The UFC celebrates their 20 year anniversary this week and it all culminates Saturday night inside the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for UFC 167. One of the most dominant athletes we’ve seen in Georges St-Pierre will be defending his welterweight title against the heavy handed Johny Hendricks. Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans will occupy the co-main event slot in a light heavyweight battle. Remember you can find full coverage of the event right here at ProMMAnow (www.prommanow.com). Our educated panel of writers have come together to give you our predictions on the evening.
Tim Elliott (10-3-1) vs. Ali Bagautinov (11-2)
Brian Furby : Ali Bagautinov
Gary Thomas: Some have questioned why this fight is even on the main card. Building the flyweight division has been a process and this fight could be a great example of what the division can offer. Elliott is a tough guy who has put together back to back wins but may run into trouble against the very ferocious Russian. Bagautinov has finished his last four opponents and can bring the heat. I think Ali will be too much in this one. Pick – Bagautinov via TKO Round 2.
Jack Bratcher: Twenty-eight year-old Russian wrestling and sambo master Ali Bagautinov is on a 9 fight win streak; 10 in Russia, one in the UFC — a third round TKO of Marcos Vinicius last month. Five of his 11 wins have come via KO while four have been via submission. He’s one of Jackson MMA’s up-and-coming iron curtain. Tim Elliott is an RFA vet who is 2-1 inside the UFC. He lost to John Dodson via decision in his UFC debut in May 2012. Elliott’s biggest win was a second round KO of Jens Pulver at RFA 1. His UFC wins include decisions over Jared Papazian and Louis Gaudinot. This fight is a bit of a toss up for me, but I’m going with Bagautinov. Russian power. Pick – Ali Bagautinov
Kelvin Hunt: Bagautinov via whatever he wants. Pick – Bagautinov
Jan Gaetjens: Elliot will need this fight to go the judges if he wants to come away with a win, but going the distance with the hard hitting Russian, no less winning at least two of said rounds, is a pretty tall order. Bagautinov by (T)KO
Josh Koschek (17-7) vs. Tyron Woodley (11-2)
Brian Furby: Tyron Woodley
Gary Thomas: The TUF Season 1 vet steps inside the cage for the 23rd time in the UFC. He has been to the peak of the weight class but has been lackluster in recent outings. Woodley is a guy that can battle and has huge potential. I think Kos can make this his fight but I don’t think he can out point Woodley at all. Pick – Tyron Woodley via Decision
Jack Bratcher: Koscheck’s best days are behind him, while Woodley has yet to reach his full potential. Koscheck is a solid veteran and wrestler with power in his punches, but I don’t feel he has the advantage over Woodley in any area but experience. While Woodley may not finish Koscheck, I see him winning this fight. Pick – Woodley.
Kelvin Hunt: Koscheck is past his prime and has been dealing with a lot of injuries over the past couple of years. He’s still a very tough out for anybody in the welterweight division. However, I think Woodley has enough to grind out a decision win here. Pick – Woodley
Jan Gaetjens :While the expectation is undoubtedly that Woodley will take shot after shot until he gets Koscheck to the ground, don’t be surprised if Woodley uses the threat of the takedown to bait Koscheck into changing levels and leave himself open to power punches. Woodley may be known for his wrestling, but he’s shown time and time again that he’s more than willing to win fights with his hands. Woodley by (T)KO
Rory MacDonald (15-1) vs. Robbie Lawler (21-9)
Brian Furby: Rory MacDonald
Gary Thomas: What about the resurgence of Lawler? He has looked great in his last two fights. MacDonald is coming off a less than stellar outing against Jake Ellenberger but will not have time to worry about that as Lawler will press the action. MacDonald is tough and can be the future of the welterweight division but it I think it is Lawler’s time to shine Saturday night. Pick- Robbie Lawler via KO
Jack Bratcher: Now training with ATT, Lawler seems to have really finally put it all together. To me, he’s never looked better. His ferocity, power and experience could give anyone fits. Look for MacDonald to take this fight to the ground and try and grind Lawler out. I think Lawler will be prepared for that. Pick -Lawler with the win by knockout.
Kevin Hunt: Lawler is crazy power, but lacks the technical skills to hang with MacDonald on the feet. Pick – MacDonald by Unanimous Decision.
Jan Gaetjens: Let me first go on record and say that I love this current incarnation of Robbie Lawler; flash knockouts are what he does best, and it’s great to see him back to putting lights out. That said, MacDonald is too smart to get caught up in a swing for the fences slug fest against Lawler. You tend to learn a thing or two about effective three round game planning when you hang out with GSP. Pick -MacDonald by decision
Chael Sonnen (29-13) vs. Rashad Evans (20-3)
Brian Furby: Rashad Evans
Gary Thomas: Chael submitted Shogun. He’s been in epic battles. He is also a bit friendly with Evans. Not sure how that plays into the picture but some have questioned Sonnen and how serious he has been about this fight. He has TUF Brazil waiting in the wings so a loss doesn’t do much to slow him down. Rashad Evans was at the top of the food chain and has since been trying to work his way back up. A win over Chael would help get his name back atop the light heavyweights. Pick – Rashad Evans by Decision.
Jack Bratcher: This is an interesting match-up of styles. Look for Sonnen to get in Evans face with punches and close the distance looking for the takedown. Evans will try and counter with big punches and stuff the shot, maybe looking for takedowns of his own. Sonnen’s only losses since 2009 have come against world champions Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. Evans is too wishy washy lately and therefore I’m picking Sonnen who always at least comes in hungry for the win. I could see Sonnen locking up a guillotine during a scramble or grinding out the decision. Pick – Chael Sonnen
Kelvin Hunt: Sonnen’s one advantage is that he fights coming straight forward and is absolutely relentless. However, Evans has the speed advantage and the power advantage on the feet. Pick – Rashad Evans by Decision.
Jan Gaetjens: Don’t preemptively write this fight off as a glorified wrestling match; Chael P. is going to win this one by virtue of his ability to land significant strikes while keeping his opponents grounded. Sonnen by decision
UFC Welterweight Title
Johny Hendricks (15-1) vs. Georges St-Pierre (24-2)
Brian Furby: Johny Hendricks
Gary Thomas: Since Matt Serra pulled off the biggest win in UFC history there has been no one able to stop GSP. He has dominant wrestling for MMA and is slick enough on his feet to do damage and evade punishment. Impressive as it is, I think the streak ends Saturday night. I think Hendricks defends the take down and finishes the champ. Pick – Johny Hendricks by KO
Jack Bratcher: I believe we are going to have a new Welterweight champion Saturday night. While GSP’s well-roundedness and MMA I.Q. is in a class all its own, he has to spend five rounds against a wrestler who should be able to stop the takedowns at least some of the time and who has big power in his hands. During these five rounds, Hendricks will close the distance and land that bomb that will lead to the end of GSP’s reign as champ. Pick – Johny Hendricks
Kelvin Hunt: Hendricks has a puncher’s chance and that’s about it. GSP is the better wrestler(in MMA), better striker, and has better cardio and the better submission game. I can see Hendricks landing an early bomb to womble the champion and possibly finishing him, but GSP has shown the ability to recover very quickly…so the odds of that happening are pretty slim in my opinion. I think GSP finally stops this one before it goes to the judges. Pick -GSP via submission
Jan Gaetjens: Remember that time I called Weidman over Silva? Good, because you’ll get no such upset special out of me here. GSP is still the godfather of MMA game-planning. GSP by decision