Welterweight: (c) Georges St. Pierre (24-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) vs. Johny Hendricks (15-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC)
Our main event of UFC 167: St. Pierre vs. Hendricks features none other than reigning pound for pound ranked welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre defending his belt against the heaviest hitter in the division and rightful number one contender Johny Hendricks. While many believe Hendricks is the man that will put an end to St. Pierre’s era, others believe that this will just be another night at the office for the champion.
Hendricks, 30, has gone on a six fight tear since suffering his only defeat to Rick Story back in 2010. On this tear, he has earned victories over Mike Pierce (split decision), John Fitch (KO), Josh Koscheck (split decision), Martin Kampmann (KO) and Carlos Condit (unanimous decision) making him the most decisive contender for the welterweight strap in years. Hendricks uses his collegiate wrestling background to compliment his very powerful left hand mixing up his power punches with take downs keeping his opponents guessing. While this type of strategy has yet to work on St. Pierre, Hendricks and many others believe he is the guy that will be able to impose his strategy on the champion.
St. Pierre, 32, really doesn’t need any introduction. Having held his title for almost 6 years (and held it for 3 years before losing it to Matt Sera), St. Pierre has constantly been victorious over the best of the best in the division including Condit (unanimous decision), Koscheck (unanimous decision), Fitch (unanimous decision), Jake Shields (unanimous decision), Thiago Alves (unanimous decision), and many more. No matter the style of fighter, he finds a way to pick apart his opponents in a very calculated approach. While he has received much criticism for not being the finisher he once was, he is still dominating and winning fights.
The keys to victory for both fighters are laid out pretty clear – and both fighters know this. For Hendricks, he needs to mix up level changes and feints to set up his powerful left hand. While his knock outs over Fitch and Kampmann were very impressive, they were done while his opponents were either backing straight up or using very limited footwork. This will not be the case when he fights the champion and so he will have to be sure his feints are on point if he wants to even think about putting his hands on St. Pierre. To do so, he is going to have to limit the movement of St. Pierre by closing the distance and forcing the clinch hopefully finding enough success to push Georges against the cage much like he did to Condit. He has a very good chance at knocking out St. Pierre should he land a clean one, but that in itself is no easy task.
St. Pierre will look to avoid the power of Hendricks and test his questionable gas tank. Hendricks has never gone five full rounds and has shown that he does fade in later rounds which is why Story was able to beat him and ultimately why he has had two split decisions in his current win streak. The champion will undoubtedly circle away and utilize his jab, scoring take downs here and there. His strategy will look very similar to his strategy against Koscheck (which resulted in a broken orbital bone for Koscheck due to the stiff jabs of GSP). If we do see Hendricks run out of gas, look for Georges to go for the take down more often and even try and isolate an arm for a submission (likely transitioning to a kimura from side control or even an arm bar from full mount) . However, the safest bet would be to expect Georges to circle, jab, and mix in his power double when he sees an opening.
@MikalMMA ‘s Prediction: Georges St. Pierre defeats Johny Hendricks via unanimous decision.
While Hendricks has been able to find a large amount of success in the UFC due to his striking and wrestling, St. Pierre is far superior in both departments and much more well versed in MMA contexts to lose this fight. Hendricks has the same chances Koscheck had and his strengths are meant for a fighter like St. Pierre to pick apart. And in the case of Hendricks, St. Pierre has the luxury of circling away from his opponents power side while setting up his jab unlike in the Koscheck fight where he had to circle into his power side to set up his counter jab. With rumors of St. Pierre nearing the end of his career, do not expect him to risk tarnishing his legacy by doing anything too risky like going up position for submissions while on top but do expect him to dominate in the same way he always does – by getting to the punch first, by out conditioning his opponent, and by fighting a much smarter fight. St. Pierre’s jab and footwork will be key in this fight