UFC welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre (24-2) is without a doubt the greatest welterweight in history, but on Saturday he is set to face perhaps his toughest challenge to date. Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks (15-1) is a focused and dangerous opponent obsessed with separating St-Pierre from consciousness and the championship he’s held for the better part of the last seven years.
GSP is one of the all-time greats, but Hendricks is for real. This bout tops off a stacked an important card at UFC 167 on Saturday from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The festivities will kick off with online preliminaries as usual.
Take a look at the card, viewing information and predictions for each bout. Deeper analysis is available for a few of the key matchups on tap. The prediction follows the matchup.
Main Card (Pay-Per-View, 10 p.m. ET)
- Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks - St-Pierre by decision
- Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen - Evans by decision
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald - MacDonald by decision
- Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley - Woodley by KO
- Ali Bagautinov vs. Timothy Elliott - Bagautinov by KO
Fox Sports 1 Preliminaries, 8 p.m. ET
- Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham - Cerrone by KO
- Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites - Leites by submission
- Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story - Ebersole by decision
- Edwin Figueroa vs. Erik Perez - Perez by KO
Online Preliminaries (Facebook and UFC.com, 6:45 p.m. ET)
- Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley- High by decision
- Will Campuzano vs. Sergio Pettis - Pettis by submission
- Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante - Villante by KO
Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley
Something tells me Koscheck is going to try to stand and strike with The Chosen One, and that is a mistake. Woodley has freakish strength and exceptional KO power. His knockout of Jay Hieron back in February was a glimpse of how brutally he can finish an opponent.
Koscheck’s wrestling background is a little more impressive than Woodley’s. Kos is a former NCAA Division I champion; Woodley’s base is definitely similar, but he isn’t as accomplished.
The eight-year UFC veteran may not win even if he takes Woodley down. He’s 35 years old and he’s endured two straight losses. Woodley is naturally stronger, younger at 31 and improving. This is a tough draw for Koscheck at this point in his career.
Look for Woodley's explosiveness to lead to a KO/TKO win.
Rory "Ares" MacDonald vs. "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler
Lawler has looked very good in his most recent fights, but MacDonald is a well-balanced MMA machine. He’s not the most charismatic and he certainly carries a Christian Bale in American Psycho type of disposition into the Octagon, but few fighters bring as much to the table in terms of skill and size.
At 5'11", he's able to establish his jab and he also has very good footwork to avoid power shots. Per Fight Metric, he has slipped or blocked 67 percent of the strikes thrown against him.
Lawler is a titanic puncher. He showed that by stopping Bobby Voelker and Koscheck in his last two fights; but MacDonald's poise, length, reflexes and diversity will lead to a win via decision. MacDonald has a plethora of ways to end a fight. Don’t be shocked if he submits him as well.
Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen’s character is great for MMA, but at some point he has to beat a fighter the world cares about.
The 36-year-old is 4-3 in his last seven fights, and all four of the fighters he has defeated are retired or arguably ready to hang up their gloves. Brian Stann has already traded his mouth piece for a microphone. Nate Marquardt and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would be wise to follow suit, and Michael Bisping is the only mildly prominent fighter with even less impressive wins than Sonnen.
I’d much rather see Chael P. in the WWE than wasting his awesome mic work in UFC promos for a fight he’s destined to lose. At any rate, I digress.
On Saturday, Sonnen will take on another aging grappler in Rashad Evans. This is an interesting bout because Evans is one of the few men Sonnen won’t have a wrestling edge against. If this comes down to striking, the 34-year-old Evans has the advantage because he has proven he has explosive power in his right hand. He put Chuck Liddell to sleep in 2008 and landed a noteworthy shot against Jon “Bones” Jones in 2012.
Both men won their last fights. Sonnen took care of Rua, but Shogun looks about 10 years older than his listed age of 31 in the Octagon. He’s been in a few too many wars. Sonnen got the win, but the feat doesn’t make him a serious player in the weight class.
Evans knocked off Dan Henderson, but his win over Hendo was nothing compared to what Vitor Belfort did against the 43-year-old legend at UFC Fight Night 32. Because Evans can cancel out Sonnen’s normal wrestling advantage and he’s the quicker, more explosive athlete, he is my pick to win.
Jones proved Sonnen isn’t a tough out when he can’t dominate his opponent as a grappler.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
Hendricks is known for his explosive punching power, but he’s also an excellent wrestler. He’s a two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion. That said, he will still be hard-pressed to handle GSP if the fight goes to the ground. The champion has the most powerful and efficient takedowns in the sport. Hendricks may be well-schooled enough to survive if he’s taken down, but he can’t win the fight this way.
If Bigg Rigg wants to make his mark and end GSP’s reign atop the welterweight division, he needs to knock him out. As good as Hendricks is, I just don’t see that happening.
Though hardly anyone hits like Hendricks, GSP has been caught with great shots. Because the challenger brings such power into the fight, GSP will be prepared and especially calculated in his approach. He’s one of the most intelligent fighters around and he’ll need every bit of his guile to win.
Look for the champion to win a decision as he spends a good amount of time in top position and scoring points with takedowns.
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