MMA Review: #439: UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks

-After literally four years of fighting purely in his home country of Canada, this was GSP’s first fight in Las Vegas since his UFC 100 (!) title defense against Thiago Alves. His opponent? Arguably his most dangerous one yet in heavy-handed wrestler Johny Hendricks. Elsewhere on the card we had two more top Welterweight clashes in Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler, as well as a Light-Heavyweight match between Rashad Evans and Chael Sonnen. Definitely a loaded card.

UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks

11/16/13
Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Gian Villante vs Cody Donovan

A training partner of Middleweight champ Chris Weidman, Villante had come over from StrikeForce with little fanfare despite being labelled as one of the top prospects in the sport back in 2011. He’d been dicked over by some odd officiating in his debut fight too, losing a “technical decision” to Ovince St. Preux after a controversial eye poke. Donovan meanwhile had also lost to OSP in his last fight, but he’d been cleanly knocked out. I was leaning towards Villante here.

Round One begins and they exchange from close range right away before separating. Combo glances for Donovan and Villante answers with a leg kick. Uppercut lands for Villante. Leg kick follows. Good jab from Donovan and he follows it up with a right hand and a leg kick. Head kick from Donovan appears to hurt Villante a little and he quickly follows with a combo. Jab connects hard for Donovan too. Donovan is getting the better of these exchanges. Villante decides to change it up and clinches, forcing him into the fence, but they quickly break off. Good leg kick again from Donovan and he continues to land the better shots in the exchanges. Good body shot from Cody too. Villante is struggling a bit with the movement of Donovan. Head kick misses for him. Body kick from Donovan but Villante counters with a right hand and gets a takedown to half-guard from it. Crowd are silent as is always the case in Vegas for the early prelims and you can hear Chris Weidman loudly shouting in Villante’s corner. Armbar attempt from Donovan is avoided, and Villante decides to let him to his feet with a minute to go. Couple of jabs from Donovan but his face looks a little marked up. Combo lands for Donovan but a couple of counters have him wincing and Villante manages to clinch to end the round. Clearly Donovan’s round but visually he looks worse off.

Round Two and again Donovan opens by tagging Villante with some combinations. Villante begins to chain punches together a little better and lands a double jab to back Donovan up, but he takes another combo that pegs him back. Takedown attempt from Donovan but Villante stuffs it and they wind up clinched on the fence. Quick break follows and Donovan suddenly looks really busted up. Stiff jab lands for him though. Good uppercut lands for Villante. Head kick from Donovan but Villante counters with a CRUSHING RIGHT HAND that puts Donovan down, and a few shots on the ground finish him off.

Really exciting fight with a bit of a comeback from Villante as he was clearly getting the worse of the exchanges, but once he did land cleanly he landed HARD and that was all she wrote for Donovan. I think Villante needs a lot of work, but with that sort of power in his punches he’ll never truly be out of a fight, so he’s always going to be an interesting guy to keep an eye on.

Bantamweight Fight: Sergio Pettis vs Will Campuzano

The younger brother of Lightweight champ Anthony, this was Pettis’ debut in the UFC and while he was originally pegged as a Flyweight, he was stepping up to 135lbs for his first time in the big show. Originally his opponent had been Vaughan Lee, but when the Brit got injured, another top Flyweight from outside the company – Campuzano – stepped in (and up a weight class) on late notice.

First round gets underway and they circle with a lot of movement from Pettis. Takedown from Campuzano but Pettis goes for a guillotine. Campuzano defends but it allows Sergio to his feet, where he lands a right to the body. Combo glances for Campuzano. Another takedown follows off a kick attempt and he passes into half-guard. Sergio gets full guard back right away and he kicks Campuzano off. Campuzano takes the back standing with one hook, but he can’t get Sergio back down and Pettis gets a takedown of his own where he lands a knee to the body before popping back up. Good combo ending in a body kick from Pettis. Nice counter right from Pettis and he’s snaking just out of the way of Campuzano’s strikes now. Hard leg kick lands for Sergio. Takedown attempt from Pettis but Campuzano uses a whizzer to avoid. Leg kick lands for Pettis again. A couple more set up a hard one-two and Campuzano is really backing up now. He throws a flurry to look to set up the clinch, but Pettis shrugs him off. Good leg kick again from Pettis. Crisp combo follows and he’s lighting Campuzano up now. Head kick glances for Pettis. Campuzano’s left leg looks fucked. Flying knee from Pettis but Campuzano gets a takedown off it, landing in guard. Round ends there. 10-9 Pettis.

Second round and Pettis opens right away with a leg kick. Campuzano answers with one of his own but Pettis tags him with a right hand. Campuzano gets aggressive and pushes forward with strikes, but he’s taking sharper counters every time he comes forward. Takedown attempt is easily shrugged off by Sergio. Nice combination lands for Campuzano and he escapes a clinch. Hard body kick from Pettis. Nice takedown follows to change things up and Sergio lands on top in Campuzano’s guard. Pass to half-guard follows and it looks like he could get mount, but Campuzano gets to butterfly guard and tries to work to his feet. Pettis counters that with a D’Arce choke attempt and then switches to a power guillotine, but Campuzano defends well. Kimura attempt from Pettis allows him to take the back with a body triangle, but Campuzano does a tremendous job to turn into Sergio’s guard. Pettis appears to be working wrist control for a possible triangle choke, but Campuzano stands free and then drops some solid shots into the guard. Pettis gives his back and turtles up, then works to his feet. Campuzano hops onto the back for a second but slips, and that allows Pettis to get into top position in half-guard. Into side mount for Sergio but Campuzano quickly turns to guard. They come back to their feet with 30 seconds remaining and Sergio lands a combo and a knee that drops Campuzano for a second. He pops back up but doesn’t look fully with it. To his credit though he swings shots forward to force Pettis back. Wheel kick misses for Sergio and that’s the round. 10-9 Pettis again.

Third round and again Pettis opens with a sharp leg kick. Body kick follows. Campuzano is still swinging but he’s coming up short on most of his strikes. Spin kick to the body from Pettis. Campuzano leans for a takedown but Pettis grabs his neck in another power guillotine attempt. Campuzano drops to his knees to avoid though and manages to escape. Double leg puts Sergio on his back in guard. Into half-guard for Campuzano and Pettis looks a little tired to me. He does work his guard back in immediately though. Triangle attempt from Pettis is shrugged off and Campuzano lands some decent shots from the top. Pettis almost squirms his way to his feet, but Campuzano keeps him down and almost takes mount. Another scramble allows him to his feet though and he lands a nice right hand. Good kick to the body from Sergio. Knee connects well for Campuzano. Takedown attempt from Campuzano but Pettis stuffs it and then looks to spin onto the back. No hooks for Sergio and it allows Campuzano to escape to his feet. Seconds to go and they clinch, where Sergio hits a trip to side mount to end the round. 10-9 Campuzano but I’d call it 29-28 Pettis overall.

Official scorecards read 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Sergio Pettis. Good, competitive fight if nothing groundbreaking or anything, and it was an excellent performance from Pettis to get past a very tough veteran in Campuzano. Wasn’t a flawless showing from Sergio by any means as he showed vulnerability to the takedown, but in general he looked crisp in the stand-up and defended on the ground well, and at 20 years old the sky is clearly the limit. I still think he’d be better off going to 125lbs, but if he can’t make the weight then what can you do?

Welterweight Fight: Jason High vs Anthony Lapsley

I would’ve sworn the largely unknown Lapsley was a late replacement for someone, but a check of Wikipedia doesn’t mention it so evidently I’m wrong. Anyway with no real “name” wins on his record I figured he’d be easy pickings for High, who’s an underrated fighter in my eyes. He was at least beginning to find his feet in the UFC coming into this one though, having choked out James Head in his previous fight.

Round One and Lapsley comes forward but High easily hits a takedown to half-guard. He works to pass the guard and easily gets into full mount. Beautiful stuff. Lapsley eats some elbows and he appears to be in trouble. He gives his back and High slaps in both hooks. Lapsley works to defend the choke and not much happens really as High shows nice control but doesn’t come close to the finish. Lapsley works to his feet, but High quickly dumps him back down and grabs a guillotine with Lapsley in a seated position. High pulls guard to look to finish, but can’t quite lock it on and so he decides to give it up and use a front facelock to control his opponent. It looks for a second like he might be setting up for a Peruvian necktie, but instead he spins to the back and hits a nice suplex as they stand. Both hooks in for High again and this time he’s got an arm across the neck. Lapsley manages to defend again so High switches right into full mount. Lapsley gives his back again but he can’t shake High off and he takes a couple of hard punches. Seconds remaining and High gives up the back mount to look for a seated guillotine. He can’t get it so lands a knee to the body and goes for the choke again. This time he takes a mounted guillotine, but Lapsley somehow defends, ending the round mounted. That’s a 10-8 round for Jason High for sure.

Round Two and Lapsley comes up short on some early strikes. High goes for a takedown and gets it, but Lapsley goes for a leglock. High avoids that and grabs a guillotine, using it to work into full mount as Lapsley defends. Lapsley gives his back again and High slaps in the hooks once more. This is an incredibly one-sided fight. High loses a hook, but as he goes for a guillotine Lapsley pops his head free and finally takes top position inside High’s guard. Couple of solid elbows get through for Lapsley but he isn’t that active. Scramble from High and he tries to reverse, but Lapsley shows a strong base and he winds up passing into half-guard. Looks like Lapsley’s working for a kimura on the left arm ala Matt Hughes on Joe Riggs. Good elbow lands for Lapsley too. He works some elbows to the body but can’t get the kimura, and the round ends with Lapsley on top. Close round as High did better positionally speaking early on, but I think Lapsley took it with his late work. 19-18 going into the third round.

