UFC 158 Bleacher Report MMA Staff Predictions

John Heinis@HeinisHardNewsSenior Analyst IMarch 15, 2013

UFC 158 Bleacher Report MMA Staff Predictions

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    The Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, hosts UFC 158 Saturday, where one of the most heavily anticipated title fights in UFC history will take place. 

    Headlining the event is hometown hero/UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who defends his belt against hated rival and former Strikeforce title holder Nick Diaz. 

    Kicking off the main card are two The Ultimate Fighter runner-ups in Mike Ricci and Colin Fletcher in what could feasibly be a loser-leaves-town match in the current cut-throat climate of the UFC.  

    In what looks like an entertaining middleweight scrap on paper, Chris Camozzi squares off against another hometown favorite in Nick "The Promise" Ring. 

    Starting off the welterweight action on the main card are Jake "The Juggernaut" Ellenberger and Nate "The Great" Marquardt, a former Strikeforce and Pancrase champ. 

    Finally, in the co-main event, former WEC welterweight champ Carlos "The Natural Born Killer" Condit squares off with the heavy-handed Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks, where a win could propel Hendricks to his long-awaited title shot. 

    Bleacher Report MMA Featured Columnists Scott Harris, Damon Martin, Riley Kontek, McKinley Noble, Sean Smith and I, John Heinis, are predicting the action this week. 

    Take a look inside to see who's getting their hand raised Saturday night. 

Mike Ricci vs. Colin Fletcher

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    John Heinis: A rare instance where two TUF runner-ups are squaring off just four months after completing the show. This is a pretty clear striker-versus-grappler matchup. 

    Ricci is tough as nails and training at Tristar Gym, where studs like Rory MacDonald and Georges St-Pierre will develop his skills quickly.

    He is also much better at lightweight than at welterweight, but I still think Fletcher is just more well-rounded at this point in his career. 

    Fletcher, Unanimous Decision


    Scott Harris: There is a lot to like about Colin Fletcher. And I like him as an underdog here.

    Ricci has a major striking advantage, but he's vulnerable on the ground. Fletcher's crazy scramble game could really give Ricci fits. Hell, I'd get unhinged just being too close to those filed teeth.

    Fletcher, Submission, Round 2


    Riley Kontek: Colin Fletcher has the reach and physical gifts to outpoint Mike Ricci on the feet, but can he withstand the technical and powerful aggression that the Canadian brings?

    My guess is that Ricci mixes in takedowns and power strikes to nab a decision from "Freakshow."

    Ricci, Unanimous Decision


    McKinley Noble: It's a crime that Ricci had to fight at welterweight for TUF, but going back to 155 will be good for him.

    Fletcher's simply going to get out-hustled here. Hard to see where Ricci goes after this, though.

    Ricci, Unanimous Decision


    Damon Martin: Admittedly, I didn't watch TUF: The Smashes, so I didn't know much about Colin Fletcher ahead of his fight at the finale show last year. Mike Ricci is a tough challenge, though, and dropping down to 155 pounds is where he needs to be.

    Fletcher is a tall, lanky fighter with great range, so he has to keep Ricci on the outside. But I think Ricci gets the fight into his world, works inside and grinds Fletcher down throughout all 15 minutes.

    Ricci, Unanimous Decision 


    Sean Smith: Fletcher is all kinds of unorthodox inside and outside of the cage, but that won't make up for the talent gap here.

    Fletcher shows toughness in going the distance, but Ricci will make a statement in his return to 155 pounds.

    Ricci, Unanimous decision

Nick Ring vs. Chris Camozzi

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    John Heinis: Chris Camozzi has won three straight? Wowsers. Nick Ring has looked underwhelming in his past two bouts, losing to Tim Boetsch and earning another controversial decision (robbery) over Court McGee. 

    Camozzi is a good benchmark for where Ring is at, and this should be decent fight to watch. But despite what I said earlier, I think Ring will be here to prove a point and look impressive in front of his home crowd.

    Ring, Unanimous Decision 


    Scott Harris: Camozzi's got the exciting brawler's style, but I believe Ring can keep Camozzi at bay with his kickboxing. Camozzi won't be able to wear down a cardio warrior like Ring, either.

    Ring, Unanimous Decision


    Riley Kontek: In my eyes, Nick Ring is 1-3 in the UFC, as he did not deserve his decision wins over Court McGee and Riki Fukuda.

    Camozzi will use solid takedown defense and superior clinch work to out-strike the Canadian.

    Camozzi, Unanimous Decision


    McKinley Noble: Hey, look at that—Nick Ring is on the main card! Then again, even the UFC wasn't going to get away with shelving him to the prelims on a Canadian event.

    Maybe now he'll get some love from the crowd when he grinds out a decision.

    Ring, Unanimous Decision


    Damon Martin: Chris Camozzi is one of the most underrated fighters at middleweight, but he's facing a tough test in Nick Ring, especially in Canada.

    The judges have arguably handed Ring a couple of gift decisions over his last few fights, but I think Camozzi's quick strikes and power on the inside during exchanges will be the difference

    Camozzi, Unanimous Decision


    Sean Smith: Camozzi's wrestling has improved since losses earlier in his UFC career, as shown in his fight with Nick Catone. If Camozzi can keep this fight standing, it should be four wins in a row.

    Camozzi, Unanimous Decision

Jake Ellenberger vs. Nate Marquardt

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    John Heinis: Before Johny Hendricks was the heavy-handed wrestler getting overlooked for a title shot at 170 pounds, there was Jake Ellenberger. 

    "The Juggernaut" won six in a row and then lost to Martin Kampmann after having the bout at The Ultimate Fighter 15 finale this past June well in hand. He also beat Jay Hieron after that...but who cares, honestly. 

    Meanwhile, the always heavily hyped Nate Marquardt is 3-3 in his past six and looked awful in his Strikeforce title fight against Tarec Saffiedine. On paper, this pick is too easy. 

    Ellenberger, KO, Round 2 


    Scott Harris: I just don't see a phase I would clearly give to Marquardt. I don't see how he stops or even seriously mitigates Ellenberger's takedowns or punches.

    I believe this is Ellenberger's fight to lose, and he'll hand Marquardt only his second career knockout loss.

    Ellenberger, TKO, Round 2


    Riley Kontek: Tarec Saffiedine shed some light on how to beat Nate Marquardt in his last fight: a healthy dose of leg kicks and takedowns.

    Jake Ellenberger is a power puncher, but he is a wrestler first and foremost. He should be able to grind out a win here.

    Ellenberger, Unanimous Decision


    McKinley Noble: Marquardt is a massive welterweight, but his wrestling isn't good enough to seal a win here.

    Ellenberger's inconsistent, yet he's got more tools to win this in three rounds. Well, as long as his cardio keeps up.

    Ellenberger, Unanimous Decision


    Damon Martin: These two fighters are extremely evenly matched up. Going with my gut, however, I think Ellenberger having a full training camp to prepare for this fight will make a difference.

    He's a fast starter and matches size and power with Marquardt.

    Ellenberger, Unanimous Decision


    Sean Smith: While these well-rounded welterweights like to stand and bang, they are both in need of a big win to re-enter title contention, so look for the better wrestler to come out on top in a safe fight.

    Ellenberger, Unanimous Decision

Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks

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    John Heinis: Carlos Condit was so close to dethroning Georges St-Pierre at UFC 154 in November, but now he has another elite opponent lined up in Johny Hendricks. 

    Every single time a fighter is one win away from a title shot these days, they seem to lose. But I just can't pick against "Bigg Rigg" here. Condit won't be able to counteract the wrestling and boxing of Hendricks. 

    Hendricks, Unanimous Decision 


    Scott Harris: Can I punt here? Just hike me the ball so I can kick it away to someone else. No? All right, then, so I think this one goes the distance.

    Condit stays away from Hendricks' daisy cutter of a left hand and lands enough of those sharp combinations to pull out the victory. Another party spoiled.

    Condit, Unanimous Decision


    Riley Kontek: Quick knockout by Hendricks, or tactical game plan resulting in decision from Condit? That seems to be the main choice facing fans and pundits. I'll take the latter in what should be a great fight.

    Condit, Unanimous Decision


    McKinley Noble: This can be a nightmare match for Condit in two ways: Either he eats too much punishment on the feet, or Hendricks finds holes in his takedown defense.

    And Hendricks still isn't getting that title shot.

    Hendricks, TKO, Rd. 2


    Damon Martin: Hendricks has everything to lose in this fight because he was already the No. 1 contender even before UFC 158 was officially an event.

    Over the past few weeks, Hendricks has also gone on the record several times talking about his knockout power and how he doesn't use his wrestling much anymore.

    That comes back to bite him this time if that truly is his approach. Condit is a nasty, rangy striker with phenomenal kicks. If Hendricks isn't looking for the takedown, Condit can light him up with his feet.

    Condit, TKO, Rd. 3


    Sean Smith: Hendricks had been deadly on his feet, but he's not quick enough or technical enough to stand with Condit. Instead, Hendricks' high-level wrestling background could be his key to victory.

    Hendricks, Unanimous Decision

Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz

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    John Heinis: Whether or not you think he deserves this fight, Nick Diaz deserves a lot of props for hyping this fight beyond belief. 

    GSP has looked visibly rattled by a lot of Diaz's trash talk on a few occasions, but that doesn't change the fact this is Rush's fight to lose. His wrestling, strength and cardio are just going to be too much. 

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision


    Scott Harris: Just a nightmare matchup for Diaz. Hard to know what to say here besides the obvious: I think GSP takes him down and grinds him into hamburger.

    St-Pierre, TKO, Round 2


    Riley Kontek: Nick Diaz sold this fight; now he has to compete in it. GSP has the one tool that may stymie the Stockton, Calif., native's attack, and that is top-heavy wrestling.

    GSP is motivated and will win the five-round decision.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision


    McKinley Noble: Man, I'm going to miss Nick Diaz after Saturday. If he was mad enough about the Condit fight to retire, then a lopsided 50-45 hugfest loss to GSP might send Diaz to a monastery. In other words, I'm picking St-Pierre to win the decision. Monastery, here comes Nick Diaz.

    He'll fit right in, too.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision


    Damon Martin: As epic as the trash talk and lead-up to this fight has been, I just don't see a way the fight goes any differently than any of GSP's recent performances.

    Make no mistake: For as much as GSP gets criticized for his lack of finishing power, he's brilliant in the way he can always execute his game plan. Until somebody can stop his takedown, GSP will reign supreme.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision 


    Sean Smith: As fun as the lead-up to this fight has been, the outcome will be very predictable. St-Pierre will take Diaz down repeatedly and avoid putting himself in a spot where he could be submitted.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision