When Johny Hendricks won the vacant UFC welterweight championship against Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 last March, he made it perfectly clear that he wanted to be the man the rest of the division was aiming for. However, his first title defense has yet to happen as an injured bicep has forced the champion to watch from the sidelines as the rest of the 170 pound division unfolds in front of him.

Lawler, on the other hand, has been one of the most active fighters on the entire UFC roster. Just two months after losing to Hendricks, the man known as ‘Ruthless’ was back in the octagon walking away with a third round TKO victory over Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173. Just two months later, he followed this victory up with a unanimous decision victory over Matt Brown in the main event of UFC on FOX 12. For those keeping track, Lawler spent nearly 65 minutes competing inside a UFC octagon in the span of four months. For this Herculean performance, the UFC granted Lawler a rematch with Hendricks.

Initially, the two were expected to meet in early 2015. But after an injured hand forced UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman out of his title fight with Vitor Belfort at UFC 181, the UFC brass called upon the two welterweights to step in and fill the main event slot on the upcoming December fight card.

For Hendricks, who will have spent nearly nine months out of competition, the timing and opponent couldn’t have been more perfect.

“It’s sort of like fate,” revealed Hendricks to INSIDE MMA correspondent Ron Kruck at the UFC 178 weigh-ins. “I started doing the diet three weeks ago, I shaved my beard on Monday and then all of a sudden a call saying ‘Would you like to replace Chris Weidman?’. So I’m thankful now that I get a second fight in 2014…Now I have something to shoot for. I have that goal set. It sucked watching Robbie fight and that’s why I wanted to get back. So hopefully I can get back and continue to win.”

Never a man to shy away from the bright lights of a main event, Lawler revealed that even though he’s rematching the last man who beat him, it will still be business as usual for the American Top Team product.

“I’m very excited. It’s been a long hard road. I felt like I showed who I was when I fought Hendricks the first time and now I’m going to be better. I’ve fought two times since then and really developed my skills,” said Lawler. “I don’t really worry about the other guy. I worry about how I can be top-notch that night. These two camps since then I’ve learned a lot about what I need to do to be great. There’s a lot of guys behind me and there’s a lot of guys helping me to get better and everything is just happening at the right time.”

Their initial meeting has been hailed as the favorite for the 2014 Fight of the Year, a fact Hendricks revealed was a major factor in his excitement for their rematch.

“I think we hit each other a total of 300 and something times. But that’s what makes me excited about this fight.”

UFC 181 is set to take place on December 6 at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas. A lightweight title fight between Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez will serve as the night’s co-main event.

Here’s how the rest of the card is shaping up:

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About The Author

News Manager

José began his career as a mixed martial arts journalist while still enrolled at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University. Since graduating in May 2013, he has attended dozens of high profile UFC fight cards as a credentialed member of the media, providing live cage side coverage through his articles and videos. His work has appeared on UFC.com, ArizonaSports.com and AZCentral. He is also currently one of the main contributors on Power MMA Show at Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, one of the first all MMA radio shows on a major radio station.