UFC 167 predictions
The progression of massive pay-per-view events to close out 2013 continues this weekend as UFC 167 hits the Octagon at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, with as 12-fight line-up capped by welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre defending his title against heavy-hitting No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks.
Saturday’s event celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the UFC, and promises to be every bit as exciting as last week’s two events that produced 17 finishes in 24 fights. With a closely matched championship main event and a handful of potentially explosive pairings, UFC 167 will be a closely contested evening of entertaining fights.
Those types of events are great to watch, but tough to predict. We’ll try our best anyway.
Georges St-Pierre (24-2) vs. Johny Hendricks (15-1)
As impressive as Hendricks has been on during his climb to this championship bout, there’s no way to pick against the titleholder here.
Every time the next dangerous challenger arrives on the scene, St-Pierre weathers the storm and proves once again why he’s managed to maintain ownership of the welterweight strap through his last eight title fights. Though he doesn’t have the collegiate credentials of Hendricks, St-Pierre has shown time and again that he has the wrestling skills to hang with anyone in the cage.
What really separates the champion from the pack is his ability to find ways to shut down their offense and grind out victories. At times, that draws the ire of fight fans, but it gets the job done, and St-Pierre will use his own wrestling skills to once again retain the title.
Prediction: Georges St-Pierre by Unanimous Decision
Rashad Evans (18-3-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (28-13-1)
This is such a curious match-up, as Evans has looked mediocre over his last three fights, while Sonnen turned in a tremendous showing this past summer, but already has his sights set on a more personal match-up with Wanderlei Silva following their stint coaching on TUF: Brazil.
Evans has the superior striking, but he’s been hesitant to pull the trigger in recent outings, which is something you never have to worry about with Sonnen. Whenever he steps into the cage, you can count on “The Bad Guy” driving through takedowns and working to secure a victory.
As much as his next engagement is already booked, Sonnen will be well prepared for this fight, and should wrestle his way to another win before packing for his impending trip to Brazil.
Prediction: Chael Sonnen by Unanimous Decision
Rory MacDonald (15-1) vs. Robbie Lawler (21-9)
MacDonald has been tabbed as the heir apparent in the welterweight division for the last two years, and this should be another opportunity for him to validity those expectations. As great as Lawler has looked during his recent resurgence, the young Canadian is on a different level than the opponents “Ruthless” has faced of late.
This bout feels like it was put together to draw an electric performance out of MacDonald, and that should be what happens. “Ares” is a tactical and strategic fighter, but he’s also skilled everywhere and packs more power and finishing instincts than he’s shown of late.
With championship gold on the line in the main event, expect the man many foresee holding that belt in the future to make a statement in this one.
Prediction: Rory MacDonald by Submission, Round 2
Josh Koscheck (17-7) vs. Tyron Woodley (12-2)
The third welterweight battle on the UFC 167 main card is a pivotal contest for two fighters looking to make a run in the deep and talented 170-pound ranks in 2014. Unfortunately for one of these two, a loss could put them out of the mix for good.
Koscheck hasn’t competed since being knocked out by Lawler back in February, and hasn’t won since earning a split decision win over Mike Pierce in February 2012. Combined with the fact that he’s 35 and Woodley matches him skill-for-skill puts the member of the TUF 1 cast on a three-fight losing streak when this one is done.
As bad as he looked against Jake Shields in June – and he looked bad – Woodley is the more physical of the two, and will bring a different kind of urgency to this bout than his tenured opponent.
It could be a grind or it could end in a flash. Either way, it will end with Woodley having his hand raised.
Prediction: Tyron Woodley by TKO, Round 1
Tim Elliott (10-3-1) vs. Ali Bagautinov (11-2)
Bagautinov earned a knockout win in his UFC debut, but Elliot is the selection here.
While “The Russian Invasion” has produced myriad wins of late, Elliott has faced far superior competition in the Octagon, including dominant wins over Louis Gaudinot and Jared Papazian.
The Team Grindhouse fighter is an active, aggressive striker who never stops coming forward and has yet to show any issues with condition through three fast-paced fights in the UFC. Given that Bagautinov wore down during his first foray into the cage, expect Elliott to press the pace right out of the gate and not give his opponent a chance to find his rhythm and get rolling.
Prediction: Tim Elliott by Unanimous Decision
Donald Cerrone (20-6) vs. Evan Dunham (14-4)
This one should be fun, and stands as an early favorite for Fight of the Night.
Both men are coming off losses to Rafael dos Anjos – Dunham in May, Cerrone in August – and will likely end up standing toe-to-toe slinging leather from start to finish. Normally that’s right in Cerrone’s wheelhouse, but is the kind of technical striker with a good chin that can get the better of “Cowboy” here.
If he needs to, Dunham has the wrestling ability to take Cerrone to the canvas, but it’s more likely that he’ll trade strikes with the former WEC star, and beat him at his own game. Dunham has solid power, clean technique, and tends to loosen up once he’s been punched in the face a time or two.
Prediction: Evan Dunham by Unanimous Decision
Thales Leites (21-4) vs. Ed Herman (21-9)
Leites looked good in his return to the UFC, but the conditioning issues he showed in the past resurfaced as he tired late, and Herman should be able to exploit that here.
After earning a split decision win over Trevor Smith this summer, Herman is back in the win column, and fully capable of turning back the Brazilian here. He has the wrestling base to make Leites work for his takedowns, and better striking, especially in close.
The only concern will be if Herman tries to beat Leites as his own game, something he did in an awkward losing effort against Jake Shields at UFC 150. As long as he sticks to keeping it standing and working his striking, Herman should earn another victory here.
Prediction: Ed Herman by TKO, Round 3
Rick Story (15-7) vs. Brian Ebersole (50-15-1)
Ebersole hasn’t fought since last July when he was out-wrestled by James Head in Calgary. As he returns to the cage, he’s welcomed back by a compact, powerful wrestler with heavy hands, and the result should be the same.
Story is aggressive and suffocating, and will come forward after Ebersole from the outset. Though the man who sports “The Hairrow” on his chest has a strong wrestling base of his own, he’s more of a finesse fighter, and Story’s strength will be the difference.
Look for the Brave Legion fighter to fire off heavy hands coming in, dominate the clinch, and hit the repeat button on that approach as many times as necessary in order to put a stamp on another win.
Prediction: Rick Story by Unanimous Decision
Erik Perez (13-5) vs. Edwin Figueroa (9-3)
“Goyito” was given a step up in competition last time out, and was handed a loss by veteran Takeya Mizugaki. He drops back down the competitive ladder this time around, and should return to the win column with a dominant performance against Figueroa.
Perez will press the action, and put Figueroa away with relative ease, reminding everyone that he’s still a solid prospect in the bantamweight ranks.
Prediction: Erik Perez by TKO, Round 1
Anthony Lapsley (22-5) vs. Jason High (17-4)
High earned his first UFC win with a quick submission finish of James Head last time out, and should continue rolling here as he welcomes the 33-year-old veteran Lapsley to the Octagon for the first time.
“The Kansas City Bandit” has tremendous wrestling and a very good submission game, both of which should be on display here.
Prediction: Jason High by Submission, Round 1
Sergio Pettis (9-0) vs. Will Campuzano (13-4)
Campuzano steps up on really short notice to face Pettis in his inaugural UFC appearance, and should be more of a test than Vaughan Lee would have been.
Still, this is a showcase opportunity for Pettis, who is less polished than his older brother, UFC lightweight champion Anthony, but shows the same kind of championship potential “Showtime” exhibited during his time in the WEC.
Campuzano likes to bang and it will cost him, as the younger half of the UFC’s latest brother act to grace the cage will light him up with lightning quick hands and kicks before putting him away.
Prediction: Sergio Pettis by TKO, Round 1
Gian Villante (10-3) vs. Cody Donovan (8-3)
Villante replaces Robert Drysdale in the opener, and while his willingness to step in is admirable, the lack of prep time will cost him here.
Donovan is coming off a first-round loss, and should be a little less willing to jump into a slugfest this time around. Working in the clinch and draining Villante’s reserves should be his plan of attack, which will open things up for a late round finish.
Prediction: Cody Donovan by Submission, Round 3