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UFC 158 Predictions From Staff

After years and years of chasing, the time has come for Nick Diaz to step inside the Octagon and meet UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. UFC 158: St-Pierre vs. Diaz takes place Saturday night on pay-per-view from the Bell Centre.

St-Pierre, the reigning champion, asked for Diaz as his next opponent after unifying the belts with a win over Carlos Condit last year. The former Strikeforce champion has been asking for GSP for a number of years, and gladly accepted.

Also, Condit will return for the first time since the loss to St-Pierre when he takes on Johny Hendricks. The winner has been told they will become the No. 1 contender at 170 pounds. Nate Marquardt and Jake Ellenberger collide in another key welterweight contest.

FightLine main writer Dana Becker and staff writer Joseph Lisnow offer up their predictions for those three fights. As always, we will be providing live and free coverage of the entire event.

Georges St-Pierre (c) vs. Nick Diaz for the UFC welterweight title

Dana: Chael Sonnen did a great job of getting inside the head of Anderson Silva during their rivalry, but what Nick Diaz has done to Georges St-Pierre tops that. GSP is a calm, cool and focused individual – all the time. Until now. This is a GSP that we haven’t seen before, and I’m not sure Diaz meant to push it this far. Diaz has the capability to mess with his opponent, but he might have done it too early and should have waited until fight night. At the weigh-ins, St-Pierre had that typical smile back on his face, and that could mean trouble for Diaz. Georges St-Pierre via first round TKO

Joseph: If there was any welterweight fighter who could push Georges St-Pierre’s emotions to the limit, it would be Nick Diaz and he might have accomplished that. He’s annoyed St-Pierre, but the champion is too smart to let Diaz get in his head during the fight. With a year off, Diaz comes in healthier than ever. The champion will look to take this to the ground and lay on top of Diaz. If Diaz keeps it standing, he’s got a better chance of leaving with the gold. I’m really curious to see the results of the drug test, for both fighters. Georges St-Pierre via unanimous decision

Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks

Dana: Johny Hendricks is one of the hottest fighters regardless of weight classes, coming off his recent stoppage victory over Martin Kampmann. “Bigg Rigg” was hoping to cash in that win and face Georges St-Pierre, but he appears to have left that notion in the past and is focused on Carlos Condit – as he should be. Condit is no slouch and wants to be right back in title contention. Both of these fighters know what is at stake, and this is the biggest fight of Hendricks’ career. Will nerves play any impact? Carlos Condit via split decision

Joseph: Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit head into this with a title shot looming. Condit had been preparing the last few months for a rematch against Rory MacDonald before he pulled out a month to go. Hendricks is on a roll and needs just one fist to the chin to end the co-main event. Look for Hendricks to seek the finish early. If the fight goes to the second or third round, the better chance Condit has of leaving the winner. I don’t see Hendricks letting it go past the opening round, as he earns an overdue championship shot. Johny Hendricks via first round KO

Nate Marquardt vs. Jake Ellenberger

Dana: Nate Marquardt appeared to be in perfect shape, as he has had trouble dealing with weight cuts in the past. Marquardt will want to make as big of an impact as he can in his return to the Octagon, but this is a stiff foe in Jake Ellenberger. After seeing his original opponent removed, Ellenberger is in the same boat as Marquardt – looking to make an impact. Both of these men are solid all-around welterweights, so we could either see 15 minutes of Dan Henderson-Lyoto Machida again, or we could see an early finish. Jake Ellenberger via second round TKO

Joseph: Nate Marquardt makes his UFC return and steps inside the Octagon for the first time as welterweight. His recent loss to Tarec Saffiedine on the final Strikeforce card could have been a poor performance on his part or a sign that he belongs as middleweight. Jake Ellenberger has shown he can perform against the best and beat them. This marks his fourth fight in 13 months against heavy hitters, so his current health could be the deciding factor. Both are looking to remain in the title picture as the entire top tier of the welterweight division is being decided, which has this fight being stopped to make an impression. Nate Marquardt via second round TKO