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The Blueprint - Hendricks vs. Kampmann

Michael DiSanto breaks down Saturday's UFC 154 co-main event between Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann
Top collegiate wrestler versus Danish kickboxer.

Seems like a really easy fight to break down, doesn’t it? The wrestler will look for the takedown, while the kickboxer will focus on keeping the fight on the feet.

Sounds good in practice, but that won’t likely be the approach that the two men will take on Saturday night.

Johny Hendricks wrestled for four years at Oklahoma State University. He earned two national championships during his tenure and two other top 10 finishes. He is exactly what you expect from a championship-level NCAA wrestler—physically and mentally strong, with a deep gas tank. He has great takedowns and excellent ground control. But he prefers not to use those skills. Why? Because he loves to stand and bang. And this guy just so happens to have the fistic power and chin to stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone, including Martin Kampmann.

Kampmann is a Danish kickboxer turned mixed martial artist. That means he has the ability to use his fists, elbows, knees and shins to destroy those standing across from him. But as odd as it may sound, he has demonstrated a far greater capacity for ground fighting during his time in the UFC. I’m sure he isn’t afraid to stand with Hendricks, but he will be licking his chops for the fight to hit the canvas.

A wrestler who prefers to stand and bang versus a kickboxer who prefers to fight on the ground? Yes, you read that correctly. That is Hendricks versus Kampmann in a nutshell.

So what does all that mean? Unless I’m completely crazy, which is certainly a possibility, I think Hendricks will come out looking for a savage knockout, whereas Kampmann will try to potshot from the outside hoping for an opportunity to take the fight to the ground.

The problem, of course, is that Kampmann doesn’t possess the wrestling skills to take Hendricks down with any sort of regularity. He may get the former OSU star to the ground once.  But he is far better off baiting Hendricks to take him down than working for a takedown himself.

Don’t get me wrong.  Kampmann is the far superior striker, in terms of technique. But Hendricks has a serious edge in explosiveness and raw, unadulterated power. That is why Kampmann needs to be very careful in the standup arena.

As a result, Kampmann will look to dart in and out with quick, calculated isolated punches and two-piece combinations. He should finish those combinations with inside and outside leg kicks. Since he isn’t afraid of being taken down, he should pound away at his foe’s lower body to help sap Hendricks’ explosive power.

If he can wear out Hendricks through the first two rounds, then he will be more likely to stand in the pocket and trade in search of a third round knockout. Early in the bout, by contrast, standing in the pocket against a guy with Hendricks’ punching power could be disastrous.

With that said, Kampmann has the technique to knock out Hendricks or anyone else at any moment. He may score a dramatic early knockout via flying knee or an unseen punch. But that won’t be his game plan. I guarantee it, because he is smarter than that.

Hendricks is a slugger’s slugger. Much like with iconic UFC figure Chuck Liddell, Hendricks likes to use his wrestling in a defensive manner, so that he can keep the fight on the feet and use his fists. Also like with Liddell, Hendricks carries real first-order power in his strikes. Whether he accomplishes even half of what Liddell did remains to be seen. But their approach to the fight game is pretty similar.

That means the former wrestler will come out looking to bomb from Jump Street. He knows that he has both a straight left hand and a right hook that can end the fight in the blink of an eye. His kicks and knees are nothing to write home about. It is unlikely that he will engage in any lower body strikes from a distance. But he also isn’t afraid to let Kampmann try to attack his legs. All it takes is Hendricks catching one of those kicks and firing a straight left for the fight to be over in an instant.

Hendricks will also look to win the battle of foot position, striving to keep his lead right foot on the outside of Kampmann’s lead left foot. That will create the appropriate angle for him to land a lead left hand down the middle or over the top. Either way, the strike will be thrown with savage intentions. If it lands, it is good night baby!

Kampmann will also look to win the battle of foot position. His focus, however, will be to get on the outside of his opponent’s lead right foot and continue circling to his own left in order to avoid the carnage. It will be about angles and escape, not throwing lanes down the middle.

The risk in spending too much time in the pocket looking for shots down the middle is Hendricks’ ability to counter. When pressed, Hendricks reacts by throwing C4-level bombs back at his attacker. Kampmann has been stopped twice by strikes in his career. If he engages in too many firefights with Hendricks, Saturday night could be number three.

This is definitely one of those bouts that could end in a variety of ways, so I’ll hang my prediction in a ridiculously qualified sort of way.

If the fight ends in a submission, it will be Kampmann all day every day.

If it ends by knockout due to a punch in the first or second round, I’m thinking Hendricks all the way. If it is in the final round, then I like Kampmann.

If it ends by a knockout due to a kick or knee at any point in the fight, Kampmann will be the winner.

If the bout lasts the distance, then I lean toward Kampmann. Hendricks can certainly win a 15-minute fight, but Kampmann should have the edge, if it lasts the fully allotted time.

QUICK FACTS:

Johny Hendricks
•    13-1
•    5’9, 170 lbs
•    29 yrs old
•    4-1 in his last 5 (riding 4-fight winning streak)
•    9-1 in his last 10
•    53.8% of wins by KO/TKO
•    7.7% of wins by submission
•    38.% of wins by decision
•    Only professional loss by decision
•    KO of the Night 2x
•    Current layoff is 196 days
•    Longest layoff of career is 263 days

Martin Kampmann
•    20-5
•    6’0, 170 lbs
•    30 yrs old
•    3-2 in his last 5
•    7-3 in his last 10
•    40% of wins by KO/TKO
•    35% of wins by submission
•    20% of wins by decision
•    5% of wins by disqualification
•    Has never been submitted (Stopped 3 times, once via cuts)
•    Four post-fight awards (Submission of the Night 2x; Fight of the Night; Knockout of the Night)
•    Current layoff is 169 days
•    Longest layoff of career is 267 days


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