UFC 171 could be the night that Johny Hendricks (15-2-0) attains his career goal of becoming UFC welterweight champion, but not if “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (22-9-0) has anything to do with it. Hendricks is coming off a contentious split decision loss in his last fight against Georges St. Pierre, after which the champion decided to vacate his belt and take an indefinite leave from the sport. Though Hendricks was hugely disappointed not to get the decision, he repeatedly said he wanted the belt and was indifferent about who he had to beat to get it.

Hendricks’ performance guaranteed him a spot to fight for the vacant title. Lawler earned his shot by reigniting his career with three wins since his return to the UFC, the last of which came over Rory MacDonald at UFC 167 in November.

Hendricks, a supremely talented college wrestler, has heavy hands, and as the saying goes, when he hits you, he moves you. GSP’s face told the story of the shellacking he took during that fight, but the beating was not enough to convince the judges on the night. “I want that belt. That’s what I just earned, but it was taken away from me. I swear to God that won’t happen again,” Hendricks told Joe Rogan after the fight. He’ll get his chance to keep his word in Dallas this weekend.

So how will the 13-year veteran Robbie Lawler approach this one. He too possesses some concussive power in his hands, and from his 22 wins, 18 have come within the distance. Lawler credits training with American Top Team for his late career resurgence, and he will aim to cap that comeback with the UFC welterweight title. This one could be a slugfest.

Who do you think will become new king of the 170-pound division?

Hendricks tweeted a photo of his motivation and the prize on offer for the victor last week:

Check out the excellent Countdown to UFC 171: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler