UFC 158: Early Main-Card Predictions

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

UFC 158: Early Main-Card Predictions

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    One of the biggest fight cards of the year is just around the corner, as the UFC returns to Montreal with UFC 158.

    The card is headlined by welterweight star and long-time champion Georges St-Pierre. He defends his belt against the brash, but entertaining, Nick Diaz.

    This is a fight fans have been dying to see. Diaz is a volume boxer with great jiu-jitsu that will contrast with GSP's wrestling-heavy attack.

    Also on the card are former interim champ Carlos Condit, rising contender Johny Hendricks and a bevy of who's-who talent.

    Here are the early main-card predictions for UFC 158.

Mike Ricci vs. Colin Fletcher

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    The pay-per-view opens with a pair of recent Ultimate Fighter participants, when season 16's Mike Ricci squares off with "The Smashes" Colin Fletcher.

    There are a couple of variables in this fight that make this interesting. The first is that both men are tall lightweights. The other is that Fletcher has extremely long arms, which will allow him to use his reach against the Canadian.

    Fletcher struggled in his UFC debut when he was dominated by powerful grappler Norman Parke. Fletcher is a nifty grappler himself, but has some decent striking as well.

    Ricci was dominated by wrestler Colton Smith in his debut. Ricci is a very good striker and possesses good athleticism. 

    This fight will likely be contested on the feet for the most part.

    At this point, Ricci is the better, more refined striker. Fletcher's length will be an advantage, but Ricci is more technical and has some power to go along with it.

    Ricci won't knock out the durable Fletcher, but he will earn a convincing decision in a wild affair.

Nick Ring vs. Chris Camozzi

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    Former TUF 11 castmates collide in Montreal, when Nick Ring and Chris Camozzi meet at 185. An interesting note is that both men were eliminated from that season due to injury (Camozzi suffered a broken jaw, Ring blew out his knee).

    An interesting clash of strikers will be on display. Camozzi is known for his fun Muay Thai style, while Ring is more of a boxer who has added some solid kicks.

    Ring is 3-1 in the UFC, but two of his wins were very controversial (decision wins over Riki Fukuda and Court McGee). His only finish was a submission of James Head and his only blemish came at the hands of Tim Boetsch.

    Camozzi on the other hand has made a great run since his brief first stint with the company. After a 1-1 record got Camozzi booted from the UFC, he came back to go 3-1 with wins over Luiz Cane, Nick Catone and Dustin Jacoby.

    A very technical striking fest should lead to one of the most entertaining fights of the night.

    Camozzi's momentum is hard to ignore here. He has vastly improved and will look to outstrike a man who was outstruck by Court McGee last year.

    Camozzi will win a fun decision.

Nate Marquardt vs. Jake Ellenberger

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    Nate Marquardt makes his UFC return as a replacement for Johny Hendricks when he meets up with one of the hottest commodities of yesterday in Jake Ellenberger.

    Although he has just one defeat in the his last eight fights, he has lost a considerable amount of momentum from his loss two scraps ago vs. Martin Kampmann. Before that, Ellenberger was making mincemeat of everybody.

    The power wrestler will meet up with a former Strikeforce world champion and former top contender in the UFC. Marquardt is a power striker with solid jiu-jitsu.

    His last performance is what leaves question marks here. He was outstruck and outgrappled by Tarec Saffiedine when he dropped the belt at the final Strikeforce event.

    This is going to be the blueprint for Ellenberger.

    Ellenberger is a much better wrestler than Saffiedine and will look to employ a similar strategy, other than the leg kicks. Expect a healthy dose of takedowns that will frustrate Marquardt en route to a clear-cut decision.

Johny Hendricks vs. Carlos Condit

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    Johny Hendricks is on an amazing streak right now, but he is running into a nasty striker with a tight ground game in Carlos Condit. This one will be interesting.

    Condit was originally supposed to meet Rory MacDonald, but an injury forced the Canadian out of the fight. Hendricks moved up the card, as he was supposed to fight Jake Ellenberger.

    Hendricks is a power puncher with top-notch wrestling. We have not even seen him use his high-level wrestling skills in two of his most recent wins, as he brutally knocked out Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann in under a minute.

    This type of power will have Condit concerned.

    However, don't expect Condit to just lie down. "The Natural Born Killer" has fought power strikers in the past to success, such as his knockout win over Dan Hardy.

    Condit can be aggressive, knowing that if he does get taken down, he can fight off his back. See the Dong Hyun Kim fight for an example of that.

    I think Hendricks' awesome run will come to an end here. Condit is high level in most aspects of the game and has a rock-solid chin that should hold up.

Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz

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    Nick Diaz as known as a cardio maniac, but he will run into a equally well-conditioned man in the form of champion Georges St-Pierre.

    Diaz is a great boxer with a granite chin and sick jiu-jitsu game. That is where he will be a great challenge to GSP's wrestling.

    His biggest weakness has been fighting wrestlers in the past. That is where GSP enters. 

    GSP is known for his powerful takedowns and great top position. He will likely entertain some striking on the feet with Diaz, but knows his best chance to win comes via the ground-and-pound department. 

    GSP should be able to retain his title here. He is on another level than most fighters and will grind out another smothering win to keep his legacy in line.

    I doubt there will be a finish, so expect the judges to be called on for a decision.