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Johny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler rematch announced as new UFC 181 main event

Esther Lin

The silver lining quickly emerged from the black cloud that was the loss of the Dec. 6 Chris Weidman-Vitor Belfort bout.

The dust had barely settled on Monday's news that a Weidman broken hand had forced the postponement of the middleweight title fight when the UFC announced a new main event for UFC 181 at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title.

The new main event is a rematch of a bout which could still end up as 2014's Fight of the Year when all is said and done. With the vacant title up for grabs, Hendricks and Lawler put on a 25-minute, toe-to-toe slugfest. With the title hanging in the balance going into the fifth round, Hendricks found another gear and clinched the decision.

But he paid the price in the process: Hendricks (16-2) aggravated a bicep injury originally suffered in training and had to undergo surgery afterward, which has kept him out of action since.

ESPN reported last week that Hendricks was looking at an early 2015 return, however, Hendricks' manager Ted Ehrhardt explained to on Monday that that was only because they believed all the UFC pay-per-view slots were already booked until then. Ehrhardt said he called Hendricks on Monday asking if his arm, cardio and weight would be on point for Dec. 6, and Hendricks assured him he would have no issues heading into his first title defense.

"I didn't need to do any convincing," Ehrhardt said.

As for Hendricks' current health status, Ehrhardt said the welterweight champion was "close" to 100 percent healthy.

In the wake of the Hendricks loss, Lawler (24-10, 1 NC) went out and earned his rematch the old-fashioned way. The fighter nicknamed "Ruthless" earned a third-round TKO over Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173 in May, then earned a decision in a hard-fought five-round bout against Matt Brown in July.

With the new main event, UFC 181 will remain a two-title fight affair, as Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez for the lightweight title remains the co-feature bout.

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