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The Forward Roll: UFC 158 edition

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Last Saturday was one of those increasingly rare nights when we felt like we left an event with some real clarity about what's next for more than one star. Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks set a date to meet up after capturing decisions in the UFC 158 main event, and co-main event, respectively.

The way they did it had similar elements, but played out quite differently. St-Pierre had nine takedowns while Hendricks actually outdid him with 12 in just three rounds. Yet despite that, no one would argue that St-Pierre matched Hendricks in the riskiness of his game plan. Hendricks is alternately comfortable brawling and grappling, and is capable of switching tracks in an instant. On Saturday, Hendricks waited for Condit to get off before countering. That's a dangerous play against a finisher, but he did it with a great deal of success. St-Pierre was far more conservative with both his striking and ground games. His best punch on Saturday night was the jab, which he used both offensively and defensively to out-box his rangy opponent. On the ground, he rarely tried to leave Diaz's guard, content to control him and cherry-pick shots to the head and body.

The similarity of their ability to control an opponent along with the contrasting nature of their risk aversion is what makes St-Pierre vs. Hendricks so intriguing. St-Pierre sees his opponents as math problems, but Hendricks can't be so easily distilled; he's a wild card. The early read has to be for St-Pierre, who shows a much more diverse striking game and mastery of all-around MMA, but if Hendricks can take away his security blanket and force him into more of a firefight, the odds start moving back towards the middle.

On to the predictions …

Nick Diaz
We have to preface this by reminding ourselves that we really have no idea what he will do next. He could retire. He could decide he wants to be a pro triathlete. He could go to jail for tax evasion. Anything seems possible. Diaz doesn't like the grind, but I think that deep within, he still has that burning desire to compete. It just has to be scratched by the right opponent. From that standpoint, there is only one matchup that makes sense.
Prediction: He faces Carlos Condit in a rematch of their 2012 fight

Carlos Condit
If you wanted to package the perfect spirit of an MMA fighter, you would go to Condit, who brought hell to Hendricks for 15 minutes, the same way he did to St-Pierre for 25, and on and on. If you've never wrestled, you have no idea how grueling it is to try to stop the shot of a four-time NCAA champion, let alone to work back to your feet time after time after time. Condit not only did that; he was in good enough shape to turn the heat up highest in the last round. It wasn't enough to win the decision, but it was a grade-A display of guts and will. I know Condit still wants the Rory MacDonald rematch, but it doesn't really make sense right now. With both him and Diaz in the midst of two-fight losing streaks, it's now or never for the rematch.
Prediction: He fights Diaz. However, if Diaz decides he's going to retire or take a few months off before deciding, a Condit vs. Martin Kampmann rematch will work.

Jake Ellenberger
This man is essentially a right-handed Hendricks, is he not? Thunderous punches, excellent wrestling. No wonder he has repeatedly called out Hendricks. Of course, he's not getting Hendricks any time soon, unless St-Pierre suffers an injury or decides to move forward with a super fight or something else crazy happens. More likely is a matchup with another top five welterweight that will help the division determine it's next top contender.
Prediction: He faces Demian Maia

Chris Camozzi
Camozzi snuck by Nick Ring in a fight during which he was out-landed by Ring 86-67, according to FightMetric. The victory gives him four wins in a row, but I still don't forecast a major name for him quite yet.
Prediction: He faces Brad Tavares

Patrick Cote
Cote looked physically better than he has in years, and his new diet should help him to extend his career, but most believe he should have lost a decision to Bobby Voelker. With that lucky break in his back pocket, he looks to do some damage in the welterweight division.
Prediction: He's matched up with another fighter who recently made the move to 170, Court McGee

Jordan Mein
It was a truly stellar debut for Mein, who became the first man to stop Dan Miller. Among the opponents who had previously faced Miller: Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Michael Bisping, Nate Marquardt and Rousimar Palhares. Yet it was a young 23-year-old who pulled off the trick. With the result, there is now expectation moving forward, but Mein should not be moved ahead too quickly.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC 159 matchup between James Head and Nick Catone

John Makdessi
Makdessi showed some true smarts and poise in defeating the flashy Daron Cruickshank. Makdessi got off to a slow start in the first round, but as it went along, you could tell that he was sizing up his opponent, figuring out his reach, timing and tendencies. And as he did so, he got more and more comfortable, sometimes anticipating what Cruickshank was doing, other times countering perfectly. That allowed him to sweep the last two rounds and earn the win.
Prediction: He faces the winner of the UFC on FUEL 9 matchup between Ross Pearson and Ryan Couture

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