Evidently, the UFC's trust in budding welterweight star Johny Hendricks got solidified when "Bigg Rigg" outshined interim titleholder Carlos Condit at UFC 158.
Hendricks, the man who nipped Josh Koscheck and swiftly plowed through perennial contenders Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, finally got an informal blessing from UFC president Dana White to lock horns with the company's most prolific 170-pounder, Georges St-Pierre, in his next fight.
With his wish granted, however, Hendricks now finds himself in a precarious spot—waiting to fight a world-class athlete and tactician who's prevailed in 10 straight title bouts and will enjoy a seven-inch reach advantage.
So with the stiffest challenge of his career on the horizon, will the former two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion flounder or will he become the next Jon Jones?
In an interview with Fuel TV's Ariel Helwani, White bluntly answered Helwani's question regarding Hendricks' status as the division's top contender by saying:
No doubt about it. That fight was amazing tonight, man. I'm actually glad that it worked out that way. Because those really were the two guys to see who the number one guy is to face Georges St-Pierre. It was a sick fight and Johny Hendricks deserves it.
Regardless of what happens to Hendricks against St-Pierre, the 29-year-old southpaw certainly won't stray far from title contention in the near future.
A winner of 10 out of 11 UFC tilts, Bigg Rigg undoubtedly has the tools to become a legitimate world-beater for years to come.
One look at Hendricks' résumé and it's plan to see that he's taken a similar path to success to that of both UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes and former Pride and Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers, brute strength and Olympic-level wrestling chops are just a few of the ingredients Hendricks has in common with legends like Hughes and "Hendo."
Any fighter with a granite chin, wrestling skills to dictate the pace of a fight and punching power that can render an opponent unconscious with a single shot has the potential to flourish for long stretches in the UFC.
Hendricks, deemed a 1.75-to-1 underdog (+175) by Sportsbook.com, may not have the oddsmakers' blessings to yank the strap from "Rush." But with heavy hands, a tremendous work ethic and excellent technique, Hendricks surely could become a longtime welterweight kingpin akin to Hughes and GSP.
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