We have a new chief at 170
It's close, but Johny Hendricks is the No. 1 welterweight in the world.
I have three reasons for ranking Hendricks above Georges St-Pierre in the welterweight division. Even if you don't agree completely with each individual reason, if you take the argument as a whole, Hendricks is definitely No. 1.
First, I thought Hendricks beat St-Pierre at UFC 167. I thought it was close -- at least, it was close based on a five-round, 10-point-must system. It was not close based on a "Brett, just tell me who was the better fighter" system.
If that were the case, Hendricks was a clear winner. Either way, I scored the title bout for Hendricks, 48-47.
Second reason, and this is nearly as important as the first (heck, it's just as important as the first): I would/will 100 percent pick Hendricks to defeat St-Pierre in a rematch.
All things considered, if you told me Hendricks is a betting underdog against St-Pierre in a fight in March, please direct me to the nearest casino. Plain and simple: I believe Hendricks would win that second St-Pierre fight seven times out of 10.
Lastly, probably the least important of the three, but still a reason: If you compare what the two have done in recent years, I actually prefer Hendricks' résumé. Yes, he had two split decisions, but he also had three knockouts in less than three total minutes.
St-Pierre has not finished a fight since January 2009, and that was against an undersized BJ Penn. He did win 33 consecutive rounds in that stretch, a truly amazing feat, but in a combat sport, finishes do matter. You're kidding yourself if you say they don't.
Just like the main event of UFC 167, determining the No. 1 welterweight in the world comes down to a close decision -- but it's Hendricks who deserves it. The fact he was, to me, the better fighter when the two met should be evidence enough. You add in the finishes and my expectation he'll beat St-Pierre in a rematch? Easy decision.
GSP's still the man to beat
I picked Johny Hendricks to beat Georges St-Pierre. I believe that happened on Saturday. But when it comes to removing St-Pierre from the No. 1 spot at welterweight, well, I can't justify ranking Hendricks above him at this point.
Go ahead and keep criticizing Saturday's result. Sure, Hendricks did more damage. Sure, he hurt St-Pierre and was never hurt himself. But let's not pretend he did enough in any round to earn a dominant 10-8. Even his best period, the second, featured GSP rallying in the latter half. So if the blowout rounds weren't such a blowout, what does that suggest about the close ones?
Two of the three judges saw the first for GSP, as if long-reigning champions haven't often earned the benefit of the doubt after close stretches. Hey, I thought Hendricks' elbows along the fence were decisive shots and should have given him an early lead. But it didn't happen that way. St-Pierre's name was announced 20 minutes later. Dana White made a face and incendiary comments. And the MMA world went all aflame.
You're with me if you think St-Pierre's split-decision win wasn't the worst decision of all time. Or near the worst. It was a verdict the other guy probably deserved, but it wasn't highway robbery -- not following a tossup first, not with most people giving GSP the third and the fifth.
So I'm led to believe it's time to remove the No. 1 guy who's lived at or near the top of 170 since joining UFC in 2004? A guy who boasts a 19-2 record in the Octagon (that includes the win over Hendricks)?
Well, I can understand the temptation. I've done this sort of thing before. When Frankie Edgar should have outpointed Benson Henderson, I kept "The Answer" No. 1 at 155. Michael Chandler just lost a split decision to Eddie Alvarez, and I continue to have him ranked above the current Bellator champion.
What makes Hendricks' close shave not compelling enough for similar treatment?
GSP. His record. His accomplishments. His dominance. Out of deference to the 32-year-old French Canadian, he's still No. 1 to me.
Here's some good news though, Hendricks fans. If "Bigg Rigg" truly is the top guy in the division, he'll get his chance again. Like St-Pierre did once upon a time. And perhaps he'll accentuate his point, so the one I tried to lay out won't matter next time.