Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov

Starting the UFC 167 main card off is a bout in the flyweight division that could potentially carve the path to one of the next title contenders. While the 125lb weight class isn’t necessarily thriving with population, they do house some particularly dangerous fighters, such as Ali Bagautinov. Already finding himself with a win inside of the UFC, Ali Bagautinov will have to couple that up with another win Saturday night if he wants a chance to rise up the ranks. The Russian is known for his KO power and his wicked Sambo skills. His opponent, Tim Elliott, has a bit more experience with 3 bouts in the UFC.

Elliott will have a small length advantage, so look for him to utilize that when it comes to keeping Bagautinov away from him. However, that’s exactly what Ali is good at; closing the distance and then exploding with fierce combinations and/or takedowns. I fully expect Bagautinov to use his speed to pick when he engages with Elliott, and making them count. Bagautinov definitely has the ability to put Elliott away on the feet, but I also think we’re going to see some good ground exchanges. For the most part, Elliott is solid on the ground with some good clinch control courtesy of his taller frame. Don’t expect Elliott to have similar success against Ali however, as he is a beast in the clinch as well. Look for Bagautinov to light Elliott up using his speed and power, and finishing this bout in the second round.

Ali Bagautinov via 2nd Rd TKO 

Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

Two high-caliber explosive wrestlers meet against eachother in this welterweight scrap as Josh Koscheck and Tyron Woodley fight to get back into the winning circle. Koscheck finds himself on a 2-fight losing streak thanks to Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler, but Tyron Woodley is a very winnable for him as he contains a pretty simply arsenal. Woodley on the other hand is looking rebound from a very close decision loss to Jake Shields, and hopefully retain some momentum by doing so. On the feet, Koscheck has wicked one-punch KO power, but he isn’t always the most efficient at landing it. Woodley chooses a different route by using more of a Muay-Thia based striking style, and relying more on speed to generate his power. On the feet, I don’t see either fighter really getting the better of eachother as Koscheck will keep Woodley on the outside with his right hand cocked, and Woodley will use his speed to get inside and land small combinations.

However, when they lock up, that’s where this real fight begins. Both are insanely talented wrestlers and physically strong, so this fight could very well come down to who is in the best shape. Not many guys possess the same athletic abilities as Koscheck does, but Woodley is a viable candidate to challenge that. Will he? I don’t think so. Koscheck has been in this game way too long and knows way too much about wrestling and grappling in MMA, and will use that knowledge agaisnt Woodley. Yes, Tyron mixes it up in the clinch with elbows and knees and so forth, but there really isn’t anybody out there that I believe can match Koscheck in the clinch or on the ground that won’t be fighting for the title later that night. Expect this to be a slow-paced grind fest, with Koscheck coming out ontop on points.

Josh Koscheck via Unanimous Decision 

Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler

At this point, it seems both MacDonald and Lawler are just one win away from fighting for the belt next, but many don’t want to see MacDonald win. After his last performance against Jake Ellenberger, it appears that MacDonald may very well have adapted that “play it safe” fighting style that his close friend, training partner, and welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has. However, Robbie Lawler is the type of guy that will really test that. Not many can stand blow-for-blow against Lawler’s power, especially after seeing his dismantling of Bobby Voelker. It seems like Lawler has really tightened up his striking, and I do believe it’s at the level to virtually match anyone in the division.

However, if MacDonald’s last fight is any predictor to this bout, Rory will take this fight to the area that will give him the biggest advantage; and in this case, it’s on the ground. Yes, Lawler was able to counter Koscheck’s wrestling with beautifully timed punches on the ground to turn the tables and win a stoppage, but MacDonald is a way more aware fighter than that. Don’t expect MacDonald to make the same mistake Koscheck did. Look for Lawler to have his chance on the feet, fail to capitalize, and wind up being on the bottom with MacDonald ontop. From there, Rory will go for the submission and most likely be able to finish.

Rory MacDonald via 2nd Rd Submission 

Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen

This card’s co-main event is a real treat between two light-heavyweight super stars in Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen. To many fans’ surprise, Chael Sonnen is virtually on the brink of gaining himself a 205lb title shot after his first round submission over Shogun Rua. Evans on the other hand is trying desperately to get back to his winning ways as he has dropped 2 split decision in his last 2 fights. It could be that Evans just hasn’t had the break he needs, but it also could be that people have managed to figure Evans out. Sonnen is as intelligent as they come, so I fully expect Sonnen to be prepared for what Evans has to offer.

On the feet, Evans has mainly used his hand-speed and “swagger” to confuse opponents and pick them apart. However, his stand-up really isn’t as good as many believe. He is often countered easily by anyone who doesn’t fall for his quick movements, and is often caught square footed which puts him on his heels. Seeing as Sonnen never takes a step back, we could very well see Sonnen charge Evans from the gate and put him on his heels immediately. However, what he does from there is what will be really interesting. Sonnen and Evans are arguably two of the best wrestlers at 205, so how they match-up against eachother will really tell who will have the advantage. Evans is probably the larger of the two, and the more athletic build, but Sonnen’s technique and relentless pace could make it very troublesome.

I predict Sonnen to come out of the gate with a storm, put Evans on his heels, but then meet a brick wall when trying to take him down – that is, for the first round. Once Sonnen gets past that first round and takes Evans into deeper waters, where he should have the cardio advantage, look for Sonnen to slowly gain the edge in the wrestling. Once Evans tires out slightly, his movement is slower, which means he will get hit easier, and also taken down easier. Evans will show promise in the first part of the fight, but as it drags on, Sonnen should be able to close it on top.

Chael Sonnen via Split Decision 

Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

For the main event of the evening, the welterweight title is on the line for what seems to be the most competitive welterweight title fight within the last few years. Many fans are rallying behind Johny Hendricks, his knockout power, his wrestling, and beard, to hopefully dethrone the long-time welterweight champ GSP. This will be GSP’s first bout outside of Canada since he fought Dan Hardy back at UFC 111. GSP won’t have that hometown advantage on his side, which will be very interesting to see whether it has an effect on his performance or not. Hendricks on the other hand is bringing in a heap of momentum ever since he knocked out Jon Fitch, and has really been labeled as the guy to win the belt. Let’s break this fight down and see what Hendricks’s odds really are.

First of all, the biggest question in this fight is whether or not Hendricks will land his big left hook. The more I think about it, the more I do not; Fitch was caught with it back when people really didn’t know about it, and Kampmann is notoriously known for eating left hooks against virtually any opponent standing in front him. Condit was able to avoid it fairly well, mostly by using backwards footwork and tying up whenever Hendricks came close. This will be interesting because I really don’t see GSP being the guy to tie Hendricks up. If anything, GSP will want to keep Hendricks on the outside, and if need be, shoot from a distance to try and take him down.

This raises the next question, can Hendricks stuff the takedown? I’m sure many of those who want to see GSP lose were happy to see Nick Diaz stuff a few takedowns late in their fight, but I’m not so sure Hendricks will be able to do the same, especially in the beginning of the fight. When GSP is fresh, I believe he can take anybody down, no matter who they are. Look for Hendricks to be no exception and to be put on his back before he can fire off a single haymaker. From there, Hendricks really hasn’t had a whole of experience off his back. GSP is the best when it comes to top positioning, doing damage, and keeping his opponent down. Against a guy used to being ontop, GSP should have it fairly easy on the ground.

The trouble for GSP comes later in the first when Hendricks has a chance to get his timing down, and predict when the shot is coming. This is why GSP can’t let it get to the fourth and fifth rounds, if he does, he needs to be sure to tire Hendricks’ arms out first. Tired arms will dramatically decrease Hendricks’ knockout power, and make him less of a threat on the feet. I’m predicting GSP to either dominate Hendricks on the ground and score a submission within the first three rounds, or, if the fight continues on past that, GSP will win a decision. There is always that possibility of GSP zigging when he should have zagged and getting hit with that big shot, but, we’ve all thought that before and he’s been able to prove us wrong. GSP takes the decision if he doesn’t score the submission.

Georges St. Pierre via Unanimous Decision