Let me preface this by saying I am a big Nick Diaz fan, I am excited to see him fight Georges St. Pierre for the title, and I will gladly be one of the near million people that will shell out the $60.00 for that fight.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I must make the point that Johny Hendricks got screwed out of a title shot like few have been screwed in the past. This isn’t a case like Dan Henderson, where an injury kept him out of a booked fight and the UFC made the decision to move on, or Lyoto Machida, who had a title opportunity presented to him (albeit rushed) and declined. Further, this isn’t like Anthony Pettis, who fell victim to a draw between the champion and previous challenger and lost in the meantime. Even Chris Weidman, who has built a strong case for a title shot, is not in as screwed-overy position as Hendricks, because at least the middleweight division arguably contains other contenders that are similarly worthy.
Hendricks undoubtedly got screwed worse than all of the aforementioned others on the “screwed out of a title shot in 2012″ club, and it is plain from the face of his recent resume. Since the calendar turned to 2011, Hendricks has gone 5-0, with wins over former title contenders Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck and perennial contender Martin Kampmann. Even more, three of those five wins have come via first round finish, so no one could make a straight-faced claim that Hendricks is too boring for the UFC to promote. This recent success is much more than has been able to get a welterweight title shot in the recent past. If you recall, Koscheck needed only to get by Frank Trigg, Anthony Johnson and Paul Daley. Dan Hardy beat Akihiro Gono, Rory Markhan, Marcus Davis, and Mike Swick. Out of all of those guys, only Swick remains employed by the UFC.
Additionally, it’s not like Nick Diaz has done too much more himself. Granted, an 11-1 run is nothing to sneeze at (and if you do, God bless you), nor is a win against B.J. Penn. However, some of the other names in that stretch include the male Cyborg Santos, Daley, a past-his-prime Frank Shamrock, Mach Sakurai, Scott Smith, Thomas Denny, and Marius Zaromskis. Not to fault Diaz, but this isn’t necessarily a who’s who of UFC-caliber contenders. Even more glaring, the fact remains that Diaz lost his last fight (no matter what his camp may lead you to believe), and he is coming off of a suspension for failing a post-fight drug test.
I understand why the UFC wants to book GSP-Diaz instead of GSP-Hendricks, as it is likely to have more mainstream appeal and to generate greater soundbites in the episodes of “Primetime” shot to promote the event. Additionally, it makes sense for Dana White to cater to his current champion and meal-ticket St. Pierre, who supposedly demanded the fight against Diaz next. GSP does make the UFC a lot of money, after all.
But did anyone ever stop to think that GSP wants to fight Diaz because he doesn’t really want to fight Hendricks? Although Diaz has undoubtedly grown as a fighter, the fact remains that Nick has had trouble with wrestlers in the past, losing when the likes of Diego Sanchez and Sean Sherk employed the smothering top game approach that GSP does better than anyone else. Can’t we see Diaz-GSP turning into five rounds of GSP scoring takedowns and using his wrestling advantage? In contrast, GSP’s strengths in this regard would likely be neutralized by Hendricks’ elite wrestling skills, which would leave the champ more at risk of having his lights turned out by Hendricks’ big left hand.
But, for now, we can instead add the name Johny Hendricks to the list of people screwed out of a UFC title shot in 2012. It really is getting scary how quick this list is growing in connection with the UFC’s pursuit of increased buy rates. On the bright side, at least we do get an exciting GSP-Diaz fight, which is more than we could say about some of the other instances where a worthy contender was bypassed for someone less so.
Hopefully Hendricks will take a non-title fight instead of waiting for a title shot that may or may not ever actually come. As I have said before, defeating either Carlos Condit or the winner of Rory MacDonald and B.J. Penn would be as big of a statement about his status as a contender that Hendricks could possibly make. And if he did so and still didn’t get the next title shot, then it is clear that Dana White hates him and guys with awesome beards.