Welterweight improves to 7-1 in UFC
The next time Johny Hendricks says he's going to do something, maybe people will listen.
All the welterweight did was tell everyone who would listen – including HeavyMMA.com – that he was planning on knocking out Jon Fitch at UFC 141. And despite being a 3-to-1 underdog in the fight, Hendricks delivered on his promise.
The former Oklahoma State wrestling standout quickly took the center of the cage Friday night in Las Vegas, danced back from an early Fitch combination, reset himself and then, almost calmly, put Fitch's lights out with a massive left hook. It took him just 12 seconds to stop the man widely considered to be the No. 2 welterweight in the world – who hadn't been finished in more than nine years.
"The media said that I had no chance," Hendricks said at the post-fight press conference at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. "They said I had no chance, and I told them since this first started I at least have a puncher's chance. The good Lord blessed me with a left hand, and I was gonna put it on him. That's what I told everybody."
It's one thing to talk assuredly to the press before a fight. But Hendricks' confidence in the left that did the trick against Fitch was part of his plan in the fight all along. He said he planned to throw it early, and if Fitch survived it he would adjust.
"Wednesday, I told my camp, 'I'm going to hit him as hard as I can and see where he falls,'" Hendricks said. "After that, I was going to change my game plan to something else. But I just wanted to hit him as hard as I could and see what happens, because he's a tough fighter. I knew that was going to be a three-round war. That's what I trained for. That's what I prepared for. But the good Lord blessed me with a knockout."
And UFC president Dana White blessed him with a $75,000 Knockout of the Night bonus – deservedly so for a shot that likely made people rethink their Knockout of the Year lists so Hendricks could be included.
But even more important than the big bonus for Hendricks (12-1, 7-1 UFC) now is getting some respect in the upper echelon of the welterweight division. Champion Georges St-Pierre has ruled the roost for years now, but will be out much of 2012 recovering from ACL surgery. Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit will fight for the interim title next month. But Hendricks now has three straight wins with two Knockout of the Night bonuses and believes he needs to be in the mix with the likes of Diaz and Condit, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez and Jake Ellenberger.
"I think I belong where I'm at now," Hendricks said. "I just beat the No. 2-ranked guy. GSP couldn't (knock Fitch out) in five rounds. BJ Penn couldn't do it – love the guy to death, but he couldn't do it. I just knocked the No. 2-ranked guy out in 12 seconds. Where does that put me? Hopefully (fighting) for a title. But if it doesn't, I'm going to have to go out there and prove it again. Step up whenever the opportunity is given to you, take it with everything you've got, lay everything out on the line and good Lord willing, it'll happen."
Fortunately for Hendricks, his boss just may concur.
"The thing about Hendricks is, he's got world-class wrestling and he hits hard," White said. "He's a tough guy to fight. It was a big, big night for Johny Hendricks. It puts him right in there. This guy just knocked out who many believe is the No. 2 guy in the world."