Round Three and Lapsley opens with a front kick and a right hook. High looks a little tired and he’s backing up early on. Good jab does connect for High though and he pegs him back with a right before hitting a takedown to guard. High stacks Lapsley up to land some ground-and-pound and then passes nicely into side mount. Lapsley gets his back onto the cage in an attempt to stand, but High grabs him in a front facelock. Looks like he might have an anaconda choke, but instead he force Lapsley down to land some knees to the shoulders. He drops back for a guillotine, taking full guard, and it looks pretty tight. Lapsley might be in trouble. Good job from Lapsley to work free, but High gets an oma plata in a sweet transition. It doesn’t look locked up properly to me though and Lapsley gets himself free and almost has side mount. Good shots to the body from Lapsley. High squirms over and manages to scramble to his feet, and then he sprawls to avoid a takedown and grabs the front facelock again. They come back up though and Lapsley takes the back standing. High rolls for a heel hook but Lapsley forces his way free and takes the back. He slips off though and that allows High to get on top in guard again. Seconds to go on the clock and this is looking like High’s round. They trade some shots from the guard and High works into half-guard, where he controls Lapsley until the buzzer. 10-9 High and 29-27 for him on my card.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Jason High. Not sure how he missed a 10-8 first round but whatever. This was actually a very good fight with some excellent grappling exchanges, and honestly I was expecting nothing coming into it (didn’t see it first time around) so that was a bonus really. I don’t think either man cracks the upper echelon of the 170lbs division any time soon but High is probably worth a step up in competition again now at least.

Bantamweight Fight: Erik Perez vs Edwin Figueroa

After Takeya Mizugaki proved to be a step up too far for the young El Goyito in August, Perez was faced with an opponent a little further down the ladder here in Figueroa, a guy who was – let’s be frank – lucky to still be in the UFC after losing his previous two fights, particularly when you consider he should’ve lost his last three had the judges in his fight with Bruce Leroy been competent. This seemed like a gimme for Perez on paper.

First round and Figueroa lands first with a sharp one-two. Perez throws out some kicks as Figueroa fires off with combos, but one goes REALLY FUCKING LOW and Figueroa goes down like a ton of bricks. That looked really nasty. Replay shows the full horror of it and has Joe Rogan gasping. Figueroa takes his time and then we’re ready to roll. Really nice leg kick lands for Goyito as Figueroa pushes forward. Another one follows and then he shoots for a takedown and drives Figueroa right into the fence. He does a good job of forcing Figueroa to the ground, and then takes the back as Figueroa reverses to his feet. Good knees to the legs from Perez and then he breaks and lands a quick combination. BEAUTIFUL front kick to the body from Perez sends Figueroa flying halfway across the cage, but he pops up before Perez can follow up. Perez is countering nicely here and just about outlanding Figueroa. Nice right hand connects for Perez. Hard body kick from Figueroa but Perez catches it and takes him down to half-guard. He decides to lock down on the right leg to secure half-guard, and works the body as it looks like he might be setting up for a possible arm triangle. He passes into mount but as soon as he does Figueroa scrambles and explodes up, and it looks like Perez lands an illegal knee although nobody noticed. Guess it was okay and the camera angle just made it look dodgy. They trade off for a moment but Perez hits another takedown to half-guard. Elbows land for Goyito and he controls Figueroa until the round ends. 10-9 Perez, pretty clear-cut round.

Second round and they trade off with some early strikes before Perez lands a left to the body and a BIG RIGHT that sends Figueroa CRASHING DOWN before he pops back up. Figueroa tries to fire back but he’s eating cleaner strikes from Goyito. Front kick to the jaw lands for Perez and then he shoots, lifts Figueroa up and delivers a BIG BODYSLAM!~! Perez is looking awesome here. He works right into side mount and smashes Figueroa with a hard elbow that causes him to give his back. Good control from Perez without the hooks and he continues to land punches. Figueroa tries to crawl back to his feet, but Perez controls him and pins him into the fence where he lands a knee to the body. Figueroa stands, but Perez drops for another takedown. This time Figueroa manages to block though and they separate. Good combination lands for Figueroa and forces Perez back a little. Counter right connects for him too as Perez throws a low kick. Perez answers with another takedown right into half-guard. Figueroa gets full guard quickly but Perez makes him pay with some elbows and short punches. He passes into half-guard again with seconds remaining, but as he’s setting up an arm triangle referee Kim Winslow calls a stand-up, horrifying Rogan and Goldie. Nