Although UFC 171 may not feature a ton of star power, the event more than makes up for it with a strong card overall. Between the main event for the UFC Welterweight Championship and several bouts with fighters knocking on the door for title shots, there's plenty on the line.
It's a big night for the welterweight division, highlighted by the championship fight. Three of the five fights on the main card, and five bouts overall, come from that group. So the division could take on a completely new shape by the end of the night.
Knowing that, let's check out the best fights on tap for the main card on Saturday night from the American Airlines Center in Dallas and make predictions for each.
Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
Hendricks could easily be the champion already. He was on a roll heading into his battle with Georges St-Pierre and put together another strong performance to push the longtime titleholder to the limit. The result was a controversial split-decision defeat, but the Oklahoma native should have been satisfied with his effort.
Now he gets a chance to claim the vacant title and make the St-Pierre loss a moot point. He faces off with Lawler, who's struggled with consistency throughout his career but has won three straight fights and possesses plenty of power. Jon Anik of Fox Sports 1 notes the oddsmakers still favor Hendricks:
The biggest key to the fight is Hendricks being able to prevent Lawler from maximizing that power. He needs to do a lot of grappling, where he holds the edge, instead of trading punches. It's a game plan he should be able to implement en route to a triumph by decision.
Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley
Condit has been part of the Fight of the Night in his last three bouts. It certainly wouldn't be a surprise to see that streak stretch to four against Woodley. Not only are they two of the most versatile fighters in the welterweight division, but they are also each looking to make a major statement.
After winning the first 10 fights of his MMA career, Woodley has lost two of the past four. That clearly hasn't shaken his confidence in himself, however. Brett Okamoto of ESPN provided comments from the Missouri native about the title situation:
I don't care who is ranked higher or who is next in line. Nobody will be a better champion than me. I think I'm the full package—a combination of good, hood and Hollywood. I'm marketable, punch hard and well-spoken.
The pace of the fight will be crucial. Condit will want more of an uptempo style, which would allow him to put his all-around ability on display. Woodley can match the speed, but he isn't as strong defensively and that would put him at risk.
Ultimately, while it qualifies as a toss-up fight, the slight edge goes to Condit.
Diego Sanchez vs. Myles Jury
Sanchez is one of those fighters that's tough to predict because his performance varies from fight to fight. He's proved the ability to withstand some heavy shots and fight on, but his efficiency when on the attack lets him down from time to time. That's why he has four losses in his past seven fights.
On the flip side, Jury is a 25-year-old rising star with a 13-0 record in his MMA career. He hasn't been tested like he will be on Saturday night, though. Furthermore, his performance in a win over Mike Ricci was hardly convincing as he pulled out a split-decision win.
So this is really a proving ground for Jury. A lot will depend on which version of Sanchez shows up. If he's clicking on all cylinders there's a good chance he hands Jury his first loss. But it's hard to rely on that happening, so the undefeated streak should continue for at least one more bout.