By all accounts, Johny Hendricks is now next in line to challenge UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.

Hendricks emerged victorious in a hard-fought co-main event at UFC 158, taking a unanimous decision from Carlos Condit at Bell Centre in Montreal. Hendricks and Condit were awarded “Fight of the Night” for their bout, which immediately preceded the show’s headlining attraction between St. Pierre and challenger Nick Diaz.

Hendricks took it to the former interim champion from the get-go, pursuing “The Natural Born Killer” with hard left hooks and double-leg takedowns. Despite Hendricks’ pressure, Condit did not wilt, instead fighting to return to his feet each time “Bigg Rigg” planted him on the canvas.

“I knew Carlos was going to be a tough dude. I knew I had to win, but I also knew I wanted to come in here and steal it from GSP and Nick Diaz, and I think we did that,” Hendricks told Fox Sports after his win. “I knew it was going to be a tough fight for me, and I knew it was going to be a test. I’ve never really been pushed like that. Even when I took him down, I thought I did very [well] in his guard. I know he’s got a tough guard, so that gave me even more confidence as the fight went on.”

After the first round, Hendricks was forced to deal with an additional concern, as his power hand was suddenly injured during a takedown to close out the opening frame.

“I think I might have fractured my knuckle,” Hendricks said. “When I took him down in that last 10 seconds, I flared his legs, and they went right into the cage. My finger just went straight down the cage. It was just a freak accident.”

Hendricks continued to throw his powerful left in the second and third rounds, though the fighter admitted that the effect of those punches was diminished. Unlike so many of Hendricks’ previous foes, Condit managed to absorb the shots and keep his wits, even rallying in the third round to place the hard-hitting southpaw on the defensive.

“I wasn’t hitting him that hard. I was scared that I might hurt myself throwing [my left] hard,” said Hendricks. “Nobody has ever [knocked out] Carlos Condit, and now I know why. That’s what I was expecting. I knew I had to go in there and prepare for a 15-minute war, and it was exactly what I thought it was going to be.”

With his place as No. 1 welterweight contender now secure, Hendricks is next expected to lock horns with St. Pierre after winning 10 of his first 11 UFC bouts and besting the likes of Martin Kampmann, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Condit.

“If I don’t get the title shot, yeah, I [would be] devastated,” said Hendricks. “I think I would have to step back and rethink what I should do in my career.”

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