Preview by Anthony Springer Jr.
After what seemed like a never ending log jam in the UFC’s welterweight division, clarity will be gained at this Saturday’s UFC 154 with a pair of 170-pound clashes that will crown an undisputed champion and (hopefully) name a number one contender. In the night’s co-main event, champion Georges St-Pierre (22-2) returns from injury to face interim title holder Carlos Condit (28-5) while Martin Kampmann (20-5) faces the man with dynamite in his hands Johny Hendricks (13-1).
All the pressure on St-Pierre
For a fighter that had zero wrestling background coming into MMA, “Rush” might be the best wrestler in his division – and with guys like recent retiree Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch in the division, that speaks volumes. Still, there’s some conventional wisdom that says GSP will simply take Condit down at will and grind out a lackluster, snooze inducing 25-minute decision.
That’s not likely to happen.
First, there are Condit’s well-rounded skills. GSP is likely to get a takedown at some point during the fight, but Condit is very active off his back and will be looking to improve his position, sink in an unlikely submission or be throwing punches. St-Pierre can ill-afford to take Condit down and lay on him.
Second, cage rust will be a factor. St-Pierre was last seen – in Canada, no less – grinding out a lackluster, snooze inducing 25-minute decision that saw him within a round of losing his title to Jake Shields. That was April, 2011. With more than a year and a half out of action, professional MMA threatens to pass the champion by. In that time, we’ve seen the rise of Jon Jones and Junior dos Santos. GSP was once thought to be the man to take MMA to new heights, but all the good looks in the world won’t keep fan interest if he can’t finish inside of 25-minutes. St-Pierre hasn’t finished a fight since 2009, when B.J. Penn’s corner ruled that the “Prodigy” couldn’t continue a few rounds into their title tilt (discounting that stoppage, the last St-Pierre finish was in 2008).
At the end of the day, this is simply Condit’s fight to lose, because both a brawl and a technical striking match favor his skills. The stakes are pretty high for St-Pierre, who faces a big money fight with Anderson Silva should he emerge victorious. How much hype can one generate for a Silva showdown with a 25-minute hump fest? Probably not much. St-Pierre hasn’t taken a significant shot since the first Matt Sera fight in 2007. He’s going to take one this weekend. And then Condit will take his title.
Prediction: Condit by TKO
Kampmann and Hendricks a toss up
Martin Kampmann’s career has always taken one step back for every one step forward. He’s knocked on the door of title contention several times, only be pushed down the cellar steps in matches that count. After stringing together wins against Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger, Kampmann is once again knocking on the door and faces another stiff test to finally break through.
A stunning 12-second KO over Jon Fitch vaulted Johny Hendricks into MMA mainstream and a split decision win over perennial contender Josh Koscheck has him in the same position as Kampmann. With seven of his 12 wins by knock out, the question isn’t whether Hendricks will hit Kampmann (he will), it’s whether he’ll be able to finish the “Hitman.” Given Kampmann’s technical skills and a penchant for taking punishment (see the Ellenberger fight), Hendricks will need to land a one hitter quitter to win this fight.
Kampmann is a smart fighter, and will use his height and ever so slight reach advantage to keep Hendricks at bay on his way to a title shot.
Or perhaps this is all wishful thinking because I want to see Condit and Kampmann fight again.
Prediction: Kampmann via decision.
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UFC 154: St. Pierre vs. Condit is live on PPV from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7 PM PT/10 PM ET. Click here for more info