Georges St-Pierre (24-2, 18-2 UFC) vs. Johny Hendricks (15-1, 10-1 UFC), at UFC 167
Here we are, finally, the main event of UFC 167 and arguably the biggest fight of 2013. Champion GSP takes on a guy that is likely the most interesting and dangerous challenger he has faced in quite a while, and that is saying a lot considering Georges is the champ and every guy he faces is incredible.
Canada’s beloved Georges St-Pierre has always had something special since he entered MMA in 2002 with good looks, skills, and athleticism in abundance. Unsurprisingly, over a decade later Georges stands atop the MMA world. Georges entered MMA primarily with a kyokushin karate background having also dabbled in BJJ and boxing. Fighting respectable opposition since day 1 he’s obviously done incredibly well, having avenged both of his losses at least once (2X for Matt Hughes) and at 32 years old doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. Over the years GSP has received top notch training and has the skills to show for it. Training wrestling with world champion Guivi Sissaouri, training boxing with Olympian Howard Grant and Freddie Roach, and having a host of world class instructors in Muay Thai, BJJ, strength & conditioning, and even gymnastics means Georges is likely the best trained martial artist to walk the earth, ever! Aside from his expansive skill set, Georges has become an expert in everything from game planning, to visualization, to sports psychology, he is the consummate professional mixed martial artist. Being at such a high level in so many facets of the game affords Georges some luxuries that other fighters, even world class ones, do not get. He blends concepts from karate with his wrestling to better master distance and timing making his takedowns very unique and effective. He compliments boxing with Muay Thai, and even uses gymnastics to upgrade his BJJ. And if that’s not enough, in the past year or 2 Georges has revealed increased toughness and resolve that allowed him to survive vicious attacks from Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz. If I had to highlight a weakness, and I’m reaching here, I’d say his chin is not the best (not bad either) and he is at times, not mean enough.
Interestingly, Johny Hendricks has a great chin (that beard!) and in the cage is mean enough to give Clubber Lang a run for his money. He is also very successful in the 1 thing that GSP seems to rely on more than anything else, wrestling. Johny was a state and junior national champion wrestler in high school and later a 2X NCAA Champ. He was so good that when he switched to MMA after college USA Wrestling started paying its wrestlers via the “Living the Dream Fund” to not follow suit. For such a good wrestler, Johny surprised everyone by scoring several KO’s to start his MMA career and within 2 years of his pro debut Johny was in the UFC. Oddly enough the power in his hands has become even scarier as he has fought better and better fighters and now his striking is his most formidable weapon. Johny hasn’t flashed much in the way of submission skills (1 d’arce choke) but according to guys like Joe Rogan and Frank Mir, Johny has embarrassed his fair share of BJJ black belts in the training room thanks to his training under Marc Laimon. Johny couples his skills with immense physical strength on a stocky frame and is actually considerably larger than GSP, supposedly being a solid 200+ lbs between fights. His cardio is good and it carried him through tough fights with Josh Koscheck, Mike Pierce, and Carlos Condit. Johny’s only MMA loss came to fellow UFC 167 fighter Rick Story. Rick was able to tie up and slow down Johny enough to win a decision based largely on his edge in the striking and clinching battles. Hendricks aka “Big Rig” has rebounded from that loss nicely and continues to impress.
This fight is creating a lot of excitement and uncertainty among odds makers. As it stands, the bookies have GSP the favorite, a title he has earned, but Hendricks is making them nervous. Will Johny continue to steamroll guys with his wrestling and numbing punching power? Or will GSP use superior athleticism and diversity to outclass the challenger? My guess is GSP will use his patented jab and movement to frustrate Johny, trying to seal each round with a late takedown or big strike. Johny is always one punch away from victory but GSP is not a risk taker and he won’t cave to pressure from fans to “bang it out”. GSP could be starting to think about his legacy and may push a tad harder than usual for a finish; otherwise we get another UD for defending champion, George “RUSHHH” St-Pierre!!!! (Bruce Buffer voice).