UFC 167 ANALYSIS
A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 167 today at the MGM Grand:
GEORGES ST. PIERRE (CHAMPION, 24-2) VS. JOHNY HENDRICKS (15-1)
■ CLASS: For welterweight title
■ LINE: St. Pierre minus-250
■ STORYLINE: Once again, an opponent of Georges St. Pierre is being heralded as the one who has the skills to end the lengthy reign of the wildly popular welterweight champion. This time it’s more than hype. St. Pierre, who has won 11 straight fights, likes to establish distance with the jab and set up takedowns to take control. He’s done it against some excellent wrestlers, but Hendricks is one of the best wrestlers to ever compete in the UFC. While Hendricks has shied away from using his wrestling to take down opponents, those skills should enable him to keep the fight standing. The more time the fight is on the feet, the longer Hendricks has to land his powerful left hand that could end the bout in a flash. Fighting a southpaw also makes it more difficult for St. Pierre to jab and shoot his double-leg, which works to Hendricks’ advantage.
■ PICK: Hendricks by second-round knockout
CHAEL SONNEN (29-13-1) VS. RASHAD EVANS (19-3-1)
■ CLASS: Light heavyweight
■ LINE: Evans minus-185
■ STORYLINE: Sonnen and Evans are friends and work together as analysts on Fox UFC broadcasts. That shouldn’t affect the fight much. Both are veterans and have fought against opponents with all sorts of relationships. The line here feels far too high. Evans hasn’t looked like the fighter who rose through the ranks to become light heavyweight champion since leaving his longtime camp at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M. He snapped a two-fight losing streak with a split decision win over Dan Henderson in June, but the performance was far from impressive. While still a talented fighter, his recent efforts don’t warrant being such a big favorite over a relentless opponent such as Sonnen. Expect Sonnen to come straight forward as he always does and keep the pressure on Evans for the entire 15 minutes on his way to a victory.
■ PICK: Sonnen by decision
RORY MACDONALD (15-1) VS. ROBBIE LAWLER (21-9, 1 nc)
■ CLASS: Welterweight
■ LINE: MacDonald minus-375
■ STORYLINE: Returning to the UFC after a nine-year absence has revitalized the career of the 31-year-old Lawler, who appeared to be in a rut while losing five of his past eight fights in Strikeforce. Lawler knocked out Josh Koscheck in the first round of his February return to the organization and followed with a second-round knockout of Bobby Voelker in July. That momentum could come to a halt tonight against the ultra-talented MacDonald. Only a stunning knockout in the final seconds of a fight he was winning against Carlos Condit separates the 24-year-old MacDonald from an undefeated record. A close friend and training partner of St. Pierre, MacDonald has reeled off five straight wins since that setback. The Tristar camp is good at coming up with game plans and should have a plan in place to avoid Lawler’s power, which is the only way MacDonald could lose this fight.
■ PICK: MacDonald by decision
JOSH KOSCHECK (19-7) VS. TYRON WOODLEY (11-2)
■ CLASS: Welterweight
■ LINE: Woodley minus-115
■ STORYLINE: Once one of the top contenders in the UFC welterweight division, Koscheck has dropped two straight fights and three of five to find himself in what he considers a “must-win” situation. Koscheck said he feels like he is “on the bubble” as far as keeping his job with the organization. Expect a throwback effort out of him in what should be a good stylistic matchup for him. Both fighters were elite college wrestlers. While Koscheck had a better collegiate career, Woodley has been more effective incorporating that base into his mixed martial arts career. Koscheck should be able to negate much of what Woodley wants to do as far as takedowns. This could become a boxing match, and Koscheck has more power in his hands.
■ PICK: Koscheck by third-round knockout
TIM ELLIOTT (10-3-1) VS. ALI BAGAUTINOV (11-2)
■ CLASS: Flyweight
■ LINE: Elliott minus-155
■ STORYLINE: Bagautinov is the latest in a group of elite Sambo competitors to make the move to the UFC. The Russian martial art mostly has produced fighters who are powerful strikers with outstanding submission skills, and Bagautinov, a winner of nine straight fights, fits the mold. He made his UFC debut with an impressive knockout of Marcos Vinicius just more than two months ago. He is training at Jackson’s MMA, so he should have a good game plan to go along with his talent. Elliott looks a bit off-balance and awkward in his standup but just finds a way to get the job done. He has won back-to-back fights by decision since dropping his UFC debut to John Dodson but might be getting too much credit from the linesmakers.
■ PICK: Bagautinov by decision
ADAM HILL/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL