UFC 167 emanates from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday night, with a star studded main card lineup that includes Georges St-Pierre, Chael Sonnen, Rory MacDonald and Rashad Evans.
Once again Jordan Cieciwa (@FitCityJordan) and I (@LynchOnSports) go head to head in our picks.
Last weekend at UFC Fight Night 32 my #TeamLynch got the best of #TeamJC by a score of 9-6. Let us know which side you're on for UFC 167 use the hashtag #TeamLynch or #TeamJC on Twitter. Also feel free to leave your opinions in the comment section below.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks (Welterweight Title Fight)
James Lynch TSN.ca (@LynchOnSports)
Saint-Isidore, Quebec native St-Pierre fights in Las Vegas for the first time since 2009 and makes the ninth defence of his title, when he welcomes knockout artist Hendricks in the main event.
Since recapturing his title at UFC 83 in April of 2008, GSP is on one of the most impressive championship runs in UFC history, taking out the likes of Matt Hughes, Carlos Condit and most recently former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz.
With just two blemishes on his record, the 32-year old faces his stiffest test yet in the form of Hendricks, who not only boasts an impressive collegiate wrestling pedigree, but a dynamite left hand.
Through 16-fights, Hendricks has eight highlight reel knockouts to his credit. The 30-year old Texas native is also on a six-fight win streak, including victories over three of St-Pierre's past opponents: Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit.
We've seen St-Pierre out wrestle decorated wrestlers in the past in his victories over Hughes, Koscheck and Fitch, but none with the knockout power that Hendricks posses.
I agree with Jordan's prediction below in that it's entirely possible the southpaw Hendricks connects on St-Pierre's chin and earns a knockout victory, but if that does happen, expect it in either the first or second round.
With that said, the former Oklahoma State University wrestler has never faced an opponent like St-Pierre. To ensure victory Saturday night, St-Pierre purchased a UFC-sized octagon for his Tristar gym in Montreal and also brought in the last man to defeat Hendricks, 22-7 Rick Story as a training partner.
His team, led by head trainer Firas Zahabi does an excellent job of pre-fight preparation for his star fighter. It's because of this we should expect the French-Canadian fighter to emerge victorious on Saturday night.
Add in the fact that Hendricks has never fought five rounds before and that St-Pierre had to overcome adversity in the past (at UFC 154 when Condit head kicked him late in their fight, St-Pierre still managed to come back and win) This experience should serve St-Pierre well as he looks for his 25th professional victory.
Don't expect a highlight reel finish, but GSP will get the job done and earn a unanimous decision victory in what very well could be his last octagon appearance.
There are rumors swirling that should GSP win on Saturday, he'll vacate the title and retire to give way to training partner Rory MacDonald's welterweight title aspirations. Stay tuned.
St-Pierre via unanimous decision
Jordan Cieciwa TSN Radio 1290 (@FitCityJordan)
Nine times out of 10, Georges St-Pierre beats Johny Hendricks. He out wrestles, out strikes, and out lasts him every time. The only problem in this equation is the south paw stance, and the strange angle that Hendricks can rocket that left hand from.
The mistake that Hendricks will make is to come out guns blazing in the first two rounds. You won't get GSP to make a mistake under pressure. If Hendricks puts too much out in those first few minutes, he won't get the chance to throw the big bomb in the later rounds.
Georges will wrap Johny up like a blanket if he gets him tired, then fans of the big left hand knock out will see side control, and short elbows for the last couple rounds and GSP will earn yet another decision win.
My money is going on Hendricks, because I have that strange feeling in my stomach. I'm hoping Hendricks closes the distance slow and starts to make Georges work for a takedown in the first two rounds, then hopefully start the third round off with a bang.
Hendricks has to realize he is fighting Tri Star and Jackson MMA. They will have the tape and a gameplan. He needs to show something new. If he doesn't have anything, then he won't win.
Hendricks via third round knockout
Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen
Friends? Co-workers? This doesn't seem like a typical Sonnen matchup as we've seen in the past, but the promotion has matched up "UFC Tonight" co-hosts Evans and Sonnen together in a light heavyweight affair.
The matchup itself is intriguing, but entertainment wise not so much. When Sonnen is booked on a UFC pay-per view there is usually some sort of pre-fight trash talk or buildup to the actual contest. This bout has had little to no buildup or anticipation, which is surprising for the co-main event slot.
Either way, fans can expect a wrestling clinic between two fighters who are coming off much needed victories. For Sonnen, after losing two straight to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, there was immediate talk of retirement. Instead, former Team Quest fighter decided to give the light heavyweight division another go, and bounced back with an impressive first-round submission over former UFC 205lb champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC Fight Night 26.
Evans meanwhile, suffered an embarrassing loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 and got back on the winning track in his last bout, a split decision win over Dan Henderson at UFC 161.
It's no secret Sonnen is going to try to out wrestle the former Michigan State standout and use his ground and pound to earn points. The TUF 2 winner Evans has a 66% takedown defense percentage, which is decent, but likely won't be good enough against a fellow NCAA Division I wrestler like Sonnen.
We know Evans has knockout power, as seen in his victories over Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin, but Sonnen has proved that he has a very durable chin, even in his losses to Silva and Jones.
This one is honestly a coin flip, but expect this fight to go this distance. I'll pick the underdog "The American Gangster" who's wrestling should be the difference in this fight.
Sonnen via unanimous decision
Well, Sonnen is finally fighting an athlete that should be in his sights. Sonnen has not proven himself a champion contender. Although, he has hung in the best of them, like Silva and Jones. That's what makes this fight interesting. Chael Sonnen has fought the absolute best in the business for his last three fights.
He is going to be razor sharp for a fight with Rashad Evans, who has looked less than impressive in his last few fights. Rashad is going to need to get back to his old bag of tricks. That speed and timing is going to be critical to win this fight.
Just like Evans vs. Henderson, this will be a slower fight that leans towards the clinch specialist Chael Sonnen. That is of course, unless Evans puts some emphasis on getting points. I feel that Evans knows what he is getting into, Sonnen hasn't been in this kind of a match for a while.
Watch Evans secure points and push for control of the Octagon. This will be a decision, and I think it's going to the fighter who just barely squeaked out a decision in his last fight.
Evans via unanimous decision
Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler
A pair of welterweights square off and look to add their names to the 170lb title picture, as 15-1 Canadian MacDonald goes to war with 31-fight veteran Lawler.
Despite riding a five-fight win streak, MacDonald didn't do himself any favors in his last outing, a lackluster three-round unanimous decision victory over Jake Ellenberger at UFC on FOX 8.
The 24-year old seemed to be content in scoring points and not engaging over the uninspiring three-round contest. Aiming for his "lucky" seventh UFC victory, an impressive win over Lawler would certainly change the mind of fans and the UFC brass.
Meanwhile since returning to the UFC and dropping to his natural weight class of welterweight, "Ruthless" has looking nothing short of spectacular. In his UFC debut he dispatched former title challenger Josh Koscheck in the first round and followed that up with an impressive head kick knockout over Strikeforce veteran Bobby Voelker.
The easy path to victory for Quesnel B.C. born MacDonald is using his underrated ground game, as in nine of Lawlers losses; five have been by way of submission. No doubt the ATT product Lawler will want to keep this fight standing and go for his 19th career knockout, but as MacDonald showed in his loss to Carlos Condit, he has a very durable chin.
Physically MacDonald will be the bigger fighter, having a one-inch height and 2.5-inch reach advantage. The Tristar fighter has all the tools to win this fight, and should he not try and test his standup against the dangerous 31-year old, he'll win this fight.
Since Lawler has improved his wrestling, it's unlikely MacDonald will sink in a submission that easily, instead expect MacDonald to edge out a unanimous decision victory getting takedowns and the better of the exchanges.
MacDonald via unanimous decision
Who is Robbie Lawler? You can't even answer that any more. He has changed up his career a few times. The one thing I know, is that he has looked sharp, razor sharp, in his last couple outings.
He's also had some outstanding coaching over his career. Josh Koscheck stood in with him, and Robbie made him look like a rookie in the league. Ranked #10 in his division by the UFC, it will be interesting to see how he does against his opponent, #3 ranked Rory MacDonald.
This is not going to be a legends match like the one Rory had with BJ Penn. This is going to be a very tough fight with a man on a mission. It can't be denied, Robbie Lawler on his "A" game is a top ten competitor. Lawler goes into most fights the smaller fighter, and that's going to be the case here.
Rory will use his 2..5 inch reach advantage to keep Lawler out of range, however, a couple body shots from Lawler may change the tone of this fight. Watch for Robbie to attack the body early with some of the hardest punches in the business. Once he takes the steam out of Rory, this should be his fight for the taking.
Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision
Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley
Two former NCAA Division I wrestlers collide in a 170lb contest as former UFC welterweight title challenger Koscheck battles former Strikeforce welterweight title challenger Woodley.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 contestant knows at this point in his career, his back is up against the wall. After winning a controversial split decision over Mike Pierce back at UFC 143, the Fresno, California native has lost two straight to Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
Woodley meanwhile was considered the next "must see" prospect out of the Strikeforce organization. Heading into his Strikeforce welterweight title fight with Nate Marquardt in 2012, Woodley was a perfect 10-0, with wins over Paul Daley and Tarec Saffiedine.
That hype came to an immediate halt when Marquardt knocked out Woodley in the fourth round. The 31-year old would rebound in his UFC debut, earning a first round knockout over former IFL welterweight champion Jay Hieron. In his last bout, the ATT pupil would suffer a lackluster loss to Jake Shields back at UFC 161.
Many pundits are picking Woodley to win, as he's the faster and more explosive standup fighter. But experience-wise, Woodley has only fought 13-times compared to Koscheck's 26 fights. In addition, the 35-year old Koscheck could be facing potential unemployment with a loss on Saturday night, so I expect him to be hungrier than his younger adversary.
Look for the Dethrone Basecamp founder to have an impressive showing, as he'll outpoint Woodley over three rounds and earn a unanimous decision victory.
Koscheck via unanimous decision
Exactly what Lynch said, Woodley is the faster and more explosive standup fighter. Koscheck is on the decline ever since his loss to Georges St-Pierre back at UFC 124. If you think about it, his last big win really was against Paul Daley at UFC 113 and that was back in May of 2010.
Woodley meanwhile, had a close loss to Jake Shields and also knocked out tough IFL veteran Jay Hieron in his UFC debut. Koscheck has been knocked out before, expect the same thing to happen again on Saturday night, as Woodley will connect, sometime in the second round.
Woodley via second round knockout
Tim Elliot vs. Ali Bagautinov
In a bout that is sure to bring fireworks to open up the main card, 26-year old Elliot takes on Jackson MMA product Bagautinov in a flyweight affair.
The 10-3-1 Elliot is on a two-fight win streak since dropping his promotional debut to John Dodson back at UFC on FOX 3.
The Russian Bagautinov meanwhile is coming of an impressive UFC debut when he knocked out Marcos Vinicius back at UFC Fight Night 28.
Expect the Grindhouse MMA product Elliot to come out more aggressive and outpoint his opponent over three rounds to earn the judge's decision.
Elliot via unanimous decision
What better way to ring in the 20th year of business than a fly weight action packed event. The lights will come up and these two athletes will go at it with a lot of speed and explosive athleticism.
Tim Elliot vs Ali Bagautinov has the potential to be the fight of the night. Elliot got a lot of attention when he debuted to a fight with John Dodson, that's a tough way to earn a living.
Elliot won the fight convincingly and if that's how he comes out against Bagautinov I expect a fantastic fight, and another TKO for Tim Elliot.
Elliot via 2nd round TKO
Lynch: Dunham, Leites, Story, Perez, High, Pettis, Villante
JC: Cerrone, Leites, Story, Perez, High, Campuzano, Villante
Also be sure to tune into the "Weigh-In" on TSN Radio 1290 Winnipeg every Saturday as myself, Jordan and "Big Marv" Timog go toe to toe discussing the hottest topics in MMA.