In the current MMA landscape, being a brawler is a curse. As exemplified by the UFC’s insistence in employing fighters who do nothing but brawl relentlessly, there is no trait more employable. After all, MMA is, at its basic, just an organized, nuanced form of brawling. Unfortunately, brawlers also have two major deficiencies: wrestling and good sense. They either get put on their back or knocked silly as often as they knock others silly.
He may have come up short against Georges St. Pierre this weekend, but it was abundantly clear that Hendricks is the champions equal. Had luck been on his side or had he landed a few more decisive combinations at key stages of the fight, Hendricks would have gold around his waist. That does not change what Hendricks proved on Saturday: he is the next best welterweight in the UFC.
The FD has long hailed Junior Dos Santos as the next incarnation of the knockout artist in the MMA. Dos Santos, like Hendricks, has the power to knock out any fighter. Except Dos Santos fights in the same division as the living, breathing antidote for his style in the form of the relentless, physical cardio machine that is Cain Velasquez.
Hendricks, however, is different from JDS in that his power is genetically rare. Hendricks’ punch power is rumored to be in excess of many heavyweight fighters. He is the incarnation of Chuck Liddell in that in order to get close to him, you have to wade through knockout power in every throw. Even more dangerous than Liddell – who is considered the father of the sprawl-and-brawl style – Hendricks is among the top wrestlers in the sport. There were points at which GSP, who is the master of making half-chances into takedowns, couldn’t drop Hendricks with every advantage. In fact, at one point, GSP isolated Hendricks’ leg for nearly thirty seconds and dragged him across the octagon. There are few fighter capable of taking the fight to the ground against Hendricks.
Looking at the welterweight landscape, despite a flotilla of talented opponents, name one who is even in the vicinity of GSP in wrestling ability. Project that fighter against a wrestler the caliber of Hendricks. Good luck. Hendricks already tore through all the top competitors on his way to a title shot. Who is going to challenge him?
All that tells you that Hendricks will get another shot at gold. When it happens, someone is going to sleep.