UFC 167 Predictions – Inside Fights Staff Weigh In On GSP vs. Hendricks Main Card

We’re almost towards the end of 2013 and we’re left with perhaps the biggest PPV the UFC will do as Georges St. Pierre defends his title one more time. This time he faces off against Johny Hendricks, who’s on a six fight win streak with three of those wins via KO/TKO. Now it’s time to do what we have to: predict who will win on the main card for pride and beer money.

As always, joining me are:

Luke Cho-Yee, British Staff Writer
Adam Keyes, The Other British Staff Writer
Daniel Sohn, Not a British Staff Writer

Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

Sohn: Very few guys can go five rounds with the GSP grinder and Hendricks isn’t one of them. The biggest question to me isn’t the right hand of Hendricks, it’s his conditioning, which didn’t look spectacular against Carlos Condit in a three rounder. St. Pierre takes it with his typical jab, takedown and top control routine. St. Pierre

Sawitz: This is the same record we’ve heard before: someone with substantial wrestling credentials and heavy hands is going to nullify GSP’s game, then knock him out. Yawn. I love Hendricks and think if anyone can pull off the big one shot KO of GSP it’s him. I just have seen him get taken down by so many guys without nearly the wrestling ability of GSP because he just loves that one shot KO so much. GSP’s ability to get in close and get the double quickly is going to give Hendricks fits; I wouldn’t be surprised to see GSP get a submission here. Just feels like it could happen. GSP

CY: Hendricks has the wrestling, the power and most of all the mentality to cause the potential upset but I believe GSP will nullify the main threats Hendricks’ possesses with sharper footwork to keep him in kickboxing range before transitioning to a more grapple heavy approach in the later rounds as the challenger begins to frustrate and tire. St-Pierre

Keyes: While I have been known to buy in to the hype of the UFC marketing machine when it comes to title fights, I just can’t fall for it this time. Yes, it would be a delight if Hendricks was to go in there and starch GSP, putting some life back in to a division that has been at the mercy of St. Pierre’s relentless pursuit of safety-first victories, but sadly I cannot see it. In the Primetime specials, Hendricks will have you believe that GSP has never fought any one with the wrestling credentials and knockout power that he possesses, but he has. Josh Koscheck. And GSP beat him twice, both out wrestling him and outsmarting him on the feet. It’s a boring and safe pick, much like how I imagine this fight will play out. St. Pierre

Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen

Sohn: For all of the hype and drama, Sonnen is still a very good fighter, only losing to champions in recent memory. Evans hasn’t looked the same since losing to Jon Jones and he squeaked one out against Dan Henderson, who fights a little more one-dimensionally than Sonnen. Sonnen gets the nod in a close one.

Sawitz: We always count Sonnen out, don’t we? In all reality going in Evans should have the advantage. He’s a better athlete, more explosive and has better punching power. But Sonnen’s boxing is very technically sound and has surprised a lot of people over the years. Evans came in super pumped for the Henderson fight and that was a very close split decision. He’s coming in against a fighter with a lot of the same skill set as Henderson and this is going to go one of two ways. Either Rashad looks like an animal and obliterates Sonnen, ala the second Ortiz fight, or Sonnen pulls off a submission. I think the latter. Sonnen

CY: You can never count out Sonnen but this match-up does not play to his strengths whatsoever. Evans can repel the takedown that Sonnen so heavily relies upon and can out-strike his opponent with greater speed and technical acumen. Sonnen will not be able to grind out this one and may need to look for another quick submission. Evans

Keyes: Sadly for the American Gangster, I can’t really see this being too close. Sonnen will not necessarily have the strength advantage, nor a wrestling advantage over Rashad and if you take these two tools away from Sonnen there is very little he can offer you such is the level of competency he has in those particular areas. Rashad will be ale to fend off Sonnen’s wrestling based attack often enough to expose flaws in Sonnen’s stand-up through his superior speed. Evans

Robbie Lawler vs. Rory McDonald

Sohn: Whether MacDonald will fight GSP or not doesn’t take away from the fact that he looks ready for a title shot. Hell, he looks ready to be a champion. Lawler is the fun surprise story here, but MacDonald is the cold killer and he’s going to put an end to that. MacDonald

