Johny Hendricks said he belonged in the UFC 158 main event on Saturday night at Montreal's Bell Centre. Since he wasn't, he did the next best thing.
Hendricks, the two-time former NCAA wrestling champion at Oklahoma State, felt he deserved a shot at Georges St-Pierre's welterweight title.
Instead, he made his case in the evening's co-feature fight, as he won a unanimous decision over former multi-promotion champion Carlos Condit in one of the most exciting bouts in recent memory.
Hendricks got the best of a thrilling first round in which he used his lethal left hand to set up a series of takedowns. Condit got in enough offense to keep the round close, but Hendricks' repeated takedowns spell the difference.
Condit amped up the intensity in Round 2, but Hendricks answered, once again getting the best of Condit with his takedowns.
After Round 2, Hendricks complained to his cornerman that he injured his left hand, and indeed, he was less active in Round 3.
Though Hendricks again scored takedowns, this time, Condit did more damage from the bottom position, and also got the better of Hendricks when the two fighters stood and traded.
But Condit (28-7) couldn't finish Hendricks off, as the fight went the distance. So Hendricks took 29-28 judges' scores across the board, winning the first two rounds on all three cards.
Hendricks improved to 15-1 with six straight wins. After the fight, he made his case for his title shot.
"Carlos is tougher than hell, I'm not taking anything away from him," Hendricks said. "I told you Carlos and I would steal the show, and we did it, Thank you, man, it was a hell of a fight.
"GSP, if you win tonight, I want to see you here in five months and fight for you guys. GSP, please, give me that. If I have to, I'll fly to your house, I'll hire a ref and we'll do something about it."
Heavy-hitting Jake Ellenberger stated his case on a card loaded with top-notch welterweights with an impressive knockout of tough veteran Nate Marquardt.
The latter looked to make it a slugfest, and Ellenberger, an Omaha native who trains in Orange County, Calif., was willing to oblige.
Ellenberger (29-6) caught Marquardt with a huge left hook, followed with a big right to the jaw, which sent Marquardt (32-12-2) crashing to the mat.
Ellenberger landed several more punches to the Denver native before the referee stopped it.
"Man, it's hard to explain the emotions right now," said Ellenberger, the winner of eight of his past nine fights. "I work so hard to get where I am but this is what makes it all worth it.
"Adversity is the measure of how bad you want it. I'm working for a championship and that's what I want."
At middleweight, Chris Camozzi (19-5) of Lakeland, Colo., won a split decision in an odd bout against Calgary's Nick Ring (13-2).
Ring used an odd stance, keeping his hands low and jaw forward, and looked to quickly stick and move and force Camozzi to chase him.
But it backfired as he tired over the course of the match and Camozzi tagged him often enough to win two rounds on two of the three judges' scorecards.
"You're right, it was a really close fight," said Camozzi, who won his fourth consecutive fight. "Nick is a great fighter, hats off to him.
"I thought I did enough to win but you never know what's going to happen when it goes to the judges. I wasn't happy it went to the judges but I'm glad I got the win.
In the main card opener, Montreal lightweight Mike Ricci outpointed Sunderland, England's Colin Fletcher in a unanimous-decision win. The judges' scores were 30-27 across the board.
The bout was a matchup of recent runners-up on the UFC's flagship "The Ultimate Fighter" series, with Ricci (8-3) participating in the U.S. edition and Fletcher (8-3) in the Australian version.