The 20-year anniversary event is finally here. UFC 167 has been built up and nobody can say this isn’t a great card. We get to see a long-awaited title fight at welterweight, along with a few rising stars at welterweight matching up with one another.
Also who can forget the two polarizing light heavyweights going at it in the co main event? This card is still stacked from top to bottom, even when they had to move Frank Mir versus Alistair Overeem to UFC 169. I’ll be doing the predictions alone, as Scott couldn’t make it.
Flyweight: Tim Elliot vs. Ali Bagautinov
Once again, the UFC deserves credit for finally starting to feature the flyweights on the main card of pay-per-views. They need to get all the exposure they can get. This is the perfect way to start off any main card with a fast paced fight. There is already hype around Bagautinov following his highlight reel knockout over Marcos Vinicius. He does tend to get reckless though and can’t afford to do that against someone as well rounded as Tim Elliot.
Elliot knows how to push the pace and control the octagon. His relentless pace could lead to more takedowns, as the fight goes on. Bagautinov’s cardio will be tested in this one, especially if he isn’t landing his combinations early on. This is a tough fight to pick because Bagautinov is so dangerous. He’s a Russian champion in BJJ, along being known for pulling off smooth sweeps. Elliot has his hands full, but I’m thinking he’ll pull out the close decision. He will land just enough strikes and control the fight to earn the judges approval. This was the hardest pick for me to make on the entire card.
Winner via unanimous decision: Tim Elliot
Welterweight: Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley
At first, this was a hard pick to make. The more I’ve broken it down, it seems like Woodley shouldn’t lose this fight. He’s never been taken down in his career and is far more explosive than Koscheck is. Even though Koscheck has a dangerous overhand right, he has gotten predictable in using it similar to Roy Nelson. It seems like Koscheck has dealt with several injuries over the past few years and doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness as he once did a few years ago.
As good as a wrestler he has proven to be, he doesn’t mix up his takedown attempts with strikes. It was proven in his last fight with Robbie Lawler, where Lawler wasn’t ever controlled on the ground. It was also shown in his lackluster victory over Mike Pierce that he has become predictable. Unless Koscheck can implement a similar game plan to what Jake Shields did against Woodley, I don’t see how he can win this fight. Woodley is an intelligent fighter and is too smart to lose in repetitive fashion. As long as he uses his speed advantage and keeps his head moving, he should be able to win this fight. I’m expecting a finish as well with a counter left uppercut to send Koscheck possibly out of the UFC.
Winner via second round KO: Tyron Woodley
Welterweight: Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler
The fight has been flying under the radar. It was has all the makings of a special fight, due to how unpredictable both fighters are. Will Lawler continue his resurgence or will MacDonald continue his dominant winning streak? This is a tall order for Lawler dealing with MacDonald’s reach advantage. MacDonald knows how to neutralize his opponents with his jab, while his counter striking has become lethal.
Don’t expect Lawler to be fazed though. He isn’t one-dimensional like Jake Ellenberger and has started to become more efficient. We’ve seen the change in Lawler’s striking, where he isn’t reckless like he was five years ago. Even though he has faced bigger opponents, while fighting at middleweight. Those middleweights didn’t have the explosiveness and footwork that MacDonald possesses. How he manages to cut down 170 pounds is beyond me. This should be a back and forth contest, where it seems to be heading towards decision. It seems only fitting that MacDonald turns into a wrestler in this fight, after being caught a few times. Lawler is a legitimate threat, although his shortcomings involve his size and ground game. That’s where MacDonald will win the fight by using his wrestling and earning points on the ground.
Winner via unanimous decision: Rory MacDonald
Light Heavyweight: Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans
Sonnen always says he wants fights that will challenge him. His quote may also include fights, where there isn’t any way that he can actually win. How can he grind out a decision win against someone, who is one of the best wrestlers in the division? Not to mention, Evans has much better stand up. It’ll be up to Sonnen to start out fast and make the fight ugly right away. Whether it’s by closing the distance or going for takedowns on a consistent basis, you can expect Sonnen to smother Evans as much as possible.
Evans isn’t a dynamic striker, but he possesses top-level speed and power. A big factor in why I’m choosing Evans is that his cardio is remarkable. He won’t let Sonnen take him down, keep him grounded, or go for a submission. Evans is too elusive to get caught in any kind of submission. What people have been waiting for is Evans to get back his “killer instinct”. Where is the fighter, who knocked out Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin? I’m expecting this fight to add to Evans’ highlight reel of knockouts. Sonnen will get reckless when trying to close the distance. That will lead to Evans catching him with an uppercut, before finishing the fight with ground-and-pound.
Winner via first round TKO: Rashad Evans
Welterweight Championship: Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
For the first time since his second fight against Koscheck, we haven’t seen many people picking against St. Pierre. Many people believed Koscheck had the wrestling and knockout power to dethrone St. Pierre. The same can be said for Hendricks, who has even better wrestling and knockout power in two hands. It only seems fitting that Hendricks lands his signature left hook to counter St. Pierre’s jab to finish the fight.
Don’t be fooled by those who think St. Pierre is one-dimensional. He utilizes leg kicks well and has the best head movement in MMA. Nobody is more elusive than him and it’s nearly impossible to land a clean powerful strike on him. Another element that makes St. Pierre almost unbeatable is that he constantly evolves as a fighter. We’ve seen implement the superman punch and spinning back kick to the body in his arsenal. With the recent trend of the spinning wheel kick being used, it wouldn’t surprise me to see St. Pierre attempt the kick in the first round.
My main concern for Hendricks is becoming too predictable and his cardio. He tends to throw wild combinations rather than fluid striking. St. Pierre is too smart to let Hendricks get away with that and he’ll capitalize with a takedown. As for cardio, I’ve seen Hendricks fatigue in his fights against Koscheck and Carlos Condit in the third round. If he can’t finish St. Pierre in the first two rounds, I’m skeptical of his chances. That won’t be the case though, as the upset will happen. Hendricks will solve the puzzle and finish St. Pierre. We won’t see much of a feeling out process because Hendricks is always aggressive and knows he has the ability to win the fight with one punch. He’ll push the pace and overwhelm St. Pierre by the second round. Once St. Pierre can’t get the takedown, Hendricks will gain even more confidence and he won’t be stopped as long as he doesn’t gas out.
Winner & new champion via second round TKO: Johny Hendricks
Obviously the main card is stacked, but I’m looking forward to the event in itself. The 20-year anniversary is a massive achievement for the UFC and it’ll be great to see the likes of Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, and Forrest Griffin among others. This should be the third straight excellent pay-per-view. It’ll be a night, where we can all celebrate being fans of this sport.
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