For a while now the perception has been that the UFC's strongest division is lightweight. A lot of that has to do with the insanely deep talent pool at its disposal, and the strange unpredictability it brings.
On Saturday night at UFC 141 Johny Hendricks did his part to muddy the waters even more as he took eternal No. 2 contender Jon Fitch out in just 12 seconds, thanks to perfectly-aimed punch to the temple. It was a great win for his resume, but where does that leave the division now that one of the greats has fallen?
The general idea was that since Georges St. Pierre would be out of action, most likely until 2013, a new interim champ would be crowned Super Bowl weekend and that Fitch would finally have a chance to elbow his way back into the title picture. That obviously isn't going to happen and Hendricks was quick to turn to shameless self promotion during the post-fight press conference in an attempt to shine the spotlight on himself.
Sure he has a 12-1 record, but he is much more interested in pointing out that while GSP had five rounds to finish Fitch, he couldn't do it, whereas Hendricks effortlessly polished him off in under a quarter minute. Never mind the fact that GSP is kind of the anti-finisher of UFC champs and is constantly being badgered for his inability to put guys away.
Hendricks also launched a preemptive strike against any in the nay-saying media who might dump on his assessment of himself by claiming that nobody gave him a chance against Fitch, and since they were dead wrong about that how could they possibly be right about anything? Fair enough point, and I think we would all be fairly high on ourselves if we had just had the night that he did, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Certainly Jake Ellenberger is ranked higher, right? What about Josh Koscheck or Brian Ebersole or Rory MacDonald? Even fellow UFC 141 competitor Dong Hyun Kim only has one loss on his record and more wins to possibly tip the balance in his favor. With that much competition surrounding him, can you hardly fault the guy for turning to gab to help him lurch a little further up the ladder?
We do know that an even bigger winner than Hendricks Saturday night was UFC president and founding member of the "I Hate Jon Fitch Club," Dana White, who has always been openly critical of Fitch and his, shall we say, methodical approach to MMA. Now he doesn't have to think up some strange spin to explain away the reason Fitch isn't getting another chance to claim gold.
Hendricks really needs at least one more win before he can feel secure in being the No. 1 contender, so why not book him against Ellenberger with the winner taking on the winner of the interim title bout between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit?
It is at this point that we should reflect on the past two years in the lightweight division and remember that nothing can be counted on at all. What if B.J. Penn returns from retirement or GSP returns to action a shell of his former self?
Fights will be made, alterations will happen and the welterweight division will be a crazy ride for many years to come. If you thought Saturday night's KO provided you with a shock, I can safely predict that we ain't seen nothing yet.