Robbie Lawler, Johny Hendricks Grudge Match Nixed for Now
Less than a month after announcing that UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler would be making the first defense of his title against immediate former champion Johny Hendricks in a third meeting between the two combatants, the UFC has backtracked and announced that Johny Hendricks will instead be facing Matt Brown at UFC 185 on March 14th in Dallas.
Time Off from Busy Schedule
While no official announcement was made on the reason why the title bout was called off, UFC sources say that Robbie Lawler asked the UFC for additional time off after a very busy 2014 where he fought four times, including the two title bouts against Hendricks. Lawler fought Hendricks to two close five round grinders while defeating Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown in between. According to the source, Lawler requested to fight again in the summer and since Hendricks did not want to wait that long, he accepted a March fight with Brown.
Brown was supposed to meet Tarec Saffiedine at the main event of UFC Fight Night 60 on Valentine’s Day at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado. However, Saffiedine withdrew citing an undisclosed surgery hence forcing the UFC to pull out Brown from the event. That event will now be headlined by a non-title welterweight bout between Stephen Thompson and Brandon Thatch.
A Murky Picture
With this latest development, the UFC’s welterweight division title picture got even murkier. Before Lawler dethroned Hendricks during their rematch at UFC 181 last month, UFC President Dana White had promised Canadian sensation Rory MacDonald the next immediate title shot. But after the close margin of the two title bouts between Lawler and Hendricks, White announced at the start of the year that the UFC was going for a trilogy next instead of a title shot for MacDonald.
Macdonald was later booked to face Hector Lombard at UFC 186 in Montreal. However with Hendricks fighting in March and MacDonald in April, it is unclear now who will get the first shot at Robbie Lawler once he returns to action. Hendricks and MacDonald are the top two ranked contenders with Tyron Woodley and Carlos Condit. Woodley was just 1-1 last year with his loss coming at the hands of MacDonald. On the other hand, Condit lost his only fight of 2014 to Woodley.
Keeping Himself Busy
Hendricks was looking forward to getting his title back against Lawler but he also wanted to keep himself busy and wanted to fight badly in the Dallas event which will be headlined by the UFC lightweight championship bout between Anthony Pettis and Rafael Dos Anjos. On the other hand, Brown was in need of a top notch opponent after Saffiedine got hurt and when the UFC could not find one, the two were matched up. Brown is ranked #5 in the UFC’s welterweight division and was on a seven fight winning streak before losing to Robbie Lawler last July 2014. Hendricks opened as a 2-1 favorite to beat Brown.
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