UFC 167: Hendricks vs. St-Pierre Preview
UFC 167 takes place this weekend in Las Vegas and a ton of great action is going down. The main event features welterweight stalwart Georges St-Pierre defending his title against Johny Hendricks, an amazing fighter in his own right. But look further down the card, two great welterweight fights feature a former title contender in Josh Koscheck fighting Strikeforce import Tyron Woodley, and the presumed number one contender (with a win) Rory MacDonald trying to tame the resurgent Robbie Lawler. There’s also a very intriguing light heavyweight tilt in the co-main event pitting former title contenders Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen against each other. This fight probably doesn’t move either fighter closer to a title shot, but who cares because it should be fun.
Welterweight: Tyron Woodley (11-2) vs. Josh Koscheck (17-7)
Tyron Woodley has looked pedestrian in the UFC. After smashing Jay Hieron in 36 seconds in his UFC debut, Woodley followed up with a split decision loss to Jake Shields. He hasn’t had a submission win since 2010, but Hieron will tell you that Woodley packs some power. Koscheck has somewhat settled into gate keeper status. He took Hendricks to a split decision (loss) before getting knocked out for the first time in four years in his follow up with Robbie Lawler. Winless in his last two fights, Koscheck needs something here. I’ll expect him to grind out a decision, but if Woodley locks on he may have deliver the knockout.
The Pick: Koscheck
Welterweight: Robbie Lawler (21-9) vs. Rory MacDonald (15-1)
Lawler has been reborn in his return to the UFC. 2-0, with both wins by KO/TKO, since returning to the promotion this year and finds himself on the verge of title contention. In his way stands MacDonald, the heir apparent to the welterweight crown. MacDonald hasn’t lost in three years, and can win standing (6-1 KO/TKO) and on the ground (6-0 submission). Lawler, a pro since 2001 (yikes) has 18 career KO/TKO wins, but only one win by submission. If MacDonald can take, and keep, Lawler down I expect a win by submission.
The Pick: MacDonald
Light Heavyweight: Rashad Evans (18-3-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (28-13-1)
Buried under the weight of the main event is an intriguing light heavyweight fight that has nothing to do with anything. Sonnen already has his next fight (and Ultimate Fighter coaching gig) lined up and Evans is 1-2 in his last three fights and nowhere near another shot at champion Jon Jones. Despite the relatively low stakes, this should be an exciting fight. Sonnen moves forward like a robot and Evans has always been a slick fighter. I have no idea how this fight plays out. Both men are great wrestlers, and have decent enough power. Should be a fun one.
The Pick: Evans
UFC Welterweight Title: Johny Hendricks (15-1) vs. Georges St-Pierre (24-2)
If the main event feels similar to Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva, you’re not mistaken. Johny Hendricks turned pro in 2007, Georges St-Pierre last lost in 2007 (to the immortal Matt Serra). Where Silva competed at an unearthly level, I’ve always felt that St-Pierre was more mortal than his often compared to Brazilian counterpart. Sure, he’s won 11 consecutive fights over a six year span, but St-Pierre never crossed me as invincible like Silva. Maybe that’s because his opponents have been better, or maybe the perception is that he works harder than anyone. I don’t know, but truth be told, I’ve felt St-Pierre could lose his last four fights and this one is no different. Hendricks possesses one punch power rivaled in history by only Dan Henderson (advantage Henderson for the nickname “H-Bomb”), and he fully intends to use it. He is also the best wrestler St-Pierre has ever faced (2x NCAA Division I National Champion). Can St-Pierre outwork Hendricks on the ground while not getting knocked out? I’m not sure, but St-Pierre has proved time and time again that he always has a game plan, and history shows he’s always implemented it. That’s what sets him apart from Silva. Where Silva flows with a fight, St-Pierre forces you into his world and keeps you there. Hendricks is his biggest challenge, but like Silva, I won’t pick against St-Pierre until someone proves they can beat him.
The Pick: St-Pierre
2013 Record: 22-5
UFC 167 takes place Saturday, November 16, on pay-per-view.