The UFC closes the year strong with two big shows. The first is this Saturday as Georges St-Pierre tries to defend his welterweight title for the 9th straight time against Johny Hendricks. There’s been a small war of words between the two, but not the type that actually builds up fights. Hendricks thinks St-Pierre has possibly taken steroids. Yet St-Pierre has done extensive drug testing for this fight and Hendricks chose not to, using the “I’m fat” excuse, which didn’t really work too well for Josh Barnett and James Toney. Well, maybe it did work well for Toney.
However, the third episode of the UFC Primetime created the perfect conflict. GSP has a legacy to be one of the best ever. Hendricks thinks he’s the guy to stop it. He’s bigger, he hits harder, and he can wrestle just as well.
In addition to giving out our predictions to the main event, we’ll also give our predictions for Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans.
Joining the normal FGB crew are Heidi Fang (@heidifang) from MMA Fight Corner, Alex Goff (@AlexGoff84) from Online World Of Wrestling, president of Premier, John LaRocca (@LaRoccaJL) and Steve Juon (@angrymarks) from Angry Marks.
Here are our UFC 167 predictions:
Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans
Heidi: Evans by decision
It’s really a tough fight to call. But there’s two things you can count here. Number one, Rashad’s wrestling and footwork and number two, you know Chael’s going to constantly come forward and stay in Evans’ face. Chael might win in the clinch, but I give Evans the advantage.
Duan: Evans by decision
Alex: Sonnen by decision
Rashad Evans on paper has every advantage going into his fight Saturday night against Chael Sonnen. Every time Chael walks into the octagon, I know exactly what I am going to get. Forward motion and punches that set up take down is Chael’s game. In Rashad’s last two fights, he turned in uninspired performances. That is the reason I am picking Chael in this fight. Any uninspired fighter going against Chael will get eaten up with his forward motion. Once a fighter loses his flame, it isn’t easy to turn it back on.
Alan: Sonnen by decision
John: Evans by decision
This is a bad fight for Chael to take after getting a win over Shogan Rua at UFC Fight Night in August. Only Chael knows why he took this fight, but I am guessing UFC gave him a lot of money to do it. This is not a grudge, and not even in the main event position. Sonnen’s wrestling is awesome, but he is a lot older now. Rashad’s wrestling is tops as well. I see Rashad getting out of being taken down and keeping this fight on his feet. Rashad has the faster hands and I see him out-striking Sonnen to get the unanimous decision.
Big D: Sonnen by decision
Cactus Jim: Evans by decision
This is a tough fight to call and has the potential to be fight of the night. Both of these veterans have recently had unsuccessful fights against light heavy weight champion Jon Jones with an additional middleweight title loss to Anderson Silva for Sonnen. Each having won their latest fight, they are looking to get back into the championship picture. Evans and Sonnen have what I see as very similar skill sets. I would give Rashad an edge in striking and would give Chael the nod in the wrestling and submissions department. I think the biggest differentiation in this fight will be size. Evans is a more natural light heavy albeit a small one and should have a few pounds on Sonnen when they step into the cage. I think Sonnen needs to get inside and get Rashad on the ground and work ground and pound and submissions to have his best chance in this fight. Evans on the other hand needs to use that jab, keep Sonnen on the outside and pick him apart with punches. I see both guys getting the occasional takedown and Sonnen having more success when it’s on the mat, but in the end I predict this fight goes the distance with Evans taking a victory by way of outstriking Chael Sonnen.
GG: Sonnen by decision
Steve: Sonnen by decision
I freely admit to underestimating Chael Sonnen in his fight with Shogun Rua – a mistake I don’t want to make twice. By the same token I think some people are underestimating Rashad Evans after three underwhelming fights – two losses by unanimous decision and one win by split decision. On paper, their strengths seem largely similar – Evans and Sonnen both being strong collegiate wrestlers – though Sonnen has a few more trophies on his shelf. In MMA though, Evans is the more accomplished, as Sonnen has yet to win a title in any Zuffa owned promotion (though arguably would have gotten one from Paulo Filho in their second fight if Filho hadn’t missed weight). And to bring things full circle, Sonnen had two straight losses before picking up his win against Rua, so both men are at best inconsistent of late. Less than 25% (7 of 29) of Sonnen’s wins are by KO, and the percentage of submissions even smaller. Chael’s a grinder. So is Evans – 6 of 23 by KO, just barely over 25%, and half as many submissions. The only real difference may be size – I expect Evans to be a little bigger as someone who cuts to light heavyweight than Sonnen, who used to cut to middleweight. Any size advantage is likely to be neutralized by Sonnen’s takedown defense, and his ability to get takedowns on demand may only be rivaled by GSP. I expect an incredibly close fight but unless there’s a KO, Sonnen can grind this out for another decision (and hopefully cut another good promo after).
Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
Heidi: Hendricks by 3rd round TKO
Duan: St-Pierre by decision
We are getting to that stage where it feels like GSP’s time on top of the pile must be running out. He might have lost a half step and Johny Hendricks might have the best style to beat him, but until he shows some major signs of deterioration, it’s really hard to pick against him. We’ve heard countless times that guys had the skill set or strategy to take him out, but all those bouts end the same way. I see this as another Georges St-Pierre fight, and we know how that goes.
Alex: St-Pierre by decision
Alan: St-Pierre by 2nd round TKO
Think about this. Georges is going to have a very hard time outwrestling a guy with the base of Hendricks. This is a level above the great wrestlers like Fitch or Koscheck who he’s gone against previously. If he tries to out-point him standing for 25 minutes, I don’t doubt that he’d win…. if it actually went the 25. It’s very possible it wouldn’t because it’d be hard to stand in front of Hendricks for that long and avoid his bomb. You’d be in danger the whole time.
GSP in his earlier days was a guy who was rattling off TKO finishes. He was a lethal dude to be in there with. He may need to channel that GSP to win this. I think he will, and I don’t think Hendricks is a good enough striker to deal with it.
John: Hendricks by 3rd round TKO
Big D: Hendricks by 3rd round TKO
Georges “Rush” St-Pierre used to be one of the most fascinating guys to watch because of his incredible skills and science. After a while though, at least in my humble opinion, this fascination quickly switched into boredom. Watching the champions in other divisions finish guys left and right, I found myself practically begging GSP to FINISH SOMEONE PLEASE!!!! Sadly he wouldn’t listen, and worked his way into boring decision after boring decision. Add that to the fact that he’s a very wooden guy AND an alleged cheater and I turned on the guy. I said it months and months ago and I stand by it – Hendricks is going to do it. I became a fan of this man the minute he murdered Jon Fitch with one punch and we DIDN’T have to sit through another boring fight. Hendricks is the “Destroyer of Boredom” and I do believe that he is going to destroy GSP and become the new UFC Welterweight Champion. Think about this – he has amazing takedown defense and wrestling, he has great standup, and most important of all – he has dangerous and frightening knock out power. If Matt Serra, a lightweight, could knock out a younger GSP, then the second that Hendricks connects on his chin, it’s going to be nap time. I will be happy. I will cheer. I will usher in the era of the beard.
Cactus Jim: St-Pierre by decision
GG: St-Pierre by 4th round submission
I’ll say this before anything else; if anyone is going to beat GSP, it’s Hendricks. I think his style is the best style so far to counter what GSP does best. His wrestling, the power in his fists (which GSP will have to avoid at all costs), and his tough style should give GSP fits. The only thing I question is his stamina. We haven’t seen Hendricks go longer than three rounds in his MMA career as this is his first title fight. He carries a lot of weight and I know he likes to joke that he’s a “fat guy”, but I have to wonder if being a “fat guy” hurts him if the fight goes beyond three rounds.
You know that GSP is going to be in tip top shape. The thing I wonder about when it comes to GSP is if his heart is still in fighting. Physically he looks great. But we know mentally that he’s had troubles before. Is he in his own head again? Is he really thinking about retirement? How does that relate to the fight? It’s hard to try to get into GSP’s head based on the things he says, so I’m going to discount it all. I say that GSP weathers the storm for three rounds, tires Hendricks out, and finishes him on the ground via an arm bar like old time’s sake.
Steve: St-Pierre by decision
We have 5 for Sonnen and 4 for Evans and 6 for GSP and 3 for Hendricks. When we usually do these predictions, we’re almost in agreement. This isn’t the case which means we could be in for some good fights.