Consider this an Angry Marks, MMA Fight Corner, and Fight Game Blog production. Steve Juon and Heidi Fang join me to preview the top two fights of Saturday night’s UFC 158 featuring crazy Nick Diaz against Georges St. Pierre.
This has been quite the fight in the making. From Diaz’s no-show at the press conference of UFC 137 and being replaced by Carlos Condit to Georges’ knee injury that pulled him out of that fight to Diaz facing and beating BJ Penn and then losing to Condit who then lost to St. Pierre. And now, it’s back full circle.
But first, we predict the semi-main event.
Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks
Dana White has suggested that the winner of this fight will face the winner of the main event for the next title shot.
Heidi says: Hendricks by decision
Condit has dangerous striking and he can work submissions as well. In the past what we’ve seen Condit’s ability to really frustrate an opponent by stifling whatever their greatest skill is. Against Diaz, he used his counter striking and avoided Diaz’s hands. Diaz chose to stand with Condit and didn’t get a chance to implement his jiu-jitsu, resulting in Condit being named the Interim Welterweight champ. Johny’s power left is undoubtedly his most reliable weapon, but he also has the ability to utilize his wrestling pedigree if need be. While Johny lacks the finesse that Condit has, his ability to impose his will on the ground and the strength in his punches gives him the edge. I think this goes the distance and Johny will take the decision.
Steve says: Condit by decision
I’ve gone back and forth over this fight in my head a hundred times. Hendricks has that collegiate wrestling strength and an incredibly hard left hand. Hendricks has also shown that his wrestling can be neutralized by another great wrestler, picking up a very close decision against Josh Koscheck by the skin of his teeth. If anybody thinks Greg Jackson’s camp won’t have Condit working with the best of the best to have both his takedowns and his sprawl in top shape, they simply haven’t seen Condit fight. In fact he did very well against GSP in their title unification bout, despite GSP having some of the best takedowns in MMA for a guy who never even did amateur or Olympic wrestling. This may be one of those cases where the margin is that one guy wins 6 out of 10 times, or 52 out of 100, but if I give a narrow edge to anybody it’s Condit based on both experience (over 30 pro fights and 2 world titles), record (only 2 losses since 2006) and versatility (submissions as good as striking, striking as good as wrestling). It would be more exciting for Hendricks to land that great knockout one more time but Condit will outpoint him in a decision.
GG says: Hendricks by decision
This fight is nearly as intriguing as the main event. But it’s much harder for me to pick. I think Condit proved a lot in the Rory McDonald fight by coming back to knock him out in the last round. But he also proved that he could be Hendricks-like with two first round knockouts of Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun-Kim. He’s been very strategic in his last two fights, beating Nick Diaz simply by winning more points, and losing to GSP at a similar game. In this case, I think Hendricks’ power will keep Condit away and it will be up to small key sequences that could decide the fight. If Hendricks can throw the left-hand naturally, I think it will put him in good spots for takedowns. I don’t think he’ll knock Condit out and I think this fight will be very close, but I think Hendricks ekes it out.
Nick Diaz vs. Georges St. Pierre
Heidi says: St. Pierre by decision
There’s a formula to being a champion that Georges St-Pierre has undoubtedly perfected. He finds weaknesses in his opponents and has managed to dominate the last ten he’s faced. As a Northern California born and raised resident, I spent a lot of my time in the 209 growing up. The Diaz brothers are two of my favorite fighters because they represent true grit and give definition to what it means to be scrappy. All the edge Nick Diaz has and smack talking he’s done up to now portrays him in the role of the bad guy coming in with a chip on his shoulder. No matter what dark side GSP has, Diaz’s is darker. Nick will surely throw his hands in the air, taunt George and maybe even try to lock in a few submissions. But in the end, I think St-Pierre will edge out the decision.
Steve says: St. Pierre by 4th round TKO
In discussions with co-host Peter H on Glove Up or Shut Up we both agreed that Nick Diaz is no better than #4 contender in UFC’s welterweight division. Why then is he getting this fight with Georges St-Pierre? Simply put, he made it personal, and GSP took it personal. Even though we’re used to guys saying what they need to just to build up a fight, Nick Diaz clearly doesn’t think about what he says or does anywhere BUT inside the cage, and St-Pierre calling him an “uneducated fool” is as close to a verbal tongue-lashing as the normally even keel GSP gets. You can tell he wants this fight badly, and in my opinion, a motivated GSP only fights better – see his rematch with Matt Serra as an example. Nick Diaz is far too big of an underdog at 5-to-1 on the sportsbooks, but if we see a more motivated version of the GSP who beat Carlos Condit, arguably a better fighter than Nick Diaz at this stage of the game, he should dominate Diaz with wrestling and finish him by knockout in the 4th round when he’s already ahead on points.
GG says: St. Pierre by decision
It’s hard for me to believe that GSP will change his game plan in this fight against Nick Diaz. Why would he have to? With his style of fighting, he should dominate on the cards. But will Nick Diaz be able to take GSP out of his game plan? I’m trying to see it, but it’s hard for me to see it. If GSP wants to go for the TKO, Diaz will have chances to punish him. But I just don’t see it. GSP will fight a safe fight and take his chances in his best positions rather than taking his chances in Diaz’s best positions. I think Diaz will win one round, but no more than that.