DALLAS – Johny Hendricks lost a razor-thin decision for the welterweight title in his last outing, and he won one on Saturday in the main event of UFC 171.
Hendricks won 48-47 on all three judges' cards, defeating Robbie Lawler in a stirring battle for the belt that had been vacated in December by Georges St-Pierre.
Hendricks was cut by the right eye and Lawler closed his eye with a powerful jab midway through the fight, but he pulled it out by rallying to win the fifth.
"Hats off to him because he fought a hell of a fight," Lawler said.
Lawler, too, fought an outstanding battle and the fight was there for anyone to win. Hendricks, though, clearly won the final round when the title hung in the balance and that is the mark of a champion.
The sellout crowd at American Airlines Center roared its approval as Hendricks landed a series of hard strikes as the fight came down the stretch, fighting off both fatigue and a very game opponent.
Most felt Hendricks had done enough to win the title from St-Pierre in November in Las Vegas, but the judges gave St-Pierre a hotly disputed split decision.
But when St-Pierre surrendered the belt, Hendricks got another chance.
He had a huge hometown crowd cheering his every move, and in a close fight that was tough to score, the impact that had on the judges can't be overlooked.
Neither man was ever in jeopardy of being finished, though each took his share of abuse.
When ring announcer Bruce Buffer read the scores, Hendricks fell to his knees in jubilation. He raised his arms skyward shortly after UFC president Dana White wrapped the belt around his waist.
Tyron Woodley def. Carlos Condit via second-round TKO
The co-main event was shortened by yet another nasty leg injury following a kick.
Carlos Condit's right knee gave out after he was kicked viciously on the left knee by Tyron Woodley in the second round of their welterweight bout. The force of the kick was so great, Condit's left leg spun around and the right knee then gave out.
At UFC 168 in December, Anderson Silva broke a leg while throwing a kick at Chris Weidman.
Condit walked to the locker room under his own power, with his arm draped on coach Greg Jackson's shoulder. He was walking gingerly and not putting much weight on it.
The victory might lead Woodley to a title shot. Coming off of a brutal knockout of Josh Koscheck in November, Woodley wanted to use a win over Condit as a springboard to a title fight.
He looked good in his brief time in the cage, landing several sharp right hands. He cracked Condit with a straight right seconds into the fight that sent the former interim UFC champion backward.
Woodley also took Condit down several times in the bout and made a strong case for himself.
So, too, did Hector Lombard, who dominated Jake Shields, handling him in a way that few men ever have. Lombard used his striking, his judo and his speed, strength and athleticism to batter Shields around the cage.
Shields had virtually no offense until the final 15 seconds, when he caught Lombard in a guillotine. Lombard survived it and won a unanimous decision that ought to spur talk of getting him a shot at the belt.