UFC 167 takes place tomorrow night and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights on the card below.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
Hendricks is a solid wrestler and possesses devastating power in his left hand which means he can test GSP wherever the fight goes, but I’m still not convinced he’s going to dethrone the champion.
For one thing, despite his power I wouldn’t exactly classify him as a KO specialist. Generally his big finishes have come early in the fight – in fact the last three all came in under two minutes. Pushing beyond that he’s not quite as dangerous, and in fact, of his 11 fights in the UFC to date, six have gone the distance.
Wrestling wise I still think GSP holds the edge as he’s just world class when it comes to using it in MMA and has dealt with other high level wrestlers like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes in the past. I don’t see Hendricks bringing anything to the table there that’s going to be too daunting for him.
Beyond that GSP is a better strategist, is quicker and in general is the superior athlete. He’ll be well trained to avoid Hendricks left hand, and if he does so then this is his fight to win. It’s possible he could claim a submission finish in the championship rounds, but more likely he gets the better of Hendricks both on the mat and on the feet over five rounds to earn a decision victory.
GSP to win by decision
Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen has admitted he was reluctant to fight Evans since they are friends and broadcasting colleagues, but I think if truth be told he could also see that this was a bad match-up for him.
Stand-up wise Evans has the bigger power and the faster hands of the two. His problem is that he’s often too cautious, but while Sonnen is decent on the feet, he doesn’t pack much of a punch and I think we’ll see a more confident Evans in the striking exchanges than in some of his other recent fights.
Evans is also a very good wrestler which is going to be a problem for Sonnen as that’s generally the area of the fight where he has the upper-hand. I think he’ll have a hard time taking the former champion down and in the clinch he’ll finds Evans to be the stronger man.
The only concern I have is that Evans seems to have lost some of his spark in recent fights, but this is a good opportunity for him to shine on the big stage and I think he’s going to outclass Sonnen en-route to a win on the scorecards.
Rashad Evans to win by decision.
Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald
It’s been a pleasure to watch Lawler’s resurgence in the UFC at 170lbs, but he’s going to have to do something really special to emerge victorious against MacDonald.
Unquestionably Lawler has the great KO power – that’s true in pretty much any fight he’s put in as he’s a world class finisher – and he’s also looked more dynamic than we’ve seen him in the past since moving down to welterweight. So, that’s definitely his best chance of beating his opponent, but MacDonald has grown into a very capable striker himself, and while he doesn’t have Lawler’s heavy hands, he’s technically very good, has the reach advantage and can piece together combinations of punches and kicks slickly which makes him a threat.
Elsewhere, Lawler does have wrestling skills, but MacDonald should have the edge in the grappling exchanges and may look to take the fight to the mat early and often to assert his authority.
Lawler will look to turn this into the kind of brawl that he excels in, but I don’t see MacDonald being sucked into that and he should be able to mix up striking from range with takedowns and ground and pound to win out here.
Rory MacDonald to win by decision.
Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley
This is a bit of a tough call as these two are fairly evenly watched with wrestling being their strongest suit, though they’re more than happy to let their fists fly too and are capable in that regard – though not world-beaters.
The biggest thing for me here is whether Koscheck is motivated or not. I think he’s lost some of the spring in his step in his second defeat to GSP. He knows he’s going to struggle to get another title shot, he’s suffered some tough injuries and at 35 he’s entering the twilight of his career.
Woodley’s younger and more motivated as he’s still to really make his mark in the sport. He generally fights at a higher-tempo than Koscheck and if he does that on the night, mixing things up with striking, clinch work and some takedown attempts then he can outwork him out in what’s likely to be a close encounter.
Tyron Woodley to win by decision.
Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov
This has the potential to be an entertaining flyweight encounter with both men having something to offer in all aspects of this fight, throwing caution to the wind on the feet and also having the ability to mix it up on the ground.
I’m reluctant to pick against any Russian in the UFC at the moment since they are on something of a roll at the moment and I do think that Elliott sometimes leaves himself opened to be countered in the striking and that’ll cost him here as Bagautinov catches him with some big punches to earn a TKO victory.
Ali Bagautinov to win by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham
Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites
Rick Story vs. Brian Ebersole
Erik Perez vs. Edwin Figueroa
Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley
Sergio Pettis vs. Will Campuzano
Cody Donovan vs. Gian Villante