UFC 167: St-Pierre vs Hendricks Preview
By Mike Fagan, November 14th, 2013
It’s the UFC’s 20th anniversary show and all sorts of MMA media outlets are writing articles like this and saying, “Oh man, it’s really fitting that Georges St-Pierre is headlining this event.” Sure. But it would also have been fitting if Anderson Silva, Dana White-proclaimed best fighter ever, headlined it. It would have been fitting if Jon Jones, the vanguard of the new generation, headlined it. It would have been fitting to wake Randy Couture out from some blonde’s bed to headline it. Georges has been around forever, he’s been the face of the promotion at times (and all the time in Canada, of course), and yeah, he’s one of a select group that should fight in the main event of a card like this. But he’s just one guy of that group, so let’s not go around pooping our mouths about the poetic significance of the thing, aight?
-You have to go back to UFC 100 to find a Georges St-Pierre fight as close as this at the books. St-Pierre could be had at -220 for his fight against Thiago Alves, and that fight ended up as much a blowout as any other. In retrospect, a lot of post-Serra GSP lines were way off: -165 vs. Penn, -400 (!) in the Serra rematch, -185 for the Hughes trilogy, -215 vs. Koscheck (with other lines as high as -357). The theory, of course, is that St-Pierre’s chin sucks and a big puncher like Penn or Alves or Johny Hendricks can put his lights out.
And, sure, they could, but St-Pierre presents a lot of problems. Of course, there’s his wrestling, which has yet nullified in a fight. There’s also the jab, though, and Hendricks will have to figure out a way around it to win this fight. St-Pierre will walk into the cage with a 7-inch reach advantage, and he won’t back up in a straight line when Hendricks jumps at him with hooks. If Hendricks times the jab or can bait St-Pierre into his left hand, he can win this fight.
He’ll need to do it quickly, though. I suspect the GSP gameplan will look similar to the second Penn fight. Close the distance, press Hendricks up against the fence, and tire his arms out in the clinch. If St-Pierre succeeds in that, Hendricks will have little chance past round two.
-The dreaded “R” word has been popping up around St-Pierre lately. I’m not sure retirement is imminent – though I do think it’s more likely if he loses Saturday – but the reality is pressing enough. St-Pierre is 32, and he seems like the rare type of fighter that values his long-term future post-fighting. If he’s done on Saturday, he’d leave a lot of money on the table, but he’s made millions up to this point and his legacy is secure (though he won’t go down as the greatest fighter of all time).
Should he leave within the next year or two, he’ll open up a very interesting division with Hendricks, Carlos Condit, and Rory MacDonald all legitimate title contenders.
-”Bigg Rigg” is one of the worst fight nicknames ever and puts me on tilt whenever I have to read it.
-St-Pierre stands at the precipice of a couple records. He’ll pass B.J. Penn for most time in the Octagon after 40 seconds. With a win, he’ll pass Matt Hughes for most wins in UFC history.
-Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen meet each other in a bout that Joe Silva seems to have made because “Hey, why not?” I have a feeling the UFC told Wanderlei Silva they had no problems moving forward without him and when he called their bluff they turned over a full house, chickens-over-rice. And, hence, why we have the weird TUF: Brazil announcement before this fight takes place.
It’s especially weird because the UFC threw Sonnen in a fight where he’s the underdog. A loss doesn’t wash away the appeal of Sonnen and Silva, but it does throw some water on the whole affair.
-Evans has pointed out that Sonnen, still fulfilling his Fox Sports broadcaster duties, might lack the proper focus for this fight. That’s legitimate. It’s also worth pointing out that Evans hasn’t looked great over his last three fights, including a weird loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and he’s only finished one fight (Tito Ortiz via gut-busting knee) since winning the title from Forrest Griffin back in 2008(!). Evans is 34 himself, and his own Fox Sports work portends the closing window on his own fight career.
-The UFC matched Rory MacDonald with Robbie Lawler as some sort of punishment for the Jake Ellenberger fight. This is stupid. Ellenberger never showed any urgency, even after MacDonald established control with the jab. We shouldn’t forget the Condit fight – I’m sure MacDonald hasn’t – and expecting him to open himself up in a fight as important against a fighter as dangerous as Ellenberger is asinine. So, now, instead of a fun, relevant rematch, MacDonald is left to outsmarting Robbie Lawler while Carlos Condit plays the sun to Matt Brown’s Icarus.
-Josh Koscheck’s fight with Tyron Woodley will be only his second since Johny Hendricks won a close split decision over him back on May 5, 2012. That’s two fights over 18 months. He fought six times from March 2008 to September 2009.
-Woodley is 31 years old already, and a loss to Koscheck ends any hope of him challenging for titles in his career. He still has an uphill battle even with a win, but a loss relegates his ceiling to “high gatekeeper.” And not in the fun Nick Diaz way.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at FightFansRadio.com, also available as a podcast via iTunes.