This Saturday night’s UFC 167 commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the very first UFC show. It also features one of the most long-awaited bouts in MMA between longtime UFC Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks.
It’s an interesting matchup that most deem GSP’s toughest challenge yet. Only time will tell if Hendricks has the skill and stamina to outlast the ultimate grinder.
In the co-main event, Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen will meet in a battle of friends and highly ranked Light Heavyweights. It’s a bout unlike any other Sonnen fight because it doesn’t feature much, if any, venom-spewing trash talk.
In any case, it should be a great fight card. Let’s get down to our staff predictions:
Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks:
Mike Drahota: St. Pierre is looking to set the UFC record for wins at UFC 167, and he may just be facing his most dangerous opponent in order to do so. Hendricks has thunderous knockout power and excellent wrestling. But he couldn’t keep Condit down for any extended amount of time, so I don’t think he can do it to GSP. Hendricks won’t be able to maintain the kind of pace St. Pierre will, causing him to wilt in later rounds if he can’t score the knockout. GSP via third round technical knockout.
Rory Kernaghan: Georges St-Pierre has been top of the Welterweight stack for many years now, reigning with dominance over the UFC’s marquee division. Across the cage from him at 167 will stand heavy-handed wrestler Johny Hendricks. What can you say about these two warriors? Well, one has way more weapons in his arsenal; I’m talking about GSP. He has the advantage in wrestling, more technical and varied striking and is so much more trained in all kinds of hand-to-hand combat. Look for St-Pierre to put an exclamation mark on a dominant TKO win over an exhausted Hendricks, late in round 4.
Brian Cox: Georges St. Pierre is facing a very dangerous opponent in the way of Johny Hendricks. “Bigg Rigg” has more than enough power, skill and confidence to put the champ’s lights out. However, deep in Johny’s words I hear some doubt. “Bigg Rigg” used to talk singularly of knocking GSP out. Now he speaks of pacing himself, knowing that he has to win three of five rounds and multiple game plans. As I see it and I think everyone sees it, if he doesn’t KO GSP in the first two, he won’t win. And if pace is suddenly a question to Hendricks, he will be in for a surprise, because the champ won’t be waiting on him in terms of his pace. For these reasons, I am picking Georges St. Pierre to retain his belt and garner his first stoppage since 2009; the winner, by way of TKO in round five, Georges St. Pierre.
Buster Evans: Johny Hendricks has excellent wresting and huge punching power, more than enough to put GSP away. Many believe the combination of the two will be enough to have his hand raised against St-Pierre; I’m not so sure. On paper Hendricks may have the better wrestling credentials but St-Pierre is by far the best MMA wrestler, there is a difference. Hendricks has a punchers chance of course, but I think that chance will be limited to the first round. GSP’s footwork is far above Hendricks’ and this will ultimately determine the fight. Expect GSP to pepper his opponent with the jab early and take him down in the later rounds when Hendricks gets tired. GSP takes home a unanimous decision.
Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen:
Mike Drahota: This is kind of an odd booking, because there are a ton of fighters out there who Chael Sonnen actually hates. Why book him against his “UFC Tonight” broadcast partner? Anyway, they did, and while I think Sonnen is the better wrestler by a hair, that’s his only advantage. Evans’ speed should be able to pick Sonnen apart on the feet, but “Suga” has to show up motivated. One more lackluster performance and Dana White will be calling for him to retire. He seems motivated, but who knows these days? Evans via unanimous decision.
Rory Kernaghan: Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans are very similar in many areas; they have strong wrestling bases, both are very experienced and have fought many battles in the UFC. The difference shows in their styles though. Although they both look for the takedowns, Rashad has a clear advantage in the striking department, something that I think will be the deciding factor at 167. Look for ‘Suga’s’ sweet footwork to be Sonnen’s undoing, leading Evans to a unanimous decision win.
Brian Cox: Regarding Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans, it could go either way; depending upon Rashad. Evans has more talent and tools than Sonnen could hope ever hope for, however, he doesn’t have Sonnen’s heart. Chael will show up and try and win this fight, but alas his motivation is/was simply to be on the 20th anniversary card. He campaigned for it. On the other hand, Evans is still motivated by career. Rashad needs a win and particularly an exciting one. As such I think he will be motivated and Sonnen is a great candidate for Evans to cull a win from. For those reasons, I will pick “Suga” to win this fight and because a motivated Evans is too fast and dynamic for Sonnen. The winner, by way of TKO in the second round, Rashad Evans.
Buster Evans: Very hard fight to pick in my opinion. If it wasn’t for both men’s last performances I would say Evans hands down. But Sonnen looked amazing in his last fight against Rua and Evans had a lackluster performance against ‘Hendo’. Ultimately though I think ‘Suga’ will be more focused on the bout, he needs the win more than Sonnen (who’s next fight is already set up). I think Rashad is going to keep the fight standing, using his speed to out strike Sonnen and while being prepared to defend any takedowns. If Sonnen can get Evans down early he could steal it but I doubt that will happen. Evans via unanimous decision.
Outer Photo: Eric Bolte for USA TODAY Sports