UFC 158 goes down this Saturday from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec. As you may have read somewhere, Georges St-Pierre is putting his welterweight belt on the wire against Nick Diaz, a person St-Pierre doesn't appear to like very much.
St-Pierre is a heavy favorite in the bout. But is it that simple?
Also, this is just one fight. Are there other ones?
The answers, respectively, are maybe not and yes. Concerning the latter, there are actually five fights on the pay-per-view portion of the card.
If forced to single out just one key to success for each UFC 158 main-card fighter, what would it be? Read on.
Opponent: Colin Fletcher
Mike Ricci is a stand-up fighter first. He goes in there, stays bouncy and looks for a knockout.
But he's also smart. He'll know to establish the jab and pivot off of that, especially against a fighter as unpredictable as Fletcher.
Hard to imagine two people more, eh, aesthetically mismatched than Colin Fletcher and Mike Ricci. And there are stylistic differences, too.
Fletcher's game plan is to disrupt the other man's game plan. The end game tends to be submissions for the rangy "Freakshow," most notably chokes (all seven of his tapout wins came that way). Ricci is not especially comfortable on the ground, so Fletcher should try to exploit that and get those long arms around Ricci's neck. Then maybe he can sink those teeth in for a fight-ending, vampire-turning bite.
Opponent: Nick Ring
Chris Camozzi is one tough dude. He's a brawler. He either knocks you out, or knocks you down and chokes you out. He earns his keep by outlasting, outslugging and outgutting the other man.
But attrition may not work against the athletic Nick Ring. Although it's not his natural strength or inclination, Camozzi could stifle Ring's kickboxing in the clinch or on the ground. Stay close, then work for the choke or tenderize Ring with elbows and knees.
Here we are again.
Nick Ring seems to have a nose for the controversial decision win. It happened against Riki Fukuda at UFC 127, and it happened against Court McGee in front of a friendly Calgary, Alberta crowd at UFC 149.
This crowd will be pretty pro-Ring, as well. Why not dance with the horse that brung you? Ring should use his strong kickboxing attack to keep Camozzi on the perimeter and win enough points to get the judges on his side. It shouldn't take much.
Opponent: Nate Marquardt
Jake Ellenberger has said he wants to finish Nate Marquardt.
This fight is pretty even, but Ellenberger's raw punching power may be the difference. Tarec Saffiedine showed Marquardt's takedowns can be stuffed by someone with good defense, but Ellenberger may want to take this one to the ground regardless. All the better to inflict that demonic damage from close range, my dear.
Marquardt is a very big, very strong welterweight. He is good at everything, though arguably great at nothing. So call it an all-of-the-above approach for Marquardt.
Try some knees and kicks to keep Ellenberger's fists out of his face. Try an armbar or triangle on the ground. Anything to keep Ellenberger from finding his groove.
Opponent: Johny Hendricks
Hendricks has the power edge, but Condit's attack is more versatile. Like a wily lawyer burying the poison pill clause deep in an inch-thick contract, Condit uses punches and other strikes to set up his dangerous high kick, which he used to knock down GSP and score a decisive blow on Nick Diaz.
Condit will undoubtedly need to stay away from Hendricks' curtain-closing left. But he also shouldn't get away from those razor-sharp combinations. Something tells me he won't.
Because, hey, it ain't broke.
Everyone keeps trying to talk about Hendricks using his wrestling or this and that. Horse biscuits. Look for Condit's chin and put the left hand on it. Until it stops working, that's the simple key for Johny Hendricks.
Opponent: Nick Diaz
The champ is, by his standards, fairly emotional for this fight. He doesn't like Nick Diaz and wants to put a whoopin on him. As it happens, GSP's takedowns, irresistible guard-breaking and vicious close-range strikes are the very tools that give Diaz the most problems.
If GSP stays within himself and executes what he typically executes, it's easy to believe this is his fight to lose.
I don't want to say Diaz has no shot at all. I like Nick Diaz as a fighter and an individual, and I think he is a great asset for the sport.
He doesn't have the great wrestling or great power to hang with GSP. He has a two-inch disadvantage in the reach department; what's to keep GSP from burying that jab in his eye, over and over and over again?
For that matter, what's to keep GSP from freight-training him to the ground?
Maybe nothing. But Diaz does have a couple things going for him. He knows how to work the body. Hey, maybe he can get in there. But even more importantly, he knows jiu-jitsu. Or, as Diaz puts it, he knows See-zer Gray-see joo-jitz-oo.
If GSP puts Diaz on his back—and I think there's a good chance that he will—maybe there's a kind of adapted rope-a-dope possibility there. If Diaz can throw on a triangle, maybe he can force the tap.
Nick Diaz, UFC welterweight champion? There are worse things.
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