George St-Pierre is regarded by most MMA fans as the greatest UFC Welterweight Champion of all-time. This Saturday at UFC 167, he will face Johny Hendricks, who is being regarded as the greatest threat to his Welterweight Championship in recent history. The betting odds confirm this notion, being the closest odds for a GSP fight since his last fight with BJ Penn almost five years ago. Johny Hendricks is still the underdog in this Saturday’s fight, and for good reason.
St-Pierre has done what only one other fighter in the UFC has been able to do continuously for the past six years, make world class opponents look like they don’t belong in the cage with him. St-Pierre has been dominate in every regard, taking his opponents weaknesses and highlighting them like no other. He’s had outstanding wins against former champions like BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, Matt Serra and Nick Diaz. The two losses in his career were quickly avenged, and unless Hendricks changes his first name to Matt, I don’t see how the number one contender can knock the welterweight king off his throne.
Johny Hendricks has incredible power in his hands, and was able to knockout two top welterweights in Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann with a single straight left. He is also a threat in the wrestling department, being a 4 Time Division I NCAA All American. Although he has the wrestling credentials, his last three fights against top tier wrestlers saw him get taken down. Against Josh Koscheck, Hendricks was taken down on 1 of 2 attempts, while Hendricks took Koscheck down on 2 of 6 attempts. Compare that to when GSP fought Koscheck, and we see that St-Pierre was taken down on 1 of 4 attempts, whereas Koscheck was taken down on 4 of 9 attempts by GSP.
Although you can never predict a fight based on outcomes of previous fights with similar opponents, it is telling that GSP was more successful in taking down Koscheck than Hendricks was. St-Pierre was also given a unanimous decision win over Koscheck, winning all five rounds on all score cards, whereas Hendricks beat Koscheck by split decision. Giving the wrestling edge to Hendricks purely based on his collegiate accomplishments would be a mistake made by any fight fan, especially considering GSP has no wrestling experience outside of MMA, and he is widely considered to be the best MMA wrestler in the UFC.
What about the big left hand of Hendricks? Something telling about that big left hand is that he has only used it twice to knock out opponents, discounting his technical knockout of Charlie Brenneman which was finished by a left after a barrage of punches. Those two big knockouts with the left hand were within the first minute of the fight. St-Pierre is known for his elusiveness, and Johny has only knocked out fighters within the first round in his UFC career. If St-Pierre can elude Hendricks’ big right hand in the first round, then Georges should have no problem avoiding it for the rest of the fight.
Hendricks also has a history of slowing down in later rounds. Many believe that if his fight with Carlos Condit went five rounds that Condit would have put Hendricks away, as Condit began to control the fight within the dying minutes of the third. Hendricks has never been in a five round fight, while Georges has had only one three round fight in his past 12 fights. If this fight makes it to the championship rounds, it is very likely that GSP will not only takedown Hendricks, as Koscheck and Pierce did in later rounds, but look to submit the number one contender.
When you look at the match up closely, it’s obvious that St-Pierre has the advantage in striking, wrestling and conditioning. The fourth place that St-Pierre beats Hendricks in is also the place where I believe the fight will be finished. Georges St-Pierre is a 1st-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, where as Hendricks does not have any sort of BJJ credentials. We haven’t seen Hendricks get submitted in his professional MMA career, but that is due to the fact that he has spent very little time on his back. He should expect GSP to take it to the ground during the course of their fight, and that is where I believe GSP will finish Hendricks. St-Pierre has finished five opponents in his career by submission, with the most notable being UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. Hendricks has to be the weakest fighter that the welterweight champion has faced to date when it comes to BJJ, and that is where the champ will shine on Saturday night.
I understand that Johny Hendricks has a punchers chance in this fight, and I’ll gladly find myself a spoon to eat my words if Hendricks ends up knocking GSP out. That is the only chance Hendricks has though. I give him the same odds as odds-makers gave Matt Serra the first time him and St-Pierre fought. Serra won, but if him and GSP fought eight times, Serra would only win once, and that was the one time. If Hendricks and GSP fought eight times, I can see “Bigg Rigg” getting the KO in one of those fights. Johny better be hoping that he gets that one KO on Saturday, or else he’ll have a long night ahead of him, like all of St-Pierre’s previous opponents have had.