One of the biggest pay-per views – for a number of reasons – is just around the corner, and every UFC fan – from the occasional to the hardcore – is pumped up. With the welterweight belt on the line in one bout, bragging rights on UFC Tonight in another, and a couple of potential contender fights, the main card is as stacked as they come. The headliner shares similarities to the recent UFC 162 card with then-champ Anderson Silva taking on title challenger Chris Weidman, as the challenger was, like Hendricks, seen as a real threat to the seemingly unstoppable title holder.
Will the American prevail in the main event? Or will the more experienced, methodical Canadian defend his belt?
This article will look at my predictions for the main card of UFC 167.
Georges St-Pierre (c) vs. Johny Hendricks:
As stated in the intro, this fight is reminiscent of the Silva vs. Weidman fight; Hendricks has a ton of power and can knockout anyone who crosses his path. However, one thing is for sure – Georges St-Pierre will not utilise the same tactics as Anderson Silva did at UFC 162, who stood with his hands down trying to avoid punches using movement and was eventually caught by the dangerous contender he faced. St-Pierre is known for having sensible game plans and, after a lengthy break due to injury, has looked like his old self again in his last two fights – defeating both Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz via unanimous decision.
St-Pierre certainly has the experience edge having fought in nine UFC main events compared to Johny Hendricks’ zero. GSP has also gone the 5-round distance on a number of occasions and is renowned for his impressive strength and conditioning and cardio, whilst the same cannot be said about Hendricks. Whether Johny’s cardio is up to speed with the champion remains to be seen – my guess: GSP will be in better shape.
I expect this fight to mostly take place on the ground with GSP looking to avoid the feet like the plague, and will look to utilise his famously impressive wrestling and control Hendricks when the fight goes to the mat. The American does have good wrestling of his own, but GSP will have a big advantage in this area.
Another important aspect to this fight is that GSP comes into it with a seven-inch reach advantage, and may look to utilise the jab in the same manner to the Josh Koscheck win at UFC 124. Look for Hendricks to try and land massive shots while GSP is methodical and technical on the feet. Whether Hendricks can land is a-whole-nother thing altogether.
My prediction is that St-Pierre will get the challenger to the ground frequently and control him once down there, eventually tiring out Hendricks en route to a dominating submission victory.
Prediction: St-Pierre via submission.
Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen:
In the co-main event, Rashad Evans fights former middleweight-and-light-heavyweight contender Chael Sonnen in a battle of wrestlers and close friends. Evans is a former champ at 205, Sonnen was close to having a belt of his own at 185; the winner will be in the mix, the loser will go to the end of the pile. A lot is at stake in that fight, not just the jokes made at the loser expense in the UFC Tonight studio.
If there is one thing that I have learned in my many years as a mixed martial arts fan, it is this – this is a cruel sport and you are only as good as your last fight. Evans put in a sub-par performance in his last bout with Dan Henderson; Sonnen submitted a BJJ black belt in Shogun Rua and looked very impressive in the process. Evans hasn’t looked like the same fighter in his last two fights after Jon Jones beat him convincingly at UFC 145, and I struggle to see a scenario where Rashad comes into this fight like his old self. Sonnen was similarly dominated by the 205lbs champ, but has since rebounded and looks in great shape for this fight.
Usually with fights between two wrestlers, the fighters cancel each other out and trade punches on the feet. Despite this, I think they will try and outdo each other on the mat to try and see which has the better wrestling – both being renowned for their experience and accolades in this field.
My prediction is that Chael Sonnen will out-work, out-strike and out-wrestle his opponent and pick up the decision victory, looking impressive in the process.
Prediction: Sonnen via decision.
Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler:
This is by far my favourite fight on this card as a big fan of Robbie Lawler and a guy who dislikes Rory MacDonald. Lawler is the veteran and MacDonald is the youngster, but the more experienced fighter comes into this as a massive underdog. However, the aforementioned motto of ‘you’re only as good as your last fight’ is what sways me away from the favourite. Lawler has tons of power and looks like a completely different fighter since returning to the UFC and the welterweight division, knocking out Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker in his last two.
MacDonald has the reach advantage and the wrestling advantage, but Lawler’s power is undeniable and I have faith that he’ll be able to catch MacDonald flush and grab a massive victory. I’m going heart over head on this one.
Prediction: Lawler via knockout.
Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley:
At the pre-fight press conference, Koscheck said what was on everyone’s mind – “my butt’s on the line”. After losing two in a row and looking unimpressive in his last bout, it seems more-than-likely that a loss to Woodley will result in Kos being sent packing. Whether this fires Kos up or not is a different question; some fighters wilt under the pressure, some thrive off it.
Woodley is no joke, he has a ton of power, he’s very explosive and a strong wrestler, and I think he has the edge over the more experienced fighter in Josh Koscheck. I think this power and Kos’ seemingly declined chin will smell the end for the TUF 1 veteran, with Woodley catching Kos in the first round and putting him out with follow-up punches.
Prediction: Woodley via knockout.
Ali Bagautinov vs. Timothy Elliott:
Bagautinov had a fun but very sloppy debut, whilst Elliott has been a great combination of entertaining and impressive so far in his UFC career. The Russian has tons of power, but I think his opponent has more tools and Elliott will use his well-rounded skills to beat Bagautinov. This one will more-than-likely go the distance with Elliott looking impressive in the process and besting his opponent. In the 125lbs division, technicality is essential and despite the power of Ali, it will be technique that will be the key to victory in this bout. Expect to see Tim fight for the belt in the future.
Prediction: Elliott via decision.