Georges St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks will square off for the welterweight title on Saturday night at UFC 167, and even though St. Pierre has successfully defended his title belt 10 consecutive times, Hendricks has the skill set and overwhelming power to take down GSP.
In his second-straight title defense against a southpaw fighter, St. Pierre must be prepared for the power that Hendricks, a two-time NCAA champion wrestler, will be throwing his way. The left hand of Hendricks will be what decides this bout.
Hendricks obviously uses his left hand to deliver thunderous blows. He generates so much power from the left side of his body that St. Pierre will still feel the force should he block the jab or cross. He isn't a one-dimensional fighter, though.
Hendricks uses his right hand as well, and he'll use it in this fight to check the jabs of GSP. Being able to go to his right and check GSP will give him an advantage over other fighters who attempted to take the welterweight title away.
That being said, if Hendricks wants to win, he needs to look for the knockout with a well-placed left. He generates so much power that a solid blow would surely knock down St. Pierre. Even as a collegiate wrestler, Hendricks doesn't have the chops to win this bout if it becomes a battle on the ground.
Hendricks relies on his ability to get back on his feet after being taken down, and he doesn't possess exceptional skills at keeping his opponents down. Sure, he might be able to steal a few body shots while grappling on the mat, but Hendricks holds the striking advantage and needs to capitalize on it.
Against Carlos Condit in March, Hendricks showed great awareness and strategy in waiting for his opportunities to strike. When up against the fence, Condit would look to send knees toward the upper body of Hendricks.
Hendricks took a good portion of those, but he also countered with strong left hands when Condit recoiled. Expect him to take a similar approach against GSP.
When St. Pierre delivers strikes or kicks, look for Hendricks to do his best to counter with what he does best. It won't be particularly easy to get close enough to St. Pierre to deliver the knock out punch, but Hendricks' strategy will give him the opportunity to counter and deliver a fatal blow.
If nothing else, Hendricks seems to be in the proper mindset heading into the title bout. At the pre-fight press conference on November 14, Hendricks told everyone in attendance that he's ready for St. Pierre (via SportsNet): "My mind is to kill him. I mean not in that sense, but it's to beat him, to demolish him. I want to win where he doesn't want to fight me again."
Words won't be what wins the fight, but Hendricks' mindset entering the match will have him hungry and out for blood.
Should he (intelligently) enact his counter-strategy and look to deliver strong lefts when opportunities arise, Hendricks has a real shot at taking down GSP. His ability to check jabs with his right will be key, though.
If Hendricks begins to neglect the jabs of St. Pierre, then the body shots will add up and eventually take their toll on him. The champion wrestler will need to stay within himself, take the fight round by round and capitalize on opportunities when GSP lets his guard down.
That seems to be the strategy for every opponent against one of the UFC's best fighters, but Hendricks will put up the strongest fight against GSP yet. Don't be surprised when he wins the welterweight title.