I could be mistaken, but as far as I can tell, this is the first UFC pay-per-view event being offered in theaters since last November’s UFC 154. Before I get to my take, I have a question: Why in the name of Lorenzo Fertitta do they only seem to offer PPV’s at theaters when GSP fights? I would pay the 20 bucks to go to the theater to watch Tim Kennedy fight Ray Romano.
Have any of you ever seen the UFC at the theater? It’s incredible. Even though I’ve never attended a UFC event, I’d wager on it being a shittier experience than watching it on the big screen. I envision alot of craning your head to stare at a giant Jumbotron. Correct me if I’m wrong.
When I went last year, I sat there beforehand grumbling to myself about how far I had to drive, how much I had to pay … and then the event started, and those complaints evaporated. The viewing experience wasn’t just magnificent … it was also terrifying. I felt like I was the one in there about to fight Mark Hominick. Seriously.
Here’s what I think will transpire while I sit there munching on overpriced popcorn and silently judging everyone else around me …
Ali Bagautinov (1-0 UFC) vs. Timothy Elliott (2-1 UFC)
It’s nice to finally see some Russian talent emerging in the UFC. For the longest time, there was none to be found inside the octagon, especially in the days of the Fedor Emelianenko negotiations, which definitely seemed to spill over onto his compatriots. Those “crazy Russians” seemed to be victims of Zuffa exile.
No more. Ali is another solid dude from those parts, and he impressed in his UFC debut by plunking Brazilian Marcos Vinicius in the face.
He takes on Tim Elliott, who never met an insane pace he couldn’t somehow outdo. This guy is an absolute lunatic. Joe Rogan loves to cite certain fighters “pace” as a major reason why they win fights, but alot of the time, he’s inaccurate. A guy like Diego Sanchez doesn’t fight at a furious pace; he just stands in the pocket taking hellacious punches, only he’s so Goddamn tough that he sticks around until the third round and somehow finds a way to turn it on.
With Tim Elliott, the pace argument is 100% accurate. He’s not an awesome wrestler, but he’ll scramble nonstop. He’s not a devastating or technically brilliant striker, but he never, ever stops throwing. His output is ludicrous.
I’ll take the output of Elliott over the punching power of Bagautinov here. Elliott by decision or late TKO, in a fight where the FightMetric tabulator might pass out.
Josh Koscheck (15-7 UFC) vs. Tyron Woodley (1-1 UFC)
This is a perfect litmus test for both guys. Is Tyron Woodley a top flight welterweight who just happened to run into an aggressive human massage chair in Jake Shields? Or is his age and often frustrating output in fights destined to become commonplace?
As for Koscheck, it’s probably weird to call any individuals 23rd fight inside the UFC a “litmus test”, but is anyone quite sure that Koscheck hasn’t lost it? That Lawler stoppage was rough. 3 years ago, Robbie would have immediately been on his back taking damage. Now he’s rejuvenating his career at Koscheck’s expense.
This fight could go alot of different directions aesthetically. I could see a heavy handed boxing match; I could see some fun wrestling exchanges; and I could see me needing my stomach pumped by the middle of the second round.
Both men have big power in their hands, but Woodley has the advantage in speed. I also think Koscheck’s wrestling has suffered as of late, simply because he seems to be content playing the stand up game.
Koscheck is still a good fighter, though, and I see him doing enough to earn the nod over the sporadically thrilling but mostly mind numbing Woodley. Koscheck by decision in a close one.
Robbie Lawler (6-3 UFC) vs. Rory MacDonald (6-1 UFC)
Nobody loves watching Robbie Lawler more than me, so don’t take what I’m about to type as hate speech. But … Robbie Lawler is going to lose this fight. Badly.
I was geeked to see Lawler get his career kickstarted again over the past year. Alot of people don’t realize that Lawler was one of the first noteworthy guys of the Zuffa era, and also one of the first true knockout artists. His KO over Tiki Ghosn is still a first ballot Hall of Famer. As Joe Rogan once spouted, “This kid swings to kill you”.
He’s lost a little bit of that emotionally charged punching over the years, opting for a more methodical and calculated stand up approach. He could really dig into Rory on the feet, as Rory still seems a bit stiff (though, as his last fight proved, he now knows how to ruin someone’s win bonus with a jab).
It’s just hard to envision MacDonald not realizing that he can easily outwrestle Lawler in this fight. We’ve seen the opposite scenario take place a number of times, where a guy with a clear wrestling advantage instead opts to have a puzzling stand up battle. I don’t see that happening. Rory has to know that Lawler is a more diverse striker than one trick pony Jake Ellenberger, and he also has to know what a win here means. Rory takes Lawler down and gets the technical knockout win in the second round.
Rashad Evans (14-3 UFC) vs. Chael Sonnen (7-6 UFC)
This one is a head scratcher through and through. One day I think Sonnen is going to win, the next day Evans. Then Sonnen. Then Evans. Then America. Then Russia. Then Ken Jennings. Then I just start drinking heavily.
My conclusion is that Rashad should take this, but I don’t feel even remotely confident in saying so. On paper, Rashad has the speed advantage, and setting up a big shot that puts Sonnen on queer street seems possible. The wrestling games of both men might end up canceling each other out, and this fight is likely to take place on the feet and in the clinch.
If Sonnen can’t find a way to be effectively aggressive (his preferred modus operandi), this fight could turn into a snoozer. Evans has to be wary of Sonnen’s submission game and decent boxing, but I think he cruises here and outpoints Sonnen in the clinch and by leaping in and out with punches. Evans by decision.
Georges St-Pierre (18-2 UFC) vs. Johny Hendricks (10-1 UFC)
Before I break this baby down, this whole “Johny Hendricks has an awesome beard” thing needs to be settled once and for all. It’s climbing to ridiculous heights along the lines of “Deion Sanders was an all time great cornerback” and “Johnny Cash was cool”. Come ON, guys. Johny Hendricks’ beard is hipsterish, gumpy looking, and sad. It looks like it should be accompanied by small glasses, a pack of American Spirits, skinny jeans, and a Sunny Day Real Estate t-shirt. You ever see Hendricks with just stubble? He looks like a cool, laid back dude. But add that gumpy Amish hair, and he transforms into somebody creepy. When did people start thinking beards like that looked cool? Clint Eastwood, circa 1977, dudes. That’s a beard.
This is basically a fight that boils down to the first five minutes. If Hendricks sees round two, that means he didn’t knock Georges out in the first round, and that probably also means that Georges was able to find his rhythm and win the first round. Georges isn’t a guy who gets hit over and over again. The way Georges is most likely to lose is also the way Hendricks is most likely to win; hit him with a big shot, follow up, and put him away. This is definitely possible.
But it ain’t gonna happen. Hendricks just isn’t well rounded enough. A guy like Carlos Condit can (and did) give GSP fits, even while he was soundly losing most of the fight, because of his ability to mix up his attacks and be active in any position. Johny isn’t that guy. He can get into wild, dangerous striking exchanges with success, and he’s a good enough wrestler to wind up on top of Georges at some point.
Georges St-Pierre’s wrestling is the difference, just like always. He’ll wear Hendricks down and probably box him up late in the fight after John and his beard have subconsciously given up. Georges wins every round and takes a decision.