fighter. He recently earned a performance of the night bonus for knocking out former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
However, conditioning is a big question mark for Romero. Things would be interesting in a three-round fight with Hendricks, but in a five-rounder, it would be tough to pick against the former welterweight champ.
The downside to Romero’s explosive offense is that it siphons his gas tank. Fighters can normally find success against him after weathering the early storm. Tim Kennedy was several seconds on a stool away from handing Romero his first UFC loss. Barring being undersized, Hendricks should be able to hang around long enough to turn the tables.
Prediction: Hendricks by fourth-round TKO
3. Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza
Perhaps the most entertaining fight on this list would be Hendricks vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
Stylistically, it would equate to an MMA dream fight to see how “Bigg Rigg” would fare against the alligator chomp. Souza is arguably the most dangerous submission artist in all of MMA. The man is a multiple jiu-jitsu world champion and a two-time ADCC gold medalist. It really doesn’t get much better than that from an MMA standpoint.
Like Hendricks, Souza leans on power when letting his fists fly. He often keeps his right hand cocked back like a slingshot. Hendricks is the more accomplished wrestler, but it might not be wise to indulge Souza in a game of ground chess.
With the ground negated, a bout between Hendricks and Souza would likely turn into a game of Whac-A-Fighter. You could flip a coin to decide a winner in this one.
Prediction: Hendricks by Split Decision
2. Luke Rockhold
Things only continue to get tougher for Hendricks when it comes to top middleweight contender Luke Rockhold.
The former Strikeforce champion is a jack of all trades. Versatile striking, good wrestling and a solid submission game — Rockhold seems to have it all. He recently ran through Lyoto Machida like a McDonald’s drive-thru.
Hendricks isn’t a particularly seasoned striker. He tends to lean heavily on his hellacious left hand firing out of a southpaw stance. The torpedo straight has axed several chins in the past when finding its mark, but Rockhold’s rare combination of size and athleticism would be too much for Hendricks.
Prediction: Rockhold by Unanimous Decision
1. Chris Weidman
Hendricks might be the best active welterweight walking the planet.
Yes, Robbie Lawler is the current UFC champion and king of the 170-pound division, but he is also 1-1 against Hendricks. Back-to-back slugfests between the two last year ended in controversial decisions that could have gone either way.
When thinking about a former champion moving divisions, the most enticing matchup is always against the reigning champion of the other weight class. Chris Weidman is a prodigy. He’s the certified legend killer in the UFC.
The undefeated middleweight champion has shown superstar potential throughout his career, but his coming out party was when he dethroned Anderson Silva in 2013. For the most part, Hendricks has enjoyed a significant size advantage over his opponents at welterweight, but he’d find himself undersized against Weidman.
While Hendricks has the better collegiate wrestling background, Weidman could have an advantage in MMA wrestling. Not to mention, he is a far more polished striker and submission artist.
Hendricks’ will is as thick as his beard. So I wouldn’t expect an early knockout or submission. He should be able to hold his own against the champ.
Prediction: Weidman by Unanimous Decision