UFC 154 has arrived, and we’re finally going to get to see Georges St-Pierre in the Octagon once again. But there are some other really good fights on the card as well. Here are my thoughts:
(I’m not posting ELO ratings this time because I’m still working out some kinks with that system.)
MAIN EVENT: 170 LBS – Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit
I already gave a lot of my thoughts on this fight yesterday. If St-Pierre is the same fighter he was before, he wins, and it probably won’t be very competitive. If St-Pierre is somewhat diminished, as I think he will be, he’ll struggle more than usual, and perhaps lose a round, but ultimately end up victorious. And there is a distinct possibility that St-Pierre will have lost so much athleticism that Condit lights him up and pulls off the upset. All of these scenarios have to be acknowledged.
Where I’ll give St-Pierre credit is that he’s not just a great athlete, he’s a very cerebral fighter. That’s one thing his ACL injury won’t affect. I anticipate that even if St-Pierre has diminished physically, that he’ll have enough mental strength to execute a smart game plan and win this fight. Carlos Condit still has below-average takedown defense, and St-Pierre is likely to take full advantage of that, taking Condit down repeatedly and beating him on the ground.
CO-MAIN EVENT: 170 LBS – Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann
I’m glad that not only is this fight very likely to determine the next title challenger at 170 pounds, but that it’s being given the exposure it deserves, as the co-main event of this pay-per-view. It’s also a very close match. Kampmann likely has the advantages in striking volume and submissions, while Hendricks has the edge in striking power and takedowns. Hendricks represents one of SILVA’s great triumphs; it had Hendricks rated as an elite welterweight when he was toiling away on the preliminaries. I’m not about to pick against him here; I think Hendricks is the single welterweight fighter with the best chance of beating Georges St-Pierre.
But this one figures to be very competitive, as Kampmann has shown fantastic conditioning and the ability to come back in recent fights against Jake Ellenberger and Thiago Alves. The problem with Kampmann is very simply that he has little head movement, and tends to leave his chin exposed. That got him in trouble early against Ellenberger, but Ellenberger was inexplicably passive after hurting Kampmann, and ended up paying for it later. Hendricks has all of Ellenberger’s power, but when Hendricks hurts an opponent, he swarms them. There’s a great chance that Hendricks wins by TKO here. And if it goes the distance, Hendricks is likely to be helped by mixing in a couple takedowns to go along with his strikes. Again, it’s a close, competitive fight, but I think Hendricks’s combination of wrestling and power will be enough to get his hand raised.
185 LBS – Francis Carmont vs. Tom Lawlor
Carmont is a big middleweight with good striking and submissions. But he’s also a man who entered the UFC at 16-7 overall, and as much as training with Georges St-Pierre may have helped his game, a fighter’s flaws tend not to suddenly go away in the middle of his career. Carmont arguably dropped rounds to both Karlos Vemola and Magnus Cedenblad, which is not something I want to see from an aspiring UFC middleweight contender. I think there’s serious upset potential here, as Tom Lawlor is not the most polished fighter, but is capable of landing takedowns and grinding out a win. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and pick Lawlor to pull off the upset. (And I’ll probably regret it.)
185 LBS – Costa Philippou vs. Nick Ring
Both fighters like to stand and bang, but one of them is better at it than the other. Costa Philippou is a good boxer with decent power, while Nick Ring is a mediocre boxer without much power. I’ll give Ring credit for being active, and just competitive enough to win bad decisions. But while everybody seems to be worried about Ring doing that again, I don’t think Philippou will let this fight be that close. I say Philippou establishes himself as the better striker early, and either wins by easy decision (at least, easy enough) or TKO.
145 LBS – Pablo Garza vs. Mark Hominick
I’ve ranted plenty of times before about how overrated Mark Hominick was. Now that I see people lining up to pick Pablo Garza to beat him, I’m not calling him overrated anymore. Garza basically has two things going for him: knees and submissions. Garza is very tall and lanky, and that works well for him sometimes. He also has a loss to Tiequan Zhang on his record. Hominick is easily the better striker and wrestler, and should be skilled enough to avoid Garza’s submissions. I think Hominick wins by TKO here without being seriously threatened.
185 lbs – Patrick Cote over Alessio Sakara: If Alessio Sakara is paired off with a striker, I have to pick against him. Sakara is up there with Jonathan Goulet in terms of legendary bad chins. Technically, Cote is worse, but give a guy with KO power 15 minutes against Sakara, especially one with a good chin like Cote, and he’s more likely than not to win by KO at some point.
205 lbs – Cyrille Diabate over Chad Griggs: I have yet to see ANYBODY pick Chad Griggs to win this fight. But the betting lines opened with this as a pick’em fight. Diabate has poor takedown defense and isn’t good off his back, so there’s a real chance Griggs grinds him out. I have a feeling this is one of those “Vegas knows something we don’t” fights. But I’ll take Diabate anyway, due to the huge gap in striking skill between these two.
155 lbs – Rafael dos Anjos over Mark Bocek: The fight that should be on the main card instead of Hominick-Garza. Both guys have good jiu-jitsu, although I think dos Anjos has better pure submissions, and Bocek is a better wrestler. The real difference here is the striking game, where dos Anjos should easily be better. I see a back and forth fight that dos Anjos ends up winning due to that striking advantage.
155 lbs – Sam Stout over John Makdessi: A battle of badly overrated strikers. Stout tends to eat as many strikes as he lands, and the best fighter Makdessi has knocked out is Kyle Watson. The difference here is Stout’s wrestling, which is what he used to beat Spencer Fisher in his last fight (although it says something about Stout that he needed to go to takedowns to beat Fisher). I think Stout gets the job done here.
145 lbs – Antonio Carvalho over Rodrigo Damm: Damm is the kind of fighter who is good enough to fight in the UFC, but not good enough to succeed in the UFC. He has a good submission game, but has lost four of his last six, to Justin Wilcox, Maximo Blanco, Gilbert Melendez, and Eiji Mitsuoka. I see Carvalho as better than at least Blanco and Mitsuoka, and perhaps Wilcox as well. And I think Carvalho will prove to be the better fighter in this one.
170 lbs – Matt Riddle over John Maguire: It’s amazing how far a fighter can get by being a wrestler. Riddle’s striking is horrible, but he has two things going for him: he can control where the fight takes place, and he’s very aggressive. John Maguire barely strikes with his opponents at all, which means Riddle has the advantage there, and Riddle’s wrestling should be good enough to prevent the fight from going to the ground. So I have to pick Riddle.
135 lbs – Ivan Menjivar over Azamat Gashimov: I’m not the only person to notice that Gashimov’s 7-1 record consists of fights against only opponents making their professional debut, but I might have been the first. That’s the extent of what I know about Gashimov, but the fact that he lost one of those makes me want to pick Menjivar by default. So that’s what I’m going to do. Menjivar by TKO.
145 lbs – Steven Siler over Darren Elkins: SILVA favorite Steven Siler is back, and he hasn’t disappointed yet, winning consecutive fights against Josh Clopton, Cole Miller, and Joey Gambino. Then again, the Miller and Gambino wins don’t look as good in retrospect. Meanwhile, Elkins is much like Siler, in that he’s exceeded the expectations most had for him in the UFC. Elkins could grind out a decision here, but I think Siler has better strikes and submissions, so I’m going to pick him to win this.