Currently on a mixed martial arts (MMA) mission to conquer the globe with its product, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a heavily-anticipated and stacked fight card. UFC 167: "St. Pierre vs. Hendricks" takes place this Saturday night (Nov. 16, 2013) from MGM Grand Garden Arena, marking the promotion's 20th Anniversary with two decades in the fight business.
Georges St. Pierre returns to "Sin City" after five successful title defenses in Canada and New Jersey, taking on "Bigg Rigg" Johny Hendricks, who may be the toughest challenge of the Welterweight champion's career based on his well-rounded abilities. Hendricks is on a six-fight win streak with victories over Carlos Condit, Martin Kampmann and a 12-second knockout win over Jon Fitch.
Here are five burning questions going into UFC 167:
5. Does this truly feel like a 20th Anniversary show?
UFC 167 is shaping up to be a great night of fights; however, nothing special such as an "Expo" is planned to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. There were big plans, but those were shot down rather quickly.
Maybe UFC does not feel the need to go overboard with this show, even though it coordinated an under-the-radar, 20-day nationwide tour of activities ... and scavenger hunts! That effort doesn't seem to have been effective, in fact, it might have even taken away from promotion of the actual event (depending on who you ask).
Indeed, the tour and the "Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years of the UFC" documentary on FOX Sports 1 that aired last week, which was a fantastic retrospective, are standout as the only extracurricular activities that are underlining this event.
With UFC 100 being such a monstrous and historic show, and Dana White heavily promoting UFC 168 as its biggest fight ever, UFC 167 just doesn't seem to have the pop and sizzle for such a monumental historical moment.
4. Can Josh Koscheck rebound into 170-pound contention?
Onlookers know that the promotion is keen to hold onto its The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) cast members, even though we have seen examples in the past where they may have struggled through heavy losing streaks.
And that is especially true for the older combatants who fought through the inaugural season, but this is certainly not the case for "Kos."
Koscheck has lost two straight in the UFC and he would still be employed if he loses to Tyron Woodley this weekend, though it would be obvious that his career would be winding down. TUF 1's heel has only lost three times in eight fights, including a one-sided beating at the hands of St. Pierre in 2010, but he has shown signs of that his best days are likely well behind him at this advanced stage of his career.
After a public feud between him and his former camp's coach Javier Mendez at American Kickboxing Academy, which forced him to set up shop in Fresno, Calif., with Dethrone Base Camp, Koscheck has looked mildly impressive in his back-to-back losses.
Regardless, he will need a victory over "The Chosen One" if he wants to continue to chase his title dream and stay a relevant contender.
3. Is the co-main event being heavily overlooked?
The fight between Sonnen and Evans is a main event in itself, and with the amount of stellar fights on this stacked card, plenty of the hype it focused on the Welterweight championship main event.
The brash Sonnen has just been announced as a coach for TUF: "Brazil 3" (on the opposite side of Wanderlei Silva) and we have been accustomed to hearing him spew an assortment of pre-fight verbal jabs. However, he has been awfully quiet leading up to his co-main event battle with "Suga."
The self-proclaimed "American Gangster" admitted that his fight was not getting the amount of the promotion compared to the main event, and that seems understandable since all eyes are always focused on the headlining bout.
Nonetheless, it does feel as if fans need to be reminded that this is the co-main event. And even though they are sharing the bill with the biggest draw in the company, the full awareness for this 205-pound tilt is not there at all.
And more importantly, will MacDonald fight St. Pierre in the future if so?
With the rumors surrounding St. Pierre's post-fight plans, his TriStar training partner, MacDonald, has been on a tear in the welterweight class, with five straight victories over the likes of B.J. Penn, Nate Diaz and Jake Ellenberger.
"Ares" faces another longtime vet, former Elite XC Middleweight champion and Strikeforce alumni, Lawler, who has been successful thus far in his second UFC stint with stoppage victories over Koscheck and Bobby Voelker. Even though this will be plenty for MacDonald to handle, if he should win on Saturday night then there will be a good chance the young Canadian finds himself staring at a title opportunity or at least included in a title eliminator bout.
If he should finish a veteran like the "Ruthless" one, it would be almost a given.
1. Can Hendricks hit St. Pierre?
If he does, there is a good chance the champion could be in trouble.
Like St. Pierre said in the UFC pre-fight interview videos, he is the best in the world at not getting hit. When "GSP" gets hit clean, it does not bode well for him as we saw in his championship knockout loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69 and most recently with Carlos Condit's headkick at UFC 154.
It may be true that Hendricks possesses all the tools to beat the champion and could be the stiffest test yet for St. Pierre; however, the Quebec native has had his fair share of difficult challenges and has arguably the best track record in all of the sport when you consider the fighters he has beaten.
Yes, "Bigg Rigg" could be a major problem, but countless times before we have seen his adversary come out with a better gameplan, allowing him to excel in his own possibilities and not face any substantial amount of danger.
He gets into his riddum, if you will.
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