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MANILA, Philippines — Fil-Am Robbie Lawler came one clean shot away from becoming the first fighter with Filipino descent to win a title in the Ultimate Fighting Championship champion.
He couldn’t land it though.
Capping a massive barrage with a knee in the fourth of a five-round showdown, Lawler, one of the few Americans with Filipino blood fighting in the UFC along with Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz and Brandon Vera, bloodied Johny Hendricks and appeared headed to snatching the welterweight title vacated by Georges St-Pierre.
But Hendricks came back with a vengeance and weathered the storm and kept Lawler from landing that finisher and even took control in the waning seconds of the final round to turn the tide in his favor and emerge the new welterweight champion with a unanimous decision win in yesterday’s UFC 171 at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas.
Hendricks’ late surge swayed the opinion of the all three judges, who scored 48-47 in his favor.
It was Hendricks’ 16th win against two losses including a controversial split decision loss to St. Pierre in November last year that many believed the former had won.
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St. Pierre eventually vacated the title he held for so long a month later to take a much-needed breather from the sport, allowing the Hendricks-Lawler title duel to take place and the former challenger to emerge as the new champion.
“I just threw everything out there,” said Hendricks.
“It was a long journey, I just didn’t expect to go down this way,” said Lawler, who fell to 22-10 (win-loss) with 1 No Contest.
Although he didn’t convince the judges, Lawler won the hearts of the UFC as its president Dana White awarded him and Hendricks $50,000 each for winning Fight of the Night.
It was a fight to remember indeed after the pair unloaded a combined 308 significant strikes, which broke the record in a UFC title fight previously owned the Jones vs. Gustafsson showdown with 244.
Hendricks though owned most of the crisper strikes as he landed 158, the fourth most ever landed by a welterweight in a single fight.
Performance of the Night was awarded to Dennis Bermudez, who posted his sixth straight win after a third roudn TKO of Jimmy Hetes, and Ovince Saint Preux, who set the fourth fastest win in the light heavy history following his stoppage of Nikita Krylov in the 1.29 minute of the first round.