Top UFC welterweight Jon Fitch returns on December 30th to face Johny Hendricks at UFC 141. Fitch has earned a reputation as the forgotten number one contender, and has not fought in 10 months. Despite that, I saw a pound for pound list that rated Fitch at number seven overall, so the return of Fitch means we are going to see one of the best fighters in the world.
I’ve known Jon Fitch for a long time, and I do agree he is a talented fighter. In the eyes of the fans he has been hurt by having a bit of a ‘grinder’ style and not being a finisher. It is hard to argue with his 23-3-1 record with a no contest thrown in, and his incredible record of 13-1-1. A win here over Hendricks almost assures us that we will see him take on the winner of Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz for the interim welterweight title.
Like I said, I’ve known Fitch for a long time. He used to live in Indiana when he wrestled at Purdue, and I was the matchmaker for 2 of his earliest fights. At that time, he was fighting if I recall at about 195 to 200 lbs, and he took on two guys who would also make the UFC later in their careers (Solomon Hutcherson and Wilson Gouviea). This was back in 2002 and early 2003, and though he lost one and had a no contest in the other, you could see his talent. He was also extremely mentally tough, even at that early stage in his career.
Fitch now fighting at 170 went back to his wrestling roots and found his weight class, where he is a long and strong welterweight that at 195 lbs was simply fighting bigger guys.
I think the interim title being developed works to the advantage of Fitch as well. I hope after the ten months off, that he comes back a more evolved and well rounded fighter. I’m pretty sure he is going to beat Johny Hendrix, but he needs it to be in a standout performance, one that gets people talking. Despite his record, he had watched as an influx of talent to the weight division saw him skipped for a rematch with George St Pierre because people didn’t want to see it. He will likely get the first crack at the interim belt with a win, coming of a thrilling win wcould be the game changer for a talented guy whose career at times has stalled.