Top MMA News Breaks Down UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks
The UFC has officially been around for two decades this month and they are looking to celebrate in style. They have stacked their lone November Pay-Per-View with some of the biggest names in the sport and have been advertising the importance of a night like this as a key moment in the growth of the sport. Whether this card turns out to be great or average, it should be moments like this where fans really appreciate what has become of the sport itself.
UFC 167 will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada (of course) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The event will be headlined by Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre, as he looks to extend his win streak to 12 straight against Johny ‘Bigg Rigg’ Hendricks. If one Canadian superstar isn’t enough, how about having an opportunity to watch Rory MacDonald in action against the resurgent Robbie Lawler? Co-headlining the event will be Chael P. Sonnen as he goes up against his friend and fellow analyst, Rashad Evans. There will be five main card bouts being aired live on Pay-Per-View. Four preliminary bouts will air live on Fox Sports 1 in the US and Sportsnet 360 in Canada. The three remaining preliminary bouts will air live on Facebook and YoutTube.
UFC Welterweight Championship Bout
[c] Georges St. Pierre (24-2) vs. Johny Hendricks (15-1)
Johny Hendricks by knockout! Right? Isn’t that what everybody wants to hear? This fight has become a separation of the rational thinkers and the ‘just bleed’ fans. Georges St-Pierre returns after a dominant but strange performance against Nick Diaz where he just didn’t look like the GSP we are so accustomed to. On the other side of the Octagon is Hendricks, who has been on a tear against some of the best in the world, really earning his shot at the Welterweight strap.
Is there really anything that needs to be said about St-Pierre? He’s arguably the most well rounded fighter in the sport with his only flaw seemingly being his inability to finish fights. Hendricks has made a nice reputation as a knockout artist with three KO finishes in his last six fights en route to getting a shot at St-Pierre. If there has been one question mark when it comes to St-Pierre, it seems to be his ability to take a punch. Why? Is it because Matt Serra caught him or because Condit recently kicked him in the head? Regardless, Hendricks is not a guy you want to get caught by.
There is no way I can act like Hendricks has no shot, but how many times do we have to go through the same routine before we admit it’s just unlikely that St-Pierre loses? Yes, Hendricks hits hard. Yes, he was an amazing wrestler at the collegiate level. Yes, he’s been on a roll and defeated some top tier opponents. Sounds a little like Josh Koscheck though, don’t you think? How about the offensive skill set Condit came in with? Nick Diaz was supposed to be that guy and so was Thiago Alves. People are so desperate to see St. Pierre lose that it almost sounds like he doesn’t have a chance until you speak to somebody that will think logically.
Prediction: St. Pierre via Unanimous Decision
Rashad Evans (18-3-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (28-13-1)
If there is one fighter that always seems to be a disappointment, look no further than Rashad Evans. Strangely enough, if there is one fighter that always makes you think twice about his ability, it has to be Chael Sonnen. Evans hasn’t looked very good since beating Phil Davis in early 2012 to earn a shot at the Light-Heavyweight title. During that span, Sonnen has talked his way into title shots, made a few fans and submitted a legend in Shogun Rua. Who knows what to really make of the Gangster from West Lin?
Stylistically, this fight really does favor Evans. On paper, Sonnen doesn’t have any ability that definitively surpasses that of Evans outside of pace and effort. If Evans keeps this on the feet, he will have a distinct speed and striking advantage. The problem with that is that it feels like years since Evans has looked like a threat anywhere unless he can use his wrestling. Sonnen is just non-stop and it’s almost like he still doesn’t get enough appreciation. The mentality he enters fights with is just about as good as it gets. This might be a frustration pick, but Evans’ inability to really look like the guy from his highlights makes it tough for me to pick him. Prove me wrong, Rashad.
Prediction: Sonnen via Unanimous Decision
Rory MacDonald (15-1) vs. Robbie Lawler (21-9)
With all this recent talk of St. Pierre retiring, Canadian fans seem a little concerned about their star. Well, maybe Rory MacDonald will ease all your minds. He’s looked as talented as advertised since losing to Carlos Condit. He’s taking on Robbie Lawler, who hasn’t looked like the Robbie Lawler that we’re used to seeing in Strikeforce. The guy from Strikeforce probably wouldn’t have beat Josh Koscheck.
Lawler’s striking has been as vicious as it could be in his two bouts back with the UFC. The drop to Welterweight seems to be paying off but fighting somebody like MacDonald might be a different challenge. Of course, Lawler will want to get inside and MacDonald will want to keep his distance and wear him out with jabs. He used that strategy to perfection (in the most boring way) against Jake Ellenberger but Lawler is far more relentless and willing to throw with intent than Ellenberger. Could that make the difference against MacDonald? Maybe. Probably not. Rory has become too intelligent to fall for anything.
Prediction: MacDonald via Unanimous Decision
Josh Koscheck (17-7) vs. Tyron Woodley (11-2)
It’s always interesting when two wrestlers with good power in their hands go up against each other. Unfortunately, one of those wrestlers in this fight is Tyron Woodley. What’s even more unfortunate is that he’s taking on Josh Koscheck. Both fighters have never been known for putting on spectacular performances. Both are coming off of losses but it almost feels like Koscheck definitely needs this so much more since he’s lost two straight and the door seems to be closing on his career.
The bout is a little interesting on paper, I guess? Woodley looked great in Strikeforce until he didn’t. When he went up against Nate Marquardt, it proved he has a long way to go in this sport. Koscheck, to his credit, has always been a top tier fighter. His loss to St-Pierre seems to have really had a negative impact on his career. What will be interesting in this bout is watching who will be able to get dominant position in the grappling exchanges. Woodley can beat the Jay Hierson’s and Paul Daley’s of the world but he will need to prove to me that he can beat a veteran like Koscheck.
Prediction: Koscheck Unanimous Decision
Tim Elliot (10-3-1) vs. Ali Bagautinov (11-2)
An important Flyweight bout between two prospects that are likely very close to a title shot in a very shallow division will open up the card. Tim Elliot has been a very intriguing and underrated addition to the UFC roster. After a close decision loss to John Dodson in his debut, he rebounded with two consecutive dominant performances. Ali Bagautinov looked spectacular in his debut and it really is a nice treat when a Flyweight has finishing power like the Russian.
Bagautinov is a very well rounded fighter with heavy hands and a solid grappling game considering his Sambo background. It should be fun to see how he will utilize it against a bigger and aggressive fighter like Elliot who constantly pushes forward and expects to dictate the pace. Elliot is so physically dominant from top position and makes it tough for fighters to fight back. Bagautinov is extremely talented but the size difference might end up being the difference here.
Prediction: Elliot via Unanimous Decision