Going into any fight, people can't wait to argue over how it could end. Who's fighting and where are almost irrelevant when it comes down to a boisterous debate between pals over who'll end up face down on the canvas on a Saturday night.
Well, Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks are the "who's fighting" portion of this age-old argument, and the "where" is Las Vegas for UFC 167. You'll have to provide your own pals with whom to debate, but the finish discussion is as alive as it's ever been going into Saturday's main event.
Let's throw decisions out the window for a minute. Modern MMA is rife with judges who don't know an armbar from a crowbar, and the result can be some bizarre scorecard tabulations after 25 minutes of action.
Plus, anyone in the world who thinks Georges St-Pierre will lose a fight by decision in this lifetime is out of his mind. No safer bet than GSP by decision exists in the sport.
But finishes—finishes are another story.
It's no secret how the challenger is best equipped to become a champion: He needs to swing for the fences with his left hand and hope he connects with St-Pierre's jaw. If he does that, he'll end the fight the same way he did against Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, and he'll get a big gold belt for his troubles.
Across the cage, St-Pierre will seek his first finish since the first Obama inauguration in this, his attempt at nine straight title defenses. That one was a TKO of B.J. Penn via doctor stoppage, but it's unlikely he'll repeat such a feat against Hendricks.
Realistically the champion has the advantage everywhere other than raw power, so his tools to finish are more varied as well. He's a high-level grappler and Olympic-caliber wrestler with varied striking and an increasingly pure boxing game. He could take Hendricks down and work for a submission, or he could pound away until something solid connects and he scores a TKO.
Not that either is likely, given St-Pierre's proclivity for putting the judges to work, but those are his options.
With those points considered—Hendricks' one-shot power and GSP's various weapons to finish—there's really only one question to ask: How does it end?
That's a matter of opinion, and while GSP by decision is the clear favorite, there might be something to be said for a surprise St-Pierre finish here. He's been grinning like the Cheshire Cat all week talking about something that's changed in his training, and it's not a great leap to think that it could be a technical alteration that closed a hole in his game.
Remember this? That's pretty much a three-inch adjustment that turns a 50-43 judge's decision into a textbook armbar finish. Maybe it's something similar that, between training himself and studying Hendricks, the champion sees as a window of opportunity.
Regardless, in a sport like MMA, there are so many outcomes that it's almost impossible to nail down only one.
Look for it to end by decision with the champion retaining, but don't rule it out that GSP has a trick up his sleeve to finally break his scorecard streak.