The welterweight clash between long-reigning champion Georges St. Pierre and fearsome contender Johny Hendricks finally has a date and location. GSP will look to make his ninth consecutive title defense at UFC 167 in Las Vegas, scheduled for November 16 at the UFC’s 20th anniversary show. So far, this headliner is the only fight that has been announced for that card.
Johny “Big Rigg” Hendricks (15-1 overall, 10-1 in the UFC)
Strengths: Wrecking ball hands, insane punching power, strength and wrestling
Weaknesses: Questionable cardio
Georges “Rush” St. Pierre (24-2 overall, 19-2 in the UFC)
Strengths: Everything, especially takedowns and top control
Weaknesses: Can’t finish fights
The Date: November 16, 2013 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas, NV
Weight Class: Welterweight
What led to it: GSP has effectively cleared out all potential challengers, even pursuing the Nick Diaz fight before thinking about Hendricks. Outside of a superfight with Anderson Silva or Benson Henderson, Hendricks is the best and most deserving guy right now. Hendricks has been on a tear and dispatched some of the best welterweights in the world to get to this point, some by spectacular fashion and others in close decisions. It’s past time he fought for the championship.
Why it matters: A big question is: what happens if GSP wins this fight? Hendricks is a worthy challenger, as was Carlos Condit before him. Nick Diaz was debatable, but it’s a fight people wanted to see. After Hendricks though, if you look at every guy, there are more reasons not to make a fight with GSP than to make it. The other top fighters in the division are guys GSP has already beaten convincingly or guys who are “just there” and don’t really deserve a title shot. GSP’s good friend and training partner Rory MacDonald is on the rise and looks to have a very bright future in the division (translation: he’ll be fighting for a title at some point in the near future). But even if he gets past Jake Ellenberger, it’s not a given he should fight for the title next.
If you believe GSP’s former coach, Big Rigg is the last welterweight hurdle for St. Pierre before he looks for a superfight with Anderson Silva. But if you believe GSP, he’s not even thinking about that since according to him, Chris Weidman is a sure bet to beat the GOAT. Lots of question marks here as to what GSP does with a win against Hendricks. If Anderson Silva gets through Weidman as most people expect him to, it would be very surprising to see GSP stay at welterweight if he beats Hendricks.
Hendricks on the other hand is the next guy in a long line of challengers with a chance to finally dethrone Georges the Great. On his way up the ladder, he’s shown he has the goods to beat anyone and has a very realistic chance to become the new champion. He’s already considered what a victory would mean: an immediate rematch for St. Pierre. That kind of thinking shows his confidence, but it may be a little premature to start talking about it. Despite Hendricks’ recent performances, he’s still the underdog going into this fight (like every guy who fought GSP before him). And like every guy who had a shot at GSP, Hendricks now has a chance to pull off the upset and turn the whole welterweight division (and potential superfight scenarios) upside down.