This could be the most dangerous fight of Georges St. Pierre's career.
The longtime Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion is going to be facing an opponent who is not only the better wrestler, but also the more powerful puncher. "Bigg Rigg" has 25 minutes to find the button in "Sin City," something no one has been able to do since Matt Serra shocked the world back in 2007.
Will history repeat itself?
Sharing the spotlight with "St. Pierre vs. Hendricks" is an interesting light heavyweight battle that pits Chael Sonnen opposite Rashad Evans. Since "The American Gangster" is already booked to throw down against Wanderlei Silva in 2014, this fight has very little meaning in the grand scheme of things.
It basically serves as a measuring stick for "Suga's" place in the divisional rankings.
Elsewhere on the card, Tyron Woodley will try to prove he's "The Chosen One" against aging veteran Josh Koscheck, Rory MacDonald looks to expose the ground game of "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler and flashy flyweight Ali Bagautinov hopes to do his part in the Russian invasion opposite Tim Elliott.
Who celebrates Thanksgiving in the win column and who goes home a turkey?
See for yourself!
Nostradumbass predicts: Fight fans are easily seduced. A guy like Johny Hendricks comes along and what do we see? We see a title challenger with a powerful left hand and impeccable wrestling credentials. When you place the transparency over the Georges St. Pierre projector, it appears those chops cover up the champ.
There's more to being a champion than just hitting hard, unless you're the champion of bar fights. And the prevailing wisdom seems to be, "If GSP can't take him down, he'll be forced to stand with him." Well, so were a lot of other fighters and they lived to tell about it.
Let's not forget that Hendricks struggled to beat T.J. Grant, a natural lightweight, and he flat-out lost to Rick Story. You can also build a pretty compelling argument that he was beaten by Josh Koscheck, but squeaked by on the judges' scorecards.
Carlos Condit? As talented as he is, the guy can't wrestle.
This isn't a Hendricks smear campaign, either, as he's without question one of the best fighters in the world. If he lands his left hand, the title will find a new waist to call home in Las Vegas. But the last two guys he buried, Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, went south because they had no respect for his power.
St. Pierre is known for taking guys down and grinding them into dust and he gets criticized heavily for it. But you can't blame him, just because no one in the division is good enough to stop him. Should he risk a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal just to bang it out on the feet and silence a few dopes on the Internet?
But even if he can't take "Bigg Rigg" to the floor, he's still the superior striker. His footwork, head movement and spatial awareness are the result of working with the best trainers in the world, like Freddie Roach. That's because he can afford them.
To the victor belong the spoils.
And you don't beat 11 of the world's best 170-pound fighters -- in a row -- by being a paper tiger. St. Pierre is a complete fighter who can win no matter where the fight goes. Instead of asking how "Rush" is going to find a way to avoid the big left hand over the course of 25 minutes, we should instead be asking how Hendricks is going to find a way to land it.
Johny is a tough guy with a ton of heart, but he's going to be outclassed on fight night.
Final prediction: St. Pierre def. Hendricks via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: I've been trying to find one area in this fight where Chael Sonnen has the upper hand and I'm having difficulty. If Phil Davis couldn't out-wrestle Rashad Evans inside the cage, I'm sure as hell not going to believe "The American Gangster" can.
C'mon. Let's be serious here. Chael has 10 fights under the UFC banner (5-4) and zero wins by knockout or technical knockout. You can go ahead and add his three bouts for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), as well, because you won't find any there, either.
He's not a striker, that's not his thing.
Sonnen is great at taking
middleweights guys down and beating them up. That's probably why he'll win round one of this fight, because Evans is a slow starter and will likely be surprised at how aggressive his opponent is right out of the gate. But once he gets his bearings, the tide is going to turn fairly quickly.
And Rashad has not been submitted in 21 professional fights, so we can forget about that happening.
You can say all kinds of things about "Suga" having an advantage in speed and power (and you would be right), but this fight is much simpler for me to break down. Despite a first-round finish over a decrepit Mauricio Rua, Sonnen is just not a light heavyweight.
He's a middleweight who doesn't have to cut.
In addition, he's not fighting for his life, his job or his future. This is a paycheck to keep his wife happy while he's in Brazil for four months coaching against Wanderlei Silva. That's the fight he wants to win, not this one, and I have a feeling he's already checked out, because a decision loss to Evans does nothing to interrupt the trajectory of his career.
I hope Rashad sends him a fruit basket for this freebie.
Final prediction: Evans def. Sonnen via unanimous decision
Nostradumbass predicts: Well, it was fun while it lasted. I'm referring, of course, to the vaunted comeback of Robbie Lawler, who has been nothing short of a welterweight killing machine since dropping a weight class and getting back into the Octagon.
"Ruthless" obliterated Josh Koscheck earlier this year and followed that up by practically killing Bobby Voelker. But what, exactly, did those two wins tell us that we didn't already know? I don't think it's a revelation that Lawler hits hard and can knock people out.
He's been doing it his entire career.
I'm sure he's a little faster now and a bit more nimble with his new physique, but being quicker with your hands does not do anything to fix your submission game and to me, that's still a glaring weakness. I can't image a camp as intelligent as TriStar allowing this to devolve into a fist fight.
And MacDonald has something to prove.
He may act blase over his summer stinker against Jake Ellenberger, but when a fighter gets criticized by UFC President Dana White, it stick with them. "Ares" is a talented striker in how own right, but this is not the kind of contest where he needs to prove it.
This is about winning.
Lawler is going to come out and be aggressive and it wouldn't surprise me to see him wobble his younger foe, but sooner or later power will yield to technique, as MacDonald capitalizes on his opponent's misplaced zeal to lock up a fight-ending submission.
Final prediction: MacDonald def. Lawler via submission
Nostradumbass predicts: True story: Somebody in UFC thought this match-up was a good idea. When I first read the headline, I actually thought it was a joke. It kinda sounds like one, doesn't it?
"So then the bartender says 'No, he's fighting Tyron Woodley!' Bwahahahaha!"
I know the combat sports world has been down on Josh Koscheck in recent months, but I'm not sure "Kos" is getting a fair shake. Sure, he lost two in a row, but one of those losses was a bogus split decision to Johny Hendricks, who is widely-considered the second-best welterweight on the planet.
Against Robbie Lawler, he got KTFO. That shit happens.
But I'm not writing him off just yet. He's fought some very tough opposition and I don't see anything on his record that screams "career decline." And who the hell has Woodley beaten? I give him props for a terrific performance against Jay Hieron, but "The Thoroughbred" is not anywhere near the top 10 in his division.
I know Koscheck's age plays into the equation as he nears his 36th birthday, but "The Chosen One" is no spring chicken himself at 31. I will give the former Strikeforce standout the edge in speed but on the mat, their wrestling likely cancels each other out, so Woodley can't mug-and-slug like he did against Paul Daley and Tarec Saffiedine.
Where does that leave us?
Koscheck had a rough year but he's far from washed up. I've seen him against some of the best welterweights in the world and when he's not beating them, he's (usually) holding his own. Woodley, on the other hand, hasn't done anything on the big stage and until he does, I have to stick with what I know.
Final prediction: Koscheck def. Woodley via split decision
Nostradumbass predicts: When people tell me they're not really into flyweight fights -- assuming I don't junk-punch them -- this is the type of contest I would make them watch. I know it's hard to commit to guys who don't have a lot of UFC fights, but if you've been paying attention, you'll see what's going on here.
The Russian invasion continues.
UFC is headed to Moscow in 2014 and is methodically preparing for that debut with the introduction of talented Russian fighters across all eight weight classes. That includes Ali Bagautinov, who strips Tyron Woodley of his "Worst Nickname" crown for UFC 167.
Anyway, he happens to be pretty good at well, just about everything. Like most folks from his part of the combat sports world, he's proficient in Sambo but can also throw hands with the best of them. That makes him a perfect foil for Tim Elliott, who also lays claim to those skills.
The Missourian is a high school state wrestling champion and has a crafty submission game.
Picking a winner is tough because essentially they are fighting mirror images of themselves. When push comes to shove, I think Bagautinov is a little more aggressive and his technique a bit more refined, so don't be surprised to see a "Fight of the Night" performance be traded in for "Knockout of the Night."
Final prediction: Bagautinov def. Elliott via technical knockout
That's a wrap.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 167 card tomorrow night (Sat., Nov. 16, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 167 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "St. Pierre vs. Hendricks."
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