Johny Hendricks: 5 Fights for 'Big Rigg' to Take Next

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

Johny Hendricks: 5 Fights for 'Big Rigg' to Take Next

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    Entering UFC 171, the question was who would be the welterweight champion. Exiting the event, the question on everybody's mind is this: Who the heck gets the next title shot?

    Indeed, the post-Georges St-Pierre welterweight division is a hot mess, and there are loads of potential contenders, none of them with especially amazing resumes. Still, somebody has to fight Hendricks next.

    So, who will it be? Who could be next in line for a shot at the welterweight belt? 

    Find out right here!

Nick Diaz

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    We'll get this out of the way right off.

    Nick Diaz is one of the most popular and entertaining fighters in MMA. In spite of his craziness and lack of professionalism, he would attract eyeballs. Lots of them. Lots and lots.

    The UFC knows this. That's why it's been keeping him handy for events and jammed his presence at UFC 171 down our collective throats. To quote B/R's own Nathan McCarter:

    When Diaz showed up at the weigh-ins on Friday, the UFC social media team was awfully close by, capturing everything from him. The UFC tweeted his presence and then posted Vines of his heckling very quickly.

    Why would the UFC grant Diaz an immediate title shot? Because he draws.

    Does the fight make sense? Hell no.

    He is coming off back-to-back losses to Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit, so there is no logical justification for giving him a title shot based on any given metric. Except, of course, for the most important one for the UFC: buyrates.

Tarec Saffiedine

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Matt Brown and Tarec Saffiedine are in the same boat right now. They both own lengthy winning streaks but aren't quite "there" yet in terms of their popularity. Brown doesn't find himself on this list, though, because he will be facing Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night 40. So that leaves the Belgian kickboxer.

    Saffiedine is on a decent five-fight winning streak, one that's seen him take decision victories over a few Strikeforce washouts, as well as Nate Marquardt and, most recently, Hyun-Gyu Lim in the UFC's Singapore Fight Pass card. Skill-wise, he is in a similar vein to Lyoto Machida, with a striking style that allows him to out-land opponents with ease en route to handy decision wins (you can check out Jack Slack's breakdown here).

    It's worth noting that Saffiedine lost to Tyron Woodley in 2011, dropping a unanimous decision in large part due to his inability to deal with Woodley's wrestling. That said, we also just saw Robbie Lawler batter Johny Hendricks with technical striking, and there's no reason to think Saffiedine can't imitate that and pepper in some of his dynamic kicks as well.

    Saffiedine is the least likely to get the shot on this list, but that doesn't mean it's not about time for that title unification bout.

Dong Hyun Kim

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    South Korea is potentially a huge market for the UFC. With a great deal of talent in the country and a growing regional promotion in Road FC, Zuffa would be very wise to plant a flag in the country sooner than later. 

    The best way to do that would be to give the country's favorite fighter, Dong Hyun Kim, a title shot.

    That isn't to say Kim doesn't deserve a title shot based on his actual in-cage accomplishments. Kim is on an excellent four-fight winning streak right now, one that has seen him absolutely embarrass Siyar Bahadurzada and Paulo Thiago and brutally knock out Erick Silva and John Hathaway. 

    While Kim isn't quite a name brand for American MMA fans yet, he would likely be as big a draw stateside as anybody not from the 209. Unlike the other folks on this list, though, the UFC stands to add millions upon millions of fans should Kim take the belt.

    That makes him, essentially, the only fighter on this list who combines marketability and a winning streak. The UFC would be wise to keep give him a call, at the very least for a top contender bout.

Tyron Woodley

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    The hype surrounding Tyron Woodley is truly perplexing, but it's there. 

    Woodley, who owned a humble 2-1 record in the UFC, somehow wound up fighting former interim champion and top-three mainstay Carlos Condit with nothing more than a win over Josh Koscheck. It didn't make sense then, but it certainly worked out well for him, as Condit wound up suffering a knee injury during a takedown attempt.

    While it isn't often that a fluke injury vaunts somebody into title contention, that's where Woodley finds himself. While other guys on this list have more UFC wins in a row than Woodley has fights in the promotion, his wins have been nothing but spectacular.

    Woodley, by a wide margin, has the flimsiest claim to a title shot of the fighters on this list, but there's no denying that there is a strong possibility it happens. 

Hector Lombard

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    From a purely logical perspective, Hector Lombard is the clear-cut top contender in the division.

    How so, you ask?

    Well, Woodley beat the assumed top contender in Condit. However, Woodley has lost twice in his five most recent fights, dropping a Strikeforce welterweight title bout to Marquardt at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy and later losing to Jake Shields at UFC 161. Lombard, coincidentally, has now beaten both of them.

    That's from a logical perspective. From a fan perspective, though, it's hard to get all that excited about him as a contender.

    Lombard has an immense and undeniable amount of skill. Watching him take down Jake Shields at UFC 171 and lackadaisically coast to a decision win, though? That wasn't exactly inspiring.

    It was necessary to a degree, sure. Lombard was nothing resembling a cardio machine as a middleweight, and you rarely hear about fighters improving their stamina by cutting huge amounts of weight. And it was pretty obvious that he was lacking in that department as he huffed and puffed from a minimal offensive effort.

    Still, Lombard is on the short list of contenders at 170 pounds, and that means there is a solid chance he gets the nod to take on Johny Hendricks.