This Saturday, November 16th, the UFC will celebrate its twentieth anniversary; and they have pulled all the stops to bring us a packed card from top to bottom. Georges St-Pierre will look to defend his title for the ninth time against number one contender Johnny Hendricks. Hendricks believes that it is his time to reign as the UFC Welterweight Champion. In the co-main event Rashad Evans looks to stay on tract as he faces off against perennial challenger Chael Sonnen. Then there is the future of the welterweight division, Rory MacDonald versus Robbie Lawler, who is currently on fire winning his previous two fights in devastating fashion. UFC 167 will also feature the debut of lightweight champion Anthony Pettis’ younger brother, Sergio, who will look to make a splash in the ever growing bantamweight division. Plus we’ll take a look at the next wave of middleweight and welterweight contenders.
Johnny Hendricks will be walking into this title fight with extreme confidence in his powerful left hand. He truly believes that his wrestling pedigree is enough to negate the champion’s attempts to drag this fight to the ground. The only problem is, Hendricks is not the first elite level wrestler GSP has gone up against, and he took them down at will. Hendricks has been compared to Chuck Liddell in that he uses his wrestling to keep the fight standing and has the kind of KO power that will put anyone he touches to sleep. Again, Hendricks faces a man who is notorious for being elusive and extremely frustrating for strikers. GSP is a master at sticking to the outside and utilizing his jab and kicks to dance around his opposition and wear them down to nothing. No matter the outcome, this fight promises to be explosive.
In his last few outings Rashad Evans has not looked like his former self. He has been lackluster in his three previous fights, one of them a loss to Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. It is no secret that Rashad has gone fought through some personal demons of late, and it’s like you can almost see the toll it’s taken on him; although it really is hard to criticize the former champion when he walks around with an 18-3-1 record. Despite his recent performances in the octagon, Rashad better hope his head is on straight because he will be facing off against Chael Sonnen. Sonnen is no joke, and aside from his lopsided loss to Jon Jones earlier this year Sonnen is a solid competitor who is always game. Chael will look to use his superior wrestling to keep Rashad down and wear him out. Both fighters are looking to build a streak of wins, but I have to say that Sonnen seems to be the hotter, more focused fighter right now.
Many in the MMA world are calling Rory MacDonald the next big thing in the welterweight division. The only problem I see with that is MacDonald is a regular training partner of GSP, and both fighters have previously said they would not fight each other. If GSP can stop Hendricks and MacDonald can stop Lawler that could complicate the title picture a bit. However, Lawler will not go down without a fight, and fight he will. Lawler burst back onto the UFC scene after Strikeforce and its roster were bought out by the UFC. His aggression and fearless style could pose some serious problems for MacDonald. Lawler has raw power in both hands, and if he can get past MacDonald’s reach it could be a quick night for both fighters.
Then there is the debut of UFC’s lightweight champion’s younger brother, Sergio Pettis. Sergio has torn through all of his competition thus far and feels he is ready to step up to the big leagues. I am extremely excited to watch this young fighter’s debut. He has talent and potential galore. With the bantamweight division at a sort of crossroads with Champion Dominick Cruz and interim champion Renan Barao set to face off on Superbowl weekend he is poised to make some waves. The bantamweight division is full of elite fighters all jostling for position. It may be too early to through him to the wolves, but I cannot wait for him to step up against the likes of Urijah Faber, Eddie Wineland and Yuri Alcantara. At just twenty years old, the sky really is the limit for this young man.
This past Saturday Vitor Belfort did the impossible, the unthinkable. He finished Dan Henderson with strikes in the first round. It was a thing of beauty, truly, as have the past three stunning finishes he has scored since losing to Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. The only thing stopping Vitor’s recent resurgence has been his role regarding TRT. After his crushing first round loss to Anderson Silva Vitor has been fighting like a man possessed. The only question is, is his aggression and highlight reel knockouts linked directly to TRT? In a recent interview Belfort stated that he feels he deserves a title shot, and if he had to fight in the US, where he is not allowed the benefit of TRT due to previous steroid issues, he would be willing to fight without the TRT. Which begs the question, if you feel you can fight without the TRT, then why are you using it at all? In general TRT seems like a controversial loophole at best. At worst it’s a legal way to cheat the system and gain an unfair advantage in a combative sport. In my opinion all of Belfort’s recent wins should come with a permanent asterisk. It seems, however, that Belfort will face the winner of Weidman Silva II.
Aside from my distrust of all things TRT, this Saturday’s card was incredible. Not only did it boast amazing fights with fantastic finishes, it showcased a new class of viable contenders for the middleweight and welterweight divisions. The two welterweights to keep an eye on are Brandon Thatch and Ryan LaFlare. They both won in impressive fashion, and look to be like a real handful for any of the elite in that division. In the middleweight division Omari Akhmedov, Cezar Ferreira and Daniel Sarafian all looked impressive. I believe it’s a safe assumption that these three young fighters could very well play a huge role in shaping the new direction of the middleweight division. Akhmedov, in particular, was impressive in his win. He seems to be just the latest of this new batch of dominant fighters from Russia. Could we be seeing a shift in the MMA landscape? Only time will tell.