This Saturday night in Dallas at UFC 171, a new undisputed welterweight champion will be crowned, something that hasn’t happened since Georges St. Pierre defeated Matt Serra in their rematch at UFC 83 in April of 2009. St. Pierre’s leave of absence from the sport has left us with a wide-open landscape at 170 pounds, and Johnny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler are looking to be the first to ascend to the mountaintop of the new welterweight division, a division where fresh and exciting matchups are abound, and where there is no shortage of world class contenders ready to dethrone whomever occupies the thrown next. Two of those men are Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley, who will square off in the night’s co-main event.
Will Condit and Woodley steal the show? Will Johnny Hendricks finally get his hands on the belt that most thought he earned at UFC 167? Or will “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler reign supreme? Here are my predictions for UFC 171.
UFC Welterweight Championship:
Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
After ping-ponging wins and losses from 2009-2012 in Strikeforce, Robbie Lawler has gone 3-0 in his return to the UFC, and now finds himself one win away from realizing his dream of being UFC champion. He’ll have to get past the wrestling of Hendricks in order to do so. Hendricks, who took GSP down twice in his last fight, isn’t likely to stay in the pocket and go shot-for-shot with Lawler. That isn’t to say he won’t spend some of the fight on the feet, but I don’t think he’ll be looking to trade blows with Lawler, who has racked up 82% of wins by way of KO/TKO. I give the grappling edge to Hendricks, being an NCAA national champion wrestler. It’s a bit of a toss-up on the feet, as Hendricks packs more dynamite in his left hand, and seems to be a bit quicker, but Lawler has been putting guys away with his striking arsenal for the better part of the last decade. A Lawler pick makes sense, as some feel he is finally catching his stride as one of the all-time greats, but I’m going to pick Hendricks, because I think he has great striking resiliency, and can dictate where the fight goes just a little bit better than Lawler.
My pick: Hendricks by decision.
Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley
Wherever this fight goes, it’s bound to be entertaining. Condit has some of the most diverse and effective striking in the division, and is more than a handful off of his back. Woodley has shown that he can blast through his opponents either with his fists or with his takedowns. Condit’s only losses in the UFC have come by close decisions, and he performed well even in defeat against both GSP and Johny Hendricks. Woodley can always land that one power shot that ends the fight, but Condit takes a punch like few who have ever fought. I see a TKO for Condit after he gets back up to his feet, because Woodley will surely be able to take him down.
My pick: Carlos Condit by 2nd round TKO.
Diego Sanchez vs Myles Jury
Coming off the fight of his life against top-ranked Gilbert Melendez, Diego Sanchez heads into his 20th UFC fight, and is the last man standing from the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter. Myles Jury is a young, undefeated prospect who has racked up 4 UFC wins. Jury’s grappling will be his biggest asset against Sanchez, who at times during his fights seems to have unlocked some type of temporary pain invincibility. Sanchez has more power in his punches, as evidenced in his third-round uppercut against Melendez that nearly put the former Strikeforce champion away. I think that the seemingly endless pressure of Sanchez is going to catch up with Jury in the fight, and Diego will either take a decision or a late stoppage.
My pick: Diego Sanchez by decision.
Jake Shields vs Hector Lombard
Shields finds himself in a position of being just outside the title picture, which is currently filled with guys he has wins over. A win over the surging Hector Lombard should inject him right back into the mix. Lombard is looking to further distance himself from his so-so initial run in the UFC at middleweight, and might have the takedown defense to keep Shields from implementing his excellent grappling for the duration of the fight. Shields is going to try to get Lombard down, and keep him there, while avoiding the ultra-quick and just as powerful punches from Lombard. Lombard has ‘lightning’ in both fists, and I think he’s going to give Shields a lot of trouble, and after waiting for Shields to cautiously shoot in, he’ll be able to land the shots that finish the fight.
My pick: Hector Lombard by 2nd round TKO.
Ovince St. Preux vs Nikita Krylov
When we think about the type of fights that normally kick off big-fight pay-per-views, this one isn’t the first we’d imagine. Krylov is making the move down from heavyweight for this, his third fight in the UFC. Both men are coming off of 1st round KO/TKO’s. I think that St. Preux is the superior athlete, and will have more tools at his disposal to either control the fight for 15 minutes, or get it to the ground and TKO the Ukrainian.
My pick: Ovince St. Preux by 3rd round TKO.
Predictions for the Prelims:
Gastellum vs Story: Gastellum
Pennington vs Andrade: Andrade
Bermudez vs Hettes: Bermudez
Spencer vs Garcia: Spencer
Forte vs Trevino: Forte
Campuzano vs Scoggins: Scoggins
McDaniel vs Strickland: Strickland
Pineda vs Whiteford: Pineda