Georges St-Pierre is set to defend his UFC welterweight championship against Johny Hendricks, who's been on quite a roll over the past couple years. The No. 1 contender's power provides plenty of intrigue for the main event of UFC 167.
The Canadian superstar has been dominant in his own right, of course. He's always possessed an amazing amount of talent. Since he gained experience and learned how to manage a fight, he's become virtually unstoppable.
Hendricks can take his career to the next level with a win Saturday night, but the previous eight challengers had the same opportunity and came up short. So let's check out the biggest key for each fighter heading into the marquee bout.
St-Pierre: Defend and Counter
Hendricks poses an interesting challenge for St-Pierre. Even though "Rush" has faced practically every type of fighter during his time in the UFC, including power punchers like the American, few have sported the knockout ability of the current No. 1 contender.
It's no secret Hendricks has a left hand capable of changing any fight in the blink of an eye. St-Pierre certainly understands that and must be ready to defend from the outset, because the underdog is going to come out searching for the opportunity to land a haymaker.
So St-Pierre will have to lean on his versatility. His task early in the fight will be finding a way to safely neutralize that power. Most likely, that means using his quickness to weave in and out while delivering inside jabs to wear Hendricks down.
Once he feels comfortable moving in safely, he can start to turn it into more of a technical fight with some wrestling. The more he's able to make Hendricks work, the less power he's going to have in that left hand in the latter rounds.
St-Pierre can afford to take a defensive approach, even if it means splitting the first few rounds, because after that, he should be able to take control. He just has to avoid taking a huge strike early on.
Hendricks: Don't Shy Away from Risk
Too many opponents get their chance at St-Pierre and then let the champion dictate the fight. And once he gains control of a bout, he rarely relinquishes it, as illustrated by the six straight unanimous decision victories in title defenses.
Hendricks has too much knockout potential to let that happen. He can afford to let this become a grind-it-out type of encounter. He has to do his best to push the pace, thereby giving himself more looks to score the upset.
Of course, in order to do that, he will need to take some risks. He'll open himself up to counterattacks, and being as complete of a fighter as St-Pierre is, he could very well take advantage. But there's no blueprint to beating the champion, so it comes down to picking the right spots to take a chance.
Hendricks should come out aggressive and do everything possible to force St-Pierre into his fast-paced, heavy-hitting kind of fight. There's no guarantee it's going to work, but it represents his best chance to pull off the upset.
Even if it's not enough to get the win, he'll at least be able to say he went down fighting instead of playing right into St-Pierre's hands like so many fighters have in the past.