The rematch of one of the most decorated title fights in UFC welterweight history. Johny Hendricks makes his first title defense against the man whom he beat to get the belt, Robbie Lawler. Two fights under his belt to regain his number one contender status, Lawler feels he knows and has what it takes to finish Hendricks this time out. Also, the UFC lightweight title will be on the line for the first time in over a year, as Anthony Pettis will also make his first title defense against Gilbert Melendez. The card gets things started on Fight Pass at 7 pm EST, switching over to FOX Sports 1 at 8 pm EST, and winding up on pay per view for the main card showing at 10 pm EST. Two title fights to welcome in the month of December, time to get the analysis rolling!
[C] Johny Hendricks (16-2) vs. #1 Robbie Lawler (24-10) Welterweight Championship Bout – What a fight the first bout between these two was. One of the best UFC title fight barn burners the welterweight division has ever seen. It has already presumed doubtful that either will engage in another all out slug fest for the ages, with both planning on ending it early. The damage was done to both; with the champion Johny Hendricks being sidelined since their last fight, while Lawler has already been quoted on not trying to drag this fight out another five rounds. It will be interesting to see how Hendricks looks as he returns to the cage. The UFC champion has looked much improved each time he has stepped foot inside the UFC octagon, and may even look better without having to fight with an injury. Robbie Lawler on the other hand, has taken out two top ten contenders in his road back to the UFC gold, and showed a much diverse game doing so. The kicking game has come out of nowhere for the Florida native, using it to completely destruct an overwhelmed Jake Ellenberger. The wrestler may come out of Hendricks after an extended layoff, the take downs were quite a useful tool for the champ in his first victory over Lawler. There may be a few more highlights added onto their striking affair, but do not expect Hendricks to sit in the pocket long this time, he is the far superior grappler in this fight. Johny Hendricks via Unanimous Decision.
[C] Anthony Pettis (17-2) vs. #1 Gilbert Melendez (22-3) Lightweight Championship Bout – Another UFC champion coming off an injury, “Showtime” Pettis has not fought in over a year, but will finally defend his belt for the first time against Gilbert Melendez. This may just be the opportune time for ‘El Nino’ to get his hands on the champ, Gilbert provides an in your face, pressure style that may not allow room for the kickboxing extraordinaire Pettis to find his range and pick his shots. The same could have been said in his bout with Donald Cerrone though, Pettis then made quick work of ‘Cowboy’ with a gruesome liver kick. Once again though, an athlete is going to have to respond after being sidelined from injury for so long, can Pettis fend of Melendez? He could, and he should; but it would not be surprising to see Melendez eek out a close one here. Just for the sake of defending the UFC lightweight title once, the pick is for Pettis to get the victory. Anthony Pettis via Submission.
#3 Travis Browne (16-2-1) vs. Brendan Schaub (11-4) Heavyweight Bout – The comeback starts this Saturday for Travis ‘Hapa’ Browne. A sure-fire granite chin, and hopefully a more refined conditioning structure, the sky’s the limit for the Hawaiian. Browne should take no shame in losing to a talent like Werdum in his last outing, just use it as a learning tool as he moves forward. Schaub has to make changes to his own game as well to stay relevant in the UFC heavyweight division. His performance against the aging Andrei Arlovski was quite lackluster, even though he displayed a new wrestling element to his arsenal, but was very ineffective when gaining take downs. Browne has an excellent take down defense, and can become dangerous if his opponent leaves himself exposed. Schaub has not shown much progress in his game to really predict a favorable outcome here, Travis Browne should get right back on track in this one. Travis Browne via Technical Knockout.
Todd Duffee (8-2) vs. Anthony Hamilton (13-3) Heavyweight Bout – Keeping Todd Duffee was quite the surprising one by the UFC, granted he is on a two fight win streak, the guy has not fought since 2012 due to illness. Duffee is a very explosive striker, but has been known to blow his cardio in the first round. Duffee also does not have the best chin in the division as well, and Hamilton himself can hold his own in the striking department. If Hamilton can drag this fight past the first round, it may be his for the taking. Do not look too far into that notion, the explosive Duffee will come out swinging while looking to end this fight swiftly. Todd Duffee via Technical Knockout.
Tony Ferguson (17-3) vs. Abel Trujillo (12-5) Lightweight Bout – Ferguson has all the tools to become a top-tier fighter in the lightweight division, the guy just needs to stay consistent and each phase of his game to beat Abel Trujillo. Abel is a banger, a guy who loves more than anything to turn this into scrap and keep it standing. Ferguson can mix it up either way, using his length to keep his more compact opponents at bay, while using his wrestling to seal up rounds. ‘El Cucuy’ has been known to find himself in some dog fights, but with a powerful striker like Trujillo, he would be wise to keep his distance. Tony Ferguson via Unanimous Decision.
In other notable UFC fights “The California Kid”, Urijah Faber, finds himself on the prelims once again against Francisco Rivera. Expect Faber to run right through Rivera, it would be quite the accomplishment if Rivera can get out of the first round. Both “Ultimate Fighter 19” winners are also the on the card, as Eddie Gordon fights Josh Samman; while Corey Anderson squares off with Justin Jones. For coverage of the event, please tune back into the MMA Spotlight for the results.
Commentary by Justin Huffman
Follow Justin’s column in the MMA Spotlight section
Guardian Liberty Voice sports writer lead writer for MMA