For six years Georges St-Pierre has dominated the UFC's welterweight division, prevailing through, to borrow a popular phrase from UFC President Dana White, "a murderers row" of contenders. From UFC hall of famer and MMA legend Matt Hughes, and the "Prodigy" BJ Penn, to more recent triumphs over marquee welterweights, Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz.
Although Speculation over GSP’s continuing prowess percolated through the MMA world following his return to Octagon action last November, after over a year out due to a knee injury, no one was in any real doubt that he would successfully defend his championship. The same sentiment is not shared by journalists, commentators and fans when predicting the outcome of the much anticipated welterweight championship bout at UFC 167.
Many believe that Johny Hendricks is poised to finally prize the belt from the long reigning Canadian, or at the very least perceive him to be GSP’s fiercest challenge to date. Hendricks’ extraordinary knock out power, which he carries in both hands, and an accomplished grappling game are the keys many believe to him emerging victorious on November 16.
I believe this confidence in Hendricks is unfounded for the following reasons.
The only credible approach to predicting this fight is to apply a comparative analysis of their respective performances against the same opponents. St-Pierre and Hendricks have both defeated welterweight contenders Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit in similar fashion, by way of the judge’s scorecards. St Pierre has defeated Koscheck twice, and twice quite comfortably by unanimous decision. Hendricks’ encounter with Koscheck was a much closer affair, one could even make a case for Koscheck being the victor, the judge’s split decision a testament to that effect. This contrast in performances was again apparent in their fights against Carlos Condit. Despite GSP being rocked by a crisply delivered head kick by the hands (or rather the shin) of the Natural Born Killer, he was able to retain his championship in typical smothering style.
However, when Hendricks encountered Condit, the contest was…well a CONTEST. Hendricks dominated the preliminary rounds, displaying excellent vicissitudes in his offence. By the third round though, Hendricks was visibly tired, allowing Condit to make more of an impression on the fight. It is not inconceivable that had the fight been allocated championship rounds, Condit could have come out on top, being the better conditioned of the two. Obviously these facts do not determine the outcome of this Saturdays bout, the over used cliché "styles make fights" does have a degree of merit, and this is MMA after all. Even a clairvoyant oracle with a crystal ball and keys to Doc Brown’s Delorean may find themselves puzzled by MMA results now and again (Matt Serra anyone?).
Hendricks has the tools on paper, but GSP will prove too much for him come Saturday night. Perhaps Hendricks’ wonderfully cultivated beard will see him trough, the USA’s national soccer team goalkeeper Tim Howard, has achieved three consecutive clean sheets (not conceded a goal ,for US soccerphobes) for his UK club Everton, he has attributed this success to his rather outstanding crop of facial fur. This will not be Hendricks’ talisman I fear, in fact it won’t even be a close shave for GSP.