Unheralded welterweights battle for chance to step in with the big boys
If you go back and review the four fights that have made an appearance in this feature, you’ll see I’ve delivered a thrilling close decision (Torres vs. Johnson, UFC 130), and first round submission (Weidman vs. Bongfeldt, UFC 131) and a welterweight coming out party (Condit vs. Kim, UFC 132) over the last three installments.
The more I keep hitting the mark with these selections, the more missing so badly on the inaugural piece (Patrick vs. Roberts, UFC 129) irritates me. It had such promise.
Of all the bouts that have been profiled here in the past, this is the one I’m most infatuated with and want you to watch the most. It’s the most under the radar fight yet.
JOHNY HENDRICKS vs. MIKE PIERCE
Johny Hendricks (10-1, 5-1 UFC)
WIN UFN 24 TJ Waldburger (TKO, Round 1)
LOSS TUF 12 Rick Story (Unanimous Decision)
WIN UFC 117 Charlie Brenneman (TKO, Round 2)
Mike Pierce (12-3, 4-1 UFC)
WIN UFC 126 Kenny Robertson (TKO, Round 2)
WIN UFC 118 Amilcar Alves (Submission, Round 3)
WIN UFC OV1 Julio Paulino (Unanimous Decision)
Why We Love This Fight
How can you not like a fight where the two guys are a combined 9-2 in the UFC and their only losses have come to top 10 competitors? Hendricks’ lone loss came two fights back against Story, while Pierce lost to Jon Fitch back at UFC 107 after taking the fight on short notice.
I’ve felt bad for Pierce since then. He did well against Fitch, clipping him in the third and fairing better overall than both Ben Saunders and Thiago Alves managed. Since then, he’s been relegated to batting lead-off on various events, fighting guys on their way out of the division. Despite a pair of finishes in his last two fights, he gets no real attention whatsoever.
The crazy thing is that Hendricks actually gets an even more raw deal.
Remember when there was the Demian Maia/Chael Sonnen/Nate Marquardt triangle in the middleweight division a couple years ago? Maia beat Sonnen who beat Marquardt who beat Maia, rendering all three about even with each other, jumbled together at the top of the 185 pound division.
Hendricks is in a similar situation at welterweight, except while the other two sides of the triangle are getting all solid exposure and a move up the rankings, Hendricks is still fighting on Facebook and garnering very little attention.
The 170 pound version of the situation breaks down like this: Charlie Brenneman beat Story who beat Hendricks who beat Brenneman. Still with me?
If Brenneman is gaining ground in the rankings based on his win over Story, shouldn’t Hendricks get some shine as a result of his victory over “The Spaniard?” Of the three fights, his win over Brenneman was the most impressive of the group.
In terms of the UFC 133 fight card, this bout measures up well with the two other welterweight fights on the schedule.
Neither Hendricks or Pierce are as promising a prospect as Rory MacDonald, but very few fighters are. I think both would match-up well with Mike Pyle, and this pairing is has much more potential impact on the division than Dennis Hallman and Brian Ebersole could produce. Those other two bouts are schedule for the pay-per-view, while this one bats third in the ten-fight lineup.
I honestly expected this fight to get much more exposure than it has, especially with all the changes that have taken place on this card. Injuries have changed the dynamics of a number of this weekend’s fights – some for the better, some not so much – but this has always been a quality pairing with some meaning.
Both these guys have solid winning streaks started and are building momentum, with a move into the division’s top 20 awaiting the winner. That may not sound all that impressive at first glance, but take a look at the depth of the welterweight ranks and you’ll reconsider; everyone above them are main card mainstays. Hendricks and Pierce have the potential to be there too, and the winner of this one should be next time out.
For now, they’re flying under the radar.