UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre weighs in before UFC 167.
As the hype built for UFC 167 in Las Vegas, talk also built that the event would serve as the far-side bookend for one of MMA's most illustrious careers. Would welterweight Georges St-Pierre retire after his title defense versus Johny Hendricks in the evening's main event? Speculation hit a fever pitch in the days and hours leading up to the fight.
So did he do it or not? And for that matter, what happened in every fight on the stacked main card? And I don't use the term "stacked" lightly, either; some of the sport's best and buzziest populated the docket Saturday night.
And you know what? The stat lines only tell part of the story. Here are grades for every main card fighter.
Result: Ali Bagautinov def. Tim Elliott by unanimous decision
It wasn't the most electrifying start to the main card, but Bagautinov will surely take it.
With the wild-eyed Elliott constantly pressing face-first into your personal space, it's probably fairly easy to get rattled. But Bagautinov stayed cool and unfurled plenty of offense of his own, handily outlanding the corn-rowed American. He also staved off Elliott's signature takedowns and did OK in scrambles.
That's 2-0 now for the Dagestani Russian. He can't be far from contender status in the shallow 125-pound division.
Tim Elliott (right) in a fight with Louis Gaudinot at UFC 164.
As is his wont, Elliott tried to crazy everything up in there. He was successful to an extent, but couldn't do enough damage in the resulting chaos to ever assume what you could easily call a clear advantage.
Props to Elliott for stuffing some of Bagautinov's takedowns, but demerits for a striking defense that wasn't on the same level. A final flurry went begging, and the judges' decision was not a dramatic one.
Result: Tyron Woodley def. Josh Koscheck by KO, 4:38, Rd. 1
What it lacked in mystery it made up for in entertainment. Both men are wrestlers with heavy right hands, which both men came in swinging back from somewhere near Carson City.
Both men also connected, but Woodley was the one to overwhelm Koscheck, the man four years his senior. A heavy right early floored Koscheck, but in the ensuing ground scramble, Woodley couldn't land the definitive curtain-closer. No matter; another overhand right about 90 seconds later lawn-chaired the former contender and sent Woodley to 2-1 in the UFC Octagon.
This was Koscheck's third consecutive UFC loss. And he didn't look especially impressive in the effort.
The chin is one of the first things to go when a fighter declines, and Koschek has taken more than his share of punishment over his career. This crushing at the hands of a younger, stronger Woodley—basically the next iteration of himself—could signal that Koscheck is at a career crossroads, whether he likes it or recognizes it or not.
Result: Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald by split decision
He knocked out Josh Koscheck, and I shrugged my shoulders.
He knocked out Bobby Voelker, and I rolled my eyes.
But I'm a believer now.
Over three well-contested rounds, Lawler never stopped coming forward against an opponent who was capable of either returning fire or smothering Lawler's attack. At the outset, Lawler used switch kicks to hammer Rory's leg and set the table for that heavy left. Coming down the stretch, he fired the left more and more. In the third, he blew it open, dropping MacDonald to the canvas and bouncing his head off the canvas a few times.
MacDonald's takedowns and late flurry were not enough, and Lawler took the unlikely decision. I think you can go ahead and wrap up the Comeback Fighter of the Year competition.
What are you looking at, Rory? You're so weird, dude.
Anyway, it's not that MacDonald looked bad Saturday night. He didn't look anything. He never engaged. Teammate St-Pierre takes flak for being conservative, but at least GSP does something. Rory just kind of stands there, doing his best to stay out of range and stay prepared to neutralize whatever attacks may come.
As such, he was vulnerable to an aggressor like Lawler, who simply ate up Rory's inaction and spit it out the other end. MacDonald seemed to come on only at the end of rounds or when he needed to break up a potentially fight-ending run of damage. But that's not enough to beat a guy as dangerous as Lawler, who blew quite a hole in MacDonald's phenom armor Saturday night.
Don't get my wrong: MacDonald is still a top prospect with a real chance to have a special career. But the next time he steps in there, he may not want to ply the strategy of letting the opponent come to him. That's what he did at UFC 167, and it didn't work out too well. Lawler showed him that sometimes offense is the best defense.
Division: Light heavyweight
Result: Rashad Evans def. Chael Sonnen by TKO, 4:05, Rd. 1
This one was very easy for Evans. He clinched broadcast partner Sonnen along the fence, landed a takedown, took Sonnen's back, flattened him out and pounded on the sides of Sonnen's melong like a medieval blacksmith forging a new anvil.
After losing two of his past three (and with the win being quite a snoozer), Evans needed to regain his momentum. Mission accomplished thanks to this completely one-sided rogering.
I don't like the word "ever." So I'm not ready to say this was Sonnen's worst performance "ever." That said, a worse one isn't leaping to mind (and no, I'm not forgetting his sequel with Anderson Silva, in which he at least he mounted a little bit of offense).
This was as one-sided as a fight can be short of a 10-second flash knockout. I didn't see Sonnen do anything productive in there. Did you? Maybe that takedown he stuffed in the early going?
I don't know. Sonnen's focus appeared somewhere else Saturday night. Maybe it was on Wanderlei Silva and their upcoming coaching duties and subsequent grudge match. He'll need to do a little more in that one if he wants to avoid a second consecutive humbling.
Result: Georges St-Pierre def. Johny Hendricks by split decision
What a strange, bizarre ending.
First, Hendricks won the fight 48-47 on my scorecard. I believe he won Rounds 1, 2 and 4. He bloodied St-Pierre with his heavy lefts, fended off the huge majority of GSP's takedowns and landed a few of his own.
St-Pierre did a few things of his own, of course. He landed a few jabs, some head kicks and a couple of takedowns. It's not like he was terrible in there. But at the same time, he wasn't the better fighter Saturday night.
Then, things took an even stranger turn when the long-discussed possible retirement announcement came to fruition. Well, sort of. He said he wanted to hang up his gloves "for a bit" because of "personal" circumstances. So, who really knows what that means?
All in all, it was a doubly strange ending to a very good fight. The whole thing was rather unsatisfying as a fan.
At the post-fight news conference, a livid Dana White called out just about everyone whose name he could remember, including St-Pierre. GSP later showed up and said he was unable to sleep, had "issues," felt he was "going crazy," had blurred vision from the fight and couldn't recall certain stretches of the action.
Scary stuff. Here's hoping St-Pierre makes the decision that's right for him. In the meantime, his half-retirement did just enough to leave everybody frustrated and confused.
If I, a random fan, thought it was an unsatisfying ending, what must Hendricks think?
It was definitely a close fight, but I think Hendricks got it done. Close and "coin flip" don't mean the same thing.
The left hand was in effect for Hendricks, as was that absolutely stellar takedown defense. Who outside of Daniel Cormier has that kind of balance inside the UFC Octagon? Just beautiful to watch.
Either way, though, to hear the split decision go to St-Pierre and then to hear the man you'd love nothing more than to rematch say he's kind of maybe sort of retiring? GSP doesn't owe anyone anything, of course. But a little clarity would certainly be nice.
If Hendricks didn't go back to his locker room and perform a Rony Jason special, well, he's a better man than I. In the meantime, it looks like we may have an interim title fight on our hands in the near future. Hendricks-Condit II, anyone?