Sawitz: Robbie Lawler is finally starting to show the sort of potential in the UFC he showed earlier in his career. A lot of it has to do with him moving back to welterweight. So far he’s looked like a wrecking ball and now he’s facing someone with the ability to nullify that big power. As much as I think this could be a great slugfest, I also thought Jake Ellenberger had the sort of power to put down McDonald as well. I think McDonald nullifies Lawler with the jab in boring, unremarkable fashion. McDonald

CY: Lawler has always been great entertainment and has looked outstanding since his drop in weight but I feel he is facing a different animal altogether compared to his recent opponents. I expect McDonald to pick apart Lawler on the feet and frustrate his opponent with his movement and varied attack, before taking it to the ground and delivering a decisive finish. McDonald

Keyes: Robbie Lawler has undergone quite the career renaissance since returning to the UFC and dropping down to welterweight. Lawler has not looked this good in years and the knockout victories over Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker show that the power he possessed at middleweight is still a factor at 170 lbs. Unfortunately for Robbie, none of this will matter on Saturday as Rory MacDonald will be able to avoid the power punches of Lawler with superior footwork and should be able to take Lawler down if he feels as though it is getting too dicey on the feet. MacDonald

Josh Koscheck vs. Tyrone Woodley

Sohn: This is a make or break fight for both of these guys in a way. Koscheck’s generation of fighters is slowly fading, guys like Fitch, Florian, Leben, and so on. Back to back losses for him, the first time in his career. Woodley has got the goods and I think he finally breaks through here and gets a win against a big name guy. Woodley

Sawitz: Woodley tends to fight at the pace of his opponents as of late. He came out like a ball of fire against Jay Hieron … and then froze and played into the wall and stall game of Jake Shields. Koscheck fights a good, rough pace and I think Woodley comes out firing. This is Koscheck’s last stand as a relevant fighter: either he wins here, and stays around the Top 10, or he falls out and fades out of the UFC in short order. I think his time is over and Woodley lights him up. Woodley

CY: Koscheck is in need of a victory but I question whether he still has enough left in him to defeat younger, hungrier up-and-comers like Woodley. I can see their wrestling cancelling each other out which will leave an entertaining strike fest and I fancy Woodley to get the best of the exchanges and greater speed and accuracy. Woodley

Keyes: This fight is a pretty big deal. Maybe not for the fans, as it could turn in to a bit of a drag if each man looks to impose their grinding wrestling game, but this really matters for the combatants involved. Woodley was unfortunate to lose out to Jake Shields last time, but a loss is still a loss on your record no matter how close it was and if he is to lose out here again, two in a row will all but end the promise that once surrounded Woodley. Koscheck desperately needs the win here to stay relevant, as a defeat here will be the third on the bounce which all but ends his career as a high level welterweight and condemns him to the role of divisional gatekeeper. I’m pretty on the fence with this one, but on past performances I’m going to pencil in Koscheck’s name as he has the experience advantage over Woodley and has a record of winning in high pressure situations. Koscheck

Tim Elliot vs. Ali Bagautinov

Sohn: This is only Bagautinov’s second fight in the UFC and Elliot is by far the best guy he’s ever faced. Elliot has fought tougher competition and went the distance with John Dodson. He should be favored to win here and with good reason. Elliot

Sawitz: God damn what a fun opening fight for a PPV. Elliott’s a tough out and Bagautinov has shown he’s a pretty good fighter so far. I don’t think the Sambo standout gets him to the ground and Elliott wins a wild decision win. Elliot

CY: This should be a fun and frenetic flyweight contest. Elliot has impressed in recent bouts and is beginning to fulfil his potential but I feel he will be outmatched by Bagautinov, particularly in the grappling exchanges where the Russian fighters really excel. I expect an evenly matched striking exchange but foresee a late finish for the Sambo standout. Bagautinov

Keyes: Both fighters are pretty well rounded and each carry quite the punch for flyweights. There’s not going to be too much in this one, but put me down for a Bagautinov win here as I feel that one of his wild looping strikes will eventually find a home on Elliot’s chin and prove decisive. Bagautinov

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