This column highlights five past bouts from fighters competing on this weekend’s UFC 181. These fights represent some of the highest moments in the careers of their respective participants, and should serve to pique your interest heading into the event. 1: Johny Hendricks vs. Carlos Condit – UFC 158 Upcoming Bout: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
You expected me to just take the low-hanging fruit and put Hendricks/Lawler 1 here, didn’t you? I’m not going to lie, it was awesome and I was very tempted, but chances are you’ve seen a million clips of that fight — if not the whole thing — in the lead up to this event anyways, so I went with Hendricks’ 2013 fight of the year candidate instead. I also expect that this weekend we’ll see Hendricks to utilize a gameplan closer to what he did against Condit than in his first fight with Lawler.
Both Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler put forth their best efforts at UFC 171 trying to capture the UFC belt, but I think a healthy Hendricks will have more to give this time around. The difference here could very well be Hendricks sealing close rounds with his wrestling, where he was only able to do that in the fifth round of their first bout (after hurting Lawler). Obviously Lawler has better takedown defense than Carlos Condit, so I don’t imagine we’ll see some of the high amplitude takedowns Hendricks landed repeatedly in that bout, but he would be silly not to utilize a more well-rounded game on Saturday. Even if that wrestling is just for the benefit of his always improving boxing, it should still prove fruitful to keep Lawler a little bit more off-balance than in their first, phone booth affair.
Bout available on UFC Fight Pass.
2. Robbie Lawler vs. Tiki Ghosn – UFC 40 Upcoming Bout: Robbie Lawler vs. Johny Hendricks
This particular bout has absolutely nothing to do with Lawler/Hendricks 2, nor will I pretend to have gleaned any information from an 89-second, 12-year-old bout that could help give you any insight on what will happen this weekend (aside from the obvious: Lawler hits hard). However, what watching this bout will give you are two of the most laughable occurrences in MMA history.
1) Nelson ‘Doc’ Hamilton is about 1,000 years old, but he makes one of the most spectacular diving tackles you’ve ever seen to stop Robbie Lawler from pounding poor Tiki’s head through the mat.
2) The post-fight interview is absolute gold. If you’ve never seen it, I won’t spoil it for you. However, if the exact same scenario happened in 2014, Tiki’s line about why the fight was stopped may have ended up the greatest MMA meme ever.
Here’s video of the post-fight, and hey there’s even a shot of Bradshaw (for you pro wrestling fans), as UFC 40 was Ken Shamrock’s return to the UFC after all:
Bout available on UFC Fight Pass.
3. Anthony Pettis vs. Benson Henderson – WEC 53 Upcoming Bout: Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez
I didn’t take the easy way out with the main event, but I couldn’t resist here. Pettis/Henderson 1 is an MMA classic, but how Pettis dealt with a durable fighter like Henderson could be very important in his upcoming title defense against Melendez as well. Of course, we’ve seen Pettis dispatch opponents like Henderson and Cerrone in the first round, but if that doesn’t happen it’s good to know that he has shown excellent five-round cardio in the past. Melendez has gone the full 25 minute distance seven separate times in his career and he’s never been stopped, so there’s a good chance the defending champ could add a significant chunk to the 38:27 he’s spent in the Octagon so far. From a technical standpoint, Melendez doesn’t bring many of the same qualities to the cage as Henderson, so it’s hard to say how this experience will benefit him in that regard.
Bout Available on UFC Fight Pass.
4. Sergio Pettis vs. Tom McKenna – Legends of Fighting 53 Upcoming Bout: Sergio Pettis vs. Matt Hobar
The younger Pettis is clearly a talented fighter. At 21, he’s already 2-1 in the UFC, with his lone loss coming in a very competitive fight against the organization’s #13 ranked bantamweight, Alex Caceres. Pettis has the makings of a top fighter, although he still requires quite a bit of time to develop all his tools. While his striking and submission games are both dangerous, one knock on him is that he can be hesitant to pull the trigger at times, which allows lesser skilled fighters to hang around with him.
This bout with Tom McKenna shows what Pettis can do when he does let his strikes go, and we see some nice guard work from the youngster as well. It is worrying how easily he got put on his back by a bad shot, as he is facing a grappler in Hobar, but his brother had some serious takedown defense issues earlier in his career which seem to have dissipated.
5. Clay Collard vs. Justin Buchholz – Showdown Fights 8 Upcoming Bout: Clay Collard vs. Alex White
While Collard ultimately lost this fight, you can see why there is some excitement surrounding his first fight in the UFC where he’ll have a full camp to prepare. As a 19-year-old, Collard was dominating UFC veteran Justin Buccholz before getting stunned by a head kick and eventually submitted via guillotine. In terms of offense, Collard essentially never stops throwing all different types of strikes, and has a good deal of power behind a lot of them. That was the case in this bout, as he constantly pushed Buchholz back, landed at will and looked to have the fight stopped on a couple occasions.
Against Alex White, he’ll have another partner who is more than willing to trade strikes, and even though it’s the first fight of the night, I could easily see this winning the fight of the night award, and that’s on a card with two title bouts featuring four extremely entertaining fighters.