DALLAS -- Johny Hendricks had been in this situation before. Entering the fifth and final round, tied at two rounds apiece on the judges' scorecards, the UFC welterweight championship on the line -- really, it was all too familiar.
So this time, rather than easing his foot off the gas pedal like he did against Georges St-Pierre, Hendricks stomped down and made a conscious decision to take what was rightfully his.
"I looked at [my coaches] and I said, it's two to two. I've gotta win this round," Hendricks said following his title-winning performance over Robbie Lawler at UFC 171. "I'm not dumb. I'm not going to be one of those naïve fighters who goes (in thinking it's) four to zero. I'm true to myself. I knew I had to go out there and win that fifth round. My coaches, they told me what I needed to hear, put it that way.
"And I took it to heart. Leave everything out there. Five minutes can change the world."
While he ate more punches than he would've liked, Hendricks managed to batter Lawler with enough devastating and heavy shots to secure the fifth frame in the eyes of the the judges.
Although, considering that Hendricks believed the same thing last November before a controversial split decision ripped away his victory over St-Pierre, Saturday night's wait between the final horn and the official decision became an agonizing one in and of itself.
"I damn near died again," Hendricks said with a laugh. "I was sitting there like, man, not another GSP.
"Take nothing away from Robbie, he fought hard too. We were out there and I was looking like, man, please call my name. Please call my name. They did, and it hasn't really sunk in yet, if that makes sense. I know this thing (the belt) is sitting in front of me, but that's the way it's always been for me. It'll take me a couple weeks before I look back and say, oh my God, I'm the UFC champ. I'll take it to heart and hopefully continue."
Hendricks generated a bit of minor criticism in the lead-up to UFC 171's main event, calling Lawler a "more dangerous" fight than St-Pierre. However that slice of speculation proved to be more accurate than not, as Hendricks ate a steady diet of Lawler's punches throughout the 25-minute fight, and subsequently showed up for the night's post-fight press conference with extensive visible damage blanketing the right side of his face.
"Realistically, I thought we were both going to knock each other out in the first or the second round," Hendricks admitted. "I didn't think we were going to go five. Definitely, as hard as he hit me in the third and fourth round, almost anybody else would've been out. For some reason, I have a thick skull. He hit me with some hard shots and I knew I had to come back in the fifth round.
"That's where I lost it in the GSP fight and I told myself that it wouldn't happen again."
Hendricks added that prior to stepping out for the fifth round, he spotted his wife in the crowd, and the sight reminded the bloodied fighter of the magnitude of his actions and the ramifications of what a win could mean for his family.
Though from here it doesn't get any easier, as now that the UFC welterweight strap is finally in Hendricks' possession, there are no shortage of contenders vying for the division's next title shot. Just on Saturday night alone, victorious welterweights Tyron Woodley and Hector Lombard staked their claim to the title of No. 1 contender, while the division's biggest potential draw, Nick Diaz, announced his intention to come out of retirement and rejoin the fray.
Even still, one opponent continues to linger on Hendricks' mind.
"I'd like to fight Georges again," said Hendricks. "I think it'd be fun. We had a good match. I think I'm better. I'm going to get stronger.
"I'm finding out that I need to be a little bit better with my accuracy. I have the power. I know that. But I just need to be a little bit more pinpoint where I'm throwing my punches, and hopefully everything comes back around."