That’s right beards and girls, it’s time for another November edition of the Downes Side! No, we’re not talking about the Swedish band, but I give you my solemn vow that it will rock.
Looming larger than Mount Everest, the UFC returns to the Mandalay Bay Events Center for UFC 167. The greatest welterweight in UFC history, Georges St-Pierre tries to add to his legacy with a twelfth title win. Standing in his way will be Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks. An NCAA Div. I champion with one-punch knockout power, Hendricks may be GSP’s most dangerous challenger to date. In the co-main event of the evening, Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans trade in their microphones for four-ounce gloves to crown the true king of the analysts.
Tim Elliott (10-3-1) vs Ali Bagautinov (11-2)
The main card begins in the flyweight division with Tim Elliott and Ali Bagautinov. While he may look better suited for Amish woodworking than fighting, Elliott’s wrestling and aggression helped him drill out back-to-back wins over Jared Papazian and Louis Gaudinot. The self-proclaimed “Puncher King,” Bagautinov steps into the Octagon for the second time after a third-round TKO over Marcos Vinicius in September.
Elliott’s strength can also be his weakness: His unorthodox style keeps his opponents on their heels, but it also leaves a lot of openings. Bagautinov will keep his composure and not allow the wild, errant strikes to take him off his game. He’ll hold his ground, shake off the takedowns and counter effectively. Eventually the damage will add up and the Puncher King retains his crown with another third-round TKO.
Josh Koscheck (19-7) vs Tyron Woodley (11-2)
We move up to welterweight for Josh Koscheck and Tyron Woodley. A TUF 1 alumnus whose wrestling ability is only dwarfed by his charisma, the man known as Kos is on a two-fight skid after losing to Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler (the latter coming via first-round KO). A former Strikeforce standout, Woodley has a wrestling background of his own along with some serious knockout power.
This is an extremely tight matchup. Both fighters have high-level wrestling and a fondness for the overhand right. The major difference between the two lies in Woodley’s speed and knockout power advantage. Jake Shields was able to negate his physicality by stalling him out. Fortunately for T-Wood, Koscheck is better at grinding your gears than his opponents. As long as Woodley’s conditioning holds up, he’ll be able to beat Koscheck to the punch and one of those big right hands will find the mark. Woodley wins with the TKO in the 2nd.
Rory MacDonald (15-1) vs Robbie Lawler (21-9 1NC)
We stay at welterweight for a fight with major title repercussions as Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler square off. Considered by many to be the heir apparent to teammate George St. Pierre’s throne, MacDonald has the well-rounded skill set that could very well make that a reality. After a Strikeforce tenure filled with ups and downs, Lawler has experienced a resurgence in the UFC. The most dangerous southpaw since Jack the Ripper, Lawler has two straight TKO wins, over Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker.
MacDonald did not earn any new fans with his lackluster performance against Jake Ellenberger in July. Yes, he was content to stand on the outside and jab, but part of that was because Ellenberger never challenged him. Robbie Lawler won’t let that happen -- he’ll bring the fight to MacDonald. Rory MacDonald is a smart fighter. Not because he probably knows a dozen different tie knots, but because knows not to stand and go toe to toe with a striker of Lawler’s capabilities. "Ruthless" Robbie’s style is high risk/high reward. He swings big, but he misses big, too. Rory will time Lawler’s strikes and put him on his back. If Revenge of the Nerds taught us anything, it’s that smarts can beat braun. Rory MacDonald works his way to a fashionable unanimous decision win.
Chael Sonnen (29-13-1) vs Rashad Evans (23-3-1)
We jump up to light heavyweight for the co-main event. Even though he’s already agreed to coach The Ultimate Fighter Brasil against Wanderlei Silva, Chael P. Sonnen must first take care of business in Las Vegas. After losing only one fight in his first twenty, Rashad Evans has gone through a bit of a rough patch dropping two of his last three (even his win over Dan Henderson at UFC 161 was lackluster). Despite that, the TUF 2 winner’s wrestling and kickboxing should not be underestimated.
No matter who he’s facing, Chael Sonnen fights the same way: Rush forward, get the takedown, repeat. His boxing has steadily improved, but his punches are used more for cover fire than to cause damage. “Suga” should be to avoid these attacks and circle away from the tie-up. I see this playing out similar to Rashad’s fight against Phil Davis. He’ll avoid the prolonged engagements and force Sonnen to shoot from the outside. This will make the takedowns easier to defend and give him the opportunity to attack off the break. Evans uses his more diverse striking techniques and speed to take the unanimous decision. Even though he’ll lose the fight, I’m sure West Linn, Oregon's most dangerous man will find some way to turn it around and mock Wanderlei. Ah, a master and his craft...
Georges St-Pierre (24-2) vs Johny Hendricks (15-1)
Time for the main event of the evening! Name a record and GSP probably holds it. The most dominant welterweight ever, he holds the UFC record for most wins, takedowns and strikes landed. He hasn’t lost a match since Matt Serra shocked the world that fateful evening in April 2007. Riding a six-fight win streak, Johny Hendricks’ path to the title is owed in large part to his wrestling and a vicious left hand.
Bigg Rigg’s win over Carlos Condit may have been the most important of his career, but it showed his weaknesses. His over-reliance on the left hand caused him to attack recklessly and break composure. Couple that with his tendency to wear out and things do not look good for the Oklahoman powerhouse. Say what you want about GSP’s lack of finishing ability, no one has come close to ending his reign. GSP will score his jab and that will make Hendricks impatient. As he winds up for a big shot, St-Pierre will slide in and put him on his back. He won’t be able to hold him down, but he’ll take him down with regularity. As Hendricks fatigues, GSP might catch a submission in the fourth or fifth, but the most likely outcome is Georges St-Pierre by unanimous decision.
That wraps up another National Pomegranate Month edition of the Downes Side! Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes and don’t forget to leave your own, thoughts, predictions, tirades and favorite Swedish rock bands on the page here. Truth be told, I’ve always been a sucker for The Cardigans.
The Downes Side: UFC 167 Predictions
UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy, betting odds and predictions for UFC 167, taking place Saturday, November 16.