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UFC 167: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2013

UFC 167: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    The UFC has been delivering events fast and furiously over the past month, but none is bigger than UFC 167, which is scheduled for Saturday. The magnitude of the event is in large part thanks to the presence of Georges St-Pierre and the anticipation of his mysterious announcement.

    Will he retire? Will he announce some ambitious plan to add a few more titles to his collection? Will he join the Bleacher Report main card staff picks team? 

    I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

    Luckily, the wait for Bleacher Report's official UFC 167 main card staff picks is over. 

    UFC 167 features a solid main card, with a number of meaningful and competitive matches fortifying a tremendous main event between the aforementioned St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks.

    On the whole, the main card plays out as follows:

    • Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
    • Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen
    • Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler
    • Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley
    • Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov

    Without further ado, here are the forecasts of Riley "Death or Glory" Kontek, Scott "Too Young to Know" Harris, Craig "After Midnight" Amos, Sean "Hot Dog" Smith and James "Money" MacDonald.

Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov

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    Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    I am excited that the UFC has decided to start featuring the flyweights on big shows and on the main card. Tim Elliott and Ali Bagautinov may not be the most recognizable names, but they are both elite flyweights with great toughness and skills. Both men have great power despite being just 125 pounds, but Bagautinov is more well-rounded. Expect him to take this in a not-so-easy outing.

    Bagautinov, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Ah, "The Puncher King." I'd like to think Ali Bagautinov was a really big fan of the movie The Fisher King and just decided to be his own, fightier version. I like Elliott, but he can be got. Plus, who am I to bet against the Russians? They're on a crazy roll.

    Bagautinov, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Craig Amos

    Tim Elliott is tough. He's shown that in three UFC fights and over the course of five seasons of Breaking Bad, when he went by the name Jesse Pinkman. But Bagautinov represents his stiffest challenge since Elliott dealt with John Dodson and the gang who enslaved him as a meth cook, and I'm not sure if he can get out of this one unscathed.

    Bagautinov, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    There's a lot of hype surrounding Bagautinov right now, and it's not for nothing. However, Elliott is one of those scrappy fighters who makes every fight interesting. Even in defeat, he proved more to me against John Dodson than Bagautinov ever could have in his UFC debut against Marcos Vinicius.

    Elliott, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    The Russians have looked so terrific lately, I hesitate to even consider that Bagautinov will lose this fight. This might be a closer contest than some are anticipating, though. Tim Elliot is no gimme for anyone in the flyweight division. Bagautinov should have enough to take this via decision, but don’t be shocked if Elliot pulls off the upset.

    Bagautinov, Unanimous Decision

Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

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    Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

    Riley Kontek

    A year or so ago, this matchup might have been an interesting chess match. However, Josh Koscheck looks to be over the hump, especially in his last couple of outings. As for Tyrone Woodley, he is on the rise and is quick, athletic and explosive. A healthy dose of clinch and double-leg takedowns should carry the Mizzou alumnus to a victory.

    Woodley, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    Koscheck is most assuredly on the hot seat for this one. This is Woodley's third fight in the UFC, after he whomped Jay Hieron and then dropped a classic split decision to Jake "Split Decision" Shields. I think it's time for Koscheck to hand over the reins to the next generation of himself.

    Woodley, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Koscheck is on the ropes right now, but as good villains are prone to do, he'll come back for one last disturbance, taking out a popular welterweight dark horse in the process. 

    Koscheck, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Yes, Koscheck is at a low point in his MMA career; however, so were Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields heading into their bouts with Woodley. After fighting Woodley, Marquardt became a Strikeforce champion and Shields returned to the welterweight Top 10. Koscheck is only one fight removed from taking Saturday's title challenger to a split decision, so he shouldn't be dismissed so quickly.

    Koscheck, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    After his sensational UFC debut, Woodley’s second outing inside the Octagon was a crushing disappointment. He looks to have all the tools, but something is missing that I can’t put my finger on. Still, against Josh Koscheck, he is facing a fighter on the way down. The Ultimate Fighter 1 veteran is always dangerous, but the younger, hungrier Woodley should have enough to edge out the win.

    Woodley, Unanimous Decision

Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler

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    Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    Remember Rory MacDonald's safe, boring performance in his last fight against Jake Ellenberger? Don't expect that kind of performance against an aggressive, powerful Robbie Lawler. Of course, that aggression may work against "Ruthless," as MacDonald is a great takedown artist who could test Lawler's spotty sprawl. Lawler's bugaboo is submission defense, while MacDonald is known to have some great subs. Chalk one up for Canada.

    MacDonald, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Scott Harris

    Robbie Lawler's got a little bit of that Alistair Overeem gene: If he can't chase you down and knock you out, well, you win. MacDonald won't succumb to Lawler's pressure. He'll take him down and smother him. Done and done. Nothing to see here (almost literally).

    MacDonald, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Forgive me, but despite back-to-back wins upon his return to the UFC, I’m still not convinced Lawler is a top-level welterweight. On the other hand, I am indeed convinced that MacDonald is, and he’ll use a wrestling and grappling advantage to show why he and Lawler are not equals at 170.

    MacDonald, Submission, Rd. 2

     

    Sean Smith

    To a certain degree, MacDonald faces a similar test to the one his teammate Georges St-Pierre faces in the UFC 167 main event. Both Canadians face good wrestlers—although Lawler's wrestling is not nearly on the same level as that of Hendrickswho throw caution to the wind and look for knockouts. Like St-Pierre, MacDonald will come into Saturday planning to use his jab and being prepared to counter looping punches with takedowns.

    MacDonald, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    Robbie Lawler looked terrific last time out, but part of me thinks he flatters to deceive at times. I’m not so sure he has what it takes to trouble the extraordinarily well-rounded MacDonald. The Canadian has the edge everywhere, with the exception of power. Look for him to take Lawler down consistently and finish the fight late.

    MacDonald, TKO, Rd. 3

Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Riley Kontek

    A matchup of wrestlers, UFC Tonight anchors and big personalitieshow can you go wrong here? Chael Sonnen looked great in his last outing against Mauricio Rua, but Rashad Evans is much quicker and can threaten more with the takedown. Sonnen has one of the best double legs in the game, but Evans is a good counter wrestler with superior movement and striking. He should win a safe performance here.

    Evans, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    I think about this fight and actually smile. But you know what? I think it's going to be kind of boring. Part of me says not to believe in Evans as far as I can throw him, which is not far. But part of me says that, between these two friends, Evans needs the win more. Sonnen already has his real opponent—Wanderlei Silva—all lined up.

    Evans, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Sonnen has outwrestled a lot of good wrestlers in the past, but there is the temptation to side with Evans because of his power and quickness. For me, this is probably the toughest call on the entire card (alongside Elliott vs. Bagautinov). In the end, I tentatively pick Sonnen, assuming he’ll win on points as a result of aggression and takedowns.

    Sonnen, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    Sonnen will get his takedowns in this matchup. He almost always does. I'm just not sure he won't give up a few as well, and he's certainly going to have some problems with Evans' speed when standing.

    Evans, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    If Sonnen and Evans cancel out each other’s wrestling, we may end up watching a subpar kickboxing match. That’s my biggest fear going into UFC 167’s co-main event. If this fight is primarily contested on the feet, I give Sonnen a slight edge. He may not boast Evans’ power, but his striking is a little more technical.

    Sonnen, Unanimous Decision

Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Riley Kontek

    I really don't think this is GSP's biggest test to date. Sure, Johny Hendricks could knock a mastodon's head square off its shoulders, but GSP is hard to hit. He has also faced better wrestlers than Hendricks and passed with flying colors. Expect a classic GSP performance with plenty of jabs, takedowns and the ultra-classic decision win.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision

     

    Scott Harris

    It's not going to be easy for Hendricks. He needs to land that flash knockout. And you know what? It can happen. It will happen to GSP eventually, and maybe sooner rather than later, given that he seems to be losing a lot of zeal for the sport. But the thing is, the champ has earned the benefit of the doubt 10 times over. He is until he isn't.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision

     

    Craig Amos

    Hendricks has that brutalizing left hand, but St-Pierre is a master when it comes to not being punched in the face, which is a great life skill to possess. Add in that Hendricks has looked tired by Round 3 of some of his earlier fights and St-Pierre’s remarkable talent, and you’ve got a very familiar result coming your way.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision

     

    Sean Smith

    To say Hendricks isn't a threat to St-Pierre would be ridiculous. Wherever there is a brain to be rattled around the inside of a skull, Hendricks is a dangerous man. Still, St-Pierre has seen this test before and will give Hendricks the Josh Koscheck treatment over five rounds.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision

     

    James MacDonald

    This fight may come down to whether Hendricks can consistently remain upright. Yes, I know that he’s a former national champion wrestler, but history has taught us that success in college wrestling doesn’t necessarily make a fighter an elite MMA wrestler. If Hendricks can keep the fight standing, there’s a good chance he lands his big left at some point. That being said, I expect GSP to defy the critics again and grind the challenger down over 25 minutes.

    St-Pierre, Unanimous Decision

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