With Anderson Silva dethroned, Georges St-Pierre is now the UFC champion with the longest current title reign. More notably, he's only two wins away from tying Silva's record for consecutive title defenses, and he'll try to pick up one of those victories at UFC 167.
Challenging St-Pierre on Saturday will be Johny Hendricks. The Oklahoman has won six straight fights, knocking out the likes of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann en route to his first shot at the 170-pound championship.
Hendricks' wrestling pedigree and knockout power are expected to present St-Pierre with a test he hasn't seen in recent title defenses. Will that be enough for Hendricks to end the Canadian's long welterweight reign?
Here is a look at how St-Pierre and Hendricks match up in all areas heading into Saturday's matchup.
Georges St-Pierre has been getting it done with his wrestling recently, but he's landed more significant strikes than any other fighter in UFC history by a significant margin.
While many of those strikes were landed on the ground, St-Pierre has also beaten many opponents while standing. The last time he met a heavy hitting wrestler like Johny Hendricks, St-Pierre utilized his jab to remain outside the range of his foe's power punches.
If he and Hendricks stand on Saturday, St-Pierre will no doubt try to use his jab regularly again.
Above, St-Pierre feints his jab to elicit a reaction from Carlos Condit (top). The champion hits Condit with a jab and bounces back outside the range of Condit's right hook counter (bottom).
St-Pierre is the second most accurate striker in UFC welterweight history behind Matt Brown and his jab might be his most high-percentage attack. There's no doubt the Canadian is going to try to use it on Hendricks to keep the challenger on his heels and too far away to land his lunging left hand.
The jab of St-Pierre may not have looked better in any fight than his one with Josh Koscheck. Koscheck, a heavy hitting wrestler, presented many of the same challenger to St-Pierre in December 2010 that Hendricks will this weekend.
Although he may have a better chin right now, Hendricks has more holes in his striking defense than Koscheck did. Saturday's challenger gets touched with 42 percent of opponent strikes, while Koscheck has only allowed adversaries to hit him with 36 percent of their attempted strikes over his UFC career.
Hendricks is more wild offensively than Koscheck was. But when St-Pierre's the one moving forward, there's little reason to believe he can't land his jab repeatedly.
Despite coming from a wrestling background, Johny Hendricks is the scariest striker in the welterweight division. Unafraid of the consequences, he pushes forward with winging punches and has the power to finish any 170-pounder in the world with his left hand.
His aggressiveness may be what's needed to dethrone St-Pierre, but it will only pay dividends if he finds a way to land that left overhand that sent Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann skidding across the Octagon canvas.
Over five rounds, St-Pierre will outstrike him. That's a given.
The Canadian successfully evades 75 percent of strikes thrown at him, which makes his striking defense significantly better than anyone whom Hendricks has beaten on his current run. The champion also has a counter jab that he'll use to throw Hendricks' punches off line as the challenger rushes forward.
The chart below displays the UFC striking defense statistics for Hendricks' five most recent opponents.
Nonetheless, Hendricks only needs to land one clean punch. Matt Serra and Carlos Condit both proved St-Pierre is human when he gets hit with a shot to the chin. Unfortunately for Hendricks, Serra and Condit are about the only fighters to find a way to hurt St-Pierre over the past several years.
St-Pierre may be forced into a stand-up fight on Saturday, but that hardly means he'll be a sitting duck for Hendricks' bomb of a left hand.
Georges St-Pierre has scored 61 takedowns in his past 10 fights, and he was not shut out in a single one of those championship bouts.
It's easy to see why he has become recognized as the best wrestler in MMA despite his lack of an amateur wrestling background. The Canadian holds the record for the most takedowns landed in UFC history, and he'll likely extend his 13-takedown lead over Gleison Tibau on Saturday.
Johny Hendricks may be an NCAA champion wrestler, but his takedown defense has been far from impenetrable inside the Octagon. Josh Koscheck, Mike Pierce, Rick Story and Charlie Brenneman have all taken him down. Even Ricardo Funch surprised him with a takedown at UFC 107.
Defending takedowns in MMA is different from defending takedowns in collegiate wrestling. Of course, there are some similarities that have helped Hendricks turn into the elite welterweight he is today. Bar none, though, St-Pierre is the best MMA wrestler going.
Koscheck was also an NCAA champion wrestler. He has identical takedown defense statistics to Hendricks, stuffing 63 percent of attempts. Nonetheless, St-Pierre grounded him six times in two bouts.
Will St-Pierre rag-doll Hendricks like he did Nick Diaz on the ground? No.
What the titleholder will do, though, is take advantage of Hendricks' wild striking by countering with level changes and double-legs.
Despite his wrestling prowess, Johny Hendricks does not make takedowns a priority.
That's not to say he doesn't have success with his takedowns when going for them. Of the fighters who weren't knocked out by Hendricks in the first round, only Charlie Brenneman avoided giving up a takedown, but he was knocked out in the second stanza.
Hendricks prefers to win fights with his fists than his wrestling.
If this fight goes into the later rounds, though, it'll mean Hendricks hasn't had much success landing on St-Pierre, and he'd likely be down on the scorecards. At some point, Hendricks would have to switch things up and commit to takedowns like he did against Carlos Condit at UFC 158.
The problem is that takedowns won't come nearly as easily against St-Pierre as they did in Hendricks' most recent outing.
Josh Koscheck is the only fighter to take St-Pierre down since he regained his championship, and Koscheck was still outwrestled by the champion at UFC 124. The last time an opponent scored more takedowns on St-Pierre than he scored on them was at UFC 50, where Matt Hughes submitted St-Pierre more than nine years ago.
Scoring takedowns on exactly half of his attempts, Hendricks' offensive wrestling is comparable to Koscheck's. Like Koscheck, Hendricks may score a takedown or two. If "Bigg Rigg" is looking for them, though, it'll likely mean his game plan isn't working.
Georges St-Pierre isn't going to finish Johny Hendricks with ground-and-pound, but he can lay the groundwork for another decision win from the top position. While he's not going to take Hendricks down at will, he should still mix in a takedown here and there on Saturday.
Hendricks has not shown to be a submission threat off his back, and even if he did, St-Pierre displayed plenty of solid submission defense against Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit. He wouldn't be in any danger on top at UFC 167.
While Hendricks is tough to hold down, St-Pierre can drain energy from him by making the challenger work to get back to his feet. Every time Hendricks is forced to carry St-Pierre's weight, his punching power will lose a little more pop when he stands again.
Johny Hendricks' top grappling is somewhat similar to Georges St-Pierre's.
Because his wrestling is so strong, Hendricks can throw a high volume of punches from the top without worrying about positioning. When his past opponents have escaped, he brought them right back down in short order.
Against St-Pierre, Hendricks will need to show more patience. Not because he has shown holes in his submission defense, but because every time Hendricks gets on top, he will have a golden opportunity to steal a round from an adversary who has never been beaten on the scorecards.
St-Pierre doesn't spend much time on his back, so Hendricks needs to make the champion uncomfortable for as long as he can. With only one submission win back in 2008, Hendricks would be better served keeping his weight on St-Pierre's lungs than taking risks to advance positions, which might give St-Pierre openings to escape back to a neutral position.
The most obvious intangible at play in this matchup is Georges St-Pierre's experience in UFC title fights. This will be his 14th appearance in a UFC championship bout, while Johny Hendricks has not gone past three rounds in his MMA career.
Hendricks has not been one to gas in past fights. However, the nerves associated with competing in his first title fight could have a draining effect on him if the UFC 167 main event reaches the championship rounds.
Aside from that, St-Pierre and Hendricks are on an even playing field in terms of intangibles.
Both men last competed at UFC 158 in March. So, ring rust should not be a factor for either competitor.
Johny Hendricks is an exciting challenger for Georges St-Pierre, but Bigg Rigg doesn't present the champion with anything he hasn't seen in past title defenses.
St-Pierre is the better striker and grappler, and in MMA terms, he is arguably the better wrestler. His biggest challenge will be making sure he's fighting at a range that won't put him in danger of Hendricks' left hand for 25 minutes.
Look for the champ to jab and counter looping punches with takedowns over five rounds. If he follows the same game plan he used against Josh Koscheck to perfection, St-Pierre should surpass Anderson Silva for the most title-fight wins in UFC history on Saturday.
St-Pierre defeats Hendricks by unanimous decision.
Statistics and images via UFC.com.