Georges St-Pierre is gearing up to defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship Welterweight Championship belt for the ninth consecutive time Saturday night. He’ll tangle with Johny Hendricks, a grinder who possesses the 2.0 version of Dan Henderson’s “H-Bomb.”
St-Pierre comes in as a weaker favorite than usual. Vegas must think the machine is getting rusty. For most of his dominant run, St-Pierre has broken down his opponents through meticulously executed game plans.
It’s as if his murderers’ row of coaches — Greg Jackson, Firas Zahabi, Phil Nurse and John Danaher — re-program him for every bout. Georges is fighting another wrestler? Grab the coding for “Andre Ward jabs.”
Hendricks could be the fighter most well-equipped to dismantle the champion’s reign. He can be the Trojan horse — a virus capable of causing the St-Pierre processor to finally meltdown.
The UFC isn’t pitching wolf tickets for this event. St-Pierre is in real danger. But will he fall? Let’s prognosticate.
Johny Hendricks def. Georges St-Pierre
I’ve fallen on my sword a couple times when picking St-Pierre fights. I didn’t care that B.J. Penn was only a welterweight because he shut down the lunch plate spots in Hilo every afternoon. And I chose Nick Diaz even though his only shot was through submission and GSP is pretty much a human figure sculpted out of Vaseline.
But this is for real. The UFC is about to have a champion who wears Ecko and responds to the nickname “Bigg Rigg.”
Hendricks is on par with GSP as a wrestler. He also has a steel chin and deadly torque in his punches. He can negate the patented St-Pierre takedowns well enough to keep the fight upright. And from there, he won’t be afraid to close the distance and throw power at the champ’s dome.
St-Pierre could show us for the millionth time that he’s just on a different level. I’m not sure he still is, though.
Rashad Evans def. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen better spend less time memorizing old Billy Graham wrestling promos and more time drilling his double leg before this fight. If he can’t get Evans to his back, it’s all over.
Evans will thwart the takedowns and show off his occasionally impressive boxing skills en route to a grating decision victory.
Rory MacDonald def. Robbie Lawler
I’m a MacDonald mark. His serial killer schtick is so refreshing. It’s hard not to root for someone who seems emotionally detached from everything in life. But really, I dig the quiet and cold-blooded types in combat sports, and he’s uncomfortably good at filling that role.
The Lawler resurgence is fun. Unlike Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fox 8, Lawler won’t let MacDonald jab him to death. He’s not wired that way. The young veteran is going to step forward and serve up leather, but I think the comeback story ends here.
When fighting Lawler, it’s either kill or be killed. MacDonald will add another body to his list.
Tyron Woodley def. Josh Koscheck
I don’t know if Koscheck still has the fighting chops to back up his blond dye job. Using the bleach this late in the game is a bad look. Same thing goes for that angry dad who raps (Eminem).
Woodley is basically the second coming of Koscheck. He’s a tough, athletic wrestler who is trying to assemble a striking attack. Is he far enough along to take out the aged warrior? Yeah. Maybe.
Tim Elliot def. Ali Bagautinov
Bagautinov is one of the many new feared Russian prospects. Elliot is a scrappy white kid with questionable tattoos and a Philly beard.
What the UFC wants to happen: Elliot gives Bagautinov the rub and helps a rising star get over.
What the person writing this article wants to happen: Elliot crushes, demands a title shot, is rewarded with a title shot and crushes again.