From start to finish, UFC 171 delivered for the fans that packed the American Airlines Center in Dallas and the millions watching around the world, culminating in one of the best welterweight title fights in recent memory.
Let’s get to it.
These are the Top 5 moments from UFC 171.
This is The Hit List.
Fight of the Year
Yes it’s early, but Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler set the bar pretty high on Saturday night, waging an incredible back-and-forth battle in the main event, with Hendricks ultimately coming away with the unanimous decision win to become the new undisputed UFC welterweight champion.
According to FightMetric, the headliners combined to land 308 significant strikes and throw an astounding 769 strikes in total over the course of their 25-minute classic. The ebb and flow of the fight was akin to last fall’s light heavyweight battle between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, with Lawler roaring back and carrying the momentum into the final round, only to have Hendricks take the fight to him over the last five minutes.
While Hendricks came away with the victory (and the belt), Lawler doesn’t lose any ground with this result. The resurgent veteran appeared on the brink of winning the title at points during the bout and shouldn’t be too far removed from challenging for the belt again.
This was an instant classic and the clubhouse leader for Fight of the Year.
Will “The Chosen One” be The Chosen One?
Tyron Woodley blew up Dana White’s phone lobbying for the opportunity to face Carlos Condit on this card. Saturday night, the former Strikeforce contender showed why he pressed so hard for the fight, earning the biggest win of his career with a technical knockout victory over the former interim champion.
Though the bout ultimately ended when Condit injured his knee, the fast-starting Woodley was dictating the terms of the fight through that point. While Condit landed the great volume in the first, Woodley connected with a pair of heavy rights and controlled the tempo by completing two takedowns.
Early in the second, Condit grimaced in pain as Woodley drove through another takedown attempt, grabbing at his right knee as the two crashed into the canvas. When they returned to the feet, Woodley ripped a kick into Condit’s left leg, forcing him to put all his weight on his injured right leg. The limb gave way, he collapsed to the ground in agony, and Woodley had his victory.
Now the man known as “The Chosen One” has to play the waiting game. He’s earned back-to-back stoppage wins and just stopped a perennial title contender in Condit, and his only loss in four UFC appearances is a suspect split decision defeat to Jake Shields. Woodley make his case for a title shot after the bout, and without a consensus “next in line” opponent for Hendricks, it will be interesting to see if stopping “The Natural Born Killer” will be enough to earn him the first shot at the new welterweight champion.
$50,000 Von Flue Choke
Ovince St. Preux pocketed one of the two Performance of the Night bonuses on Saturday, taking home a hefty bonus for putting Nikita Krylov to sleep. Not bad for less than 90 seconds of work.
As St. Preux ducked in for a takedown, the young Ukrainian wrapped up his neck, looking to complete a guillotine choke. Even with St. Preux completing into side control, Krylov didn’t bail on the choke, and the former University of Tennessee linebacker made him pay, locking in the rare Von Flue Choke.
The choke—named after Ultimate Fighter Season 2 contestant and the only other man to use it successfully in the Octagon, Jason Von Flue—doesn’t happen very often because most fighters give up on the guillotine once they’re taken down, especially when they’re out of position. Krylov stuck with it, St. Preux applied the hold, and the 21-year-old light heavyweight went to sleep.
“OSP” is now 3-0 in the UFC, has won four straight overall, and is an impressive 12-1 over his last 13 fights, with his lone loss coming against elite contender Gegard Mousasi. A natural athlete with improving skills, the 30-year-old St. Preux is one to watch going forward in a division in dire need of fresh blood.
Fight of the Night Any Other Night
In the final bout on the preliminary portion of the card, Kelvin Gastelum and Rick Story beat the breaks off each other, chucking bombs at each other from the word “Go!” and delivering the kind of effort that takes home Fight of the Night 99 events out of 100.
Unfortunately for them, Hendricks-Lawler happened. Despite missing out on a bonus, both men earned a ton of fans and enormous praise for their grueling 15-minute slugfest.
With about 20 seconds left in the middle stanza, Gastelum appeared to be in complete control, his stiff jab, smooth combinations, and swift movement giving Story fits. But then the veteran uncorked a nasty left that put the recent Ultimate Fighter winner on rubber legs, evened the fight at one round each, and set the stage for a thrilling final frame.
And they didn’t disappoint, going blow-for-blow through the horn, with Gastelum coming away with a split decision win.
For the 22-year-old victor, this was a strong performance while taking a huge step up in competition and an outing that announces his presence as a legitimate contender in the welterweight ranks, while Story solidifies his standing as one of the most durable and competitive outs in the 170-pound weight class.
Youth is Served
The next generation of talent is starting to emerge in the UFC and Saturday night turned into a showcase for several members of the up-and-coming set.
On the main card, lightweight Myles Jury pushed his record to 14-0 with a dominant decision win over veteran Diego Sanchez, picking apart the first Ultimate Fighter winner, leaving him in his usual bloodied state when all was said and done.
Aggressive women’s bantamweight prospect Jessica Andrade collected her second consecutive win, earning the nod in a close bout with TUF 18 Team Tate alum Raquel Pennington via split decision. Undersized for the division, it will be interesting to see if the 22-year-old considers moving down to join the strawweight cast of The Ultimate Fighter.
The elder statesman of this group, 27-year-old New Yorker Dennis Bermudez picked up his sixth consecutive victory, big brothering Jimy Hettes around the cage before finally finishing him late in the third. Under the radar heading into UFC 171, “The Menace” should be looking at a Top 10 opponent next time out.
On the Fight Pass prelims, 21-year-old Justin Scoggins and 23-year-old Sean Strickland maintained their undefeated records, with the former earning a unanimous decision win over Will Campuzano and the later making the most of his short notice call-up by choking out TUF 17 alum Bubba McDaniel in the opening round.
If 2013 was a transitional year for the UFC, it appears that 2014 is going to be the year the next wave of contenders introduces themselves to the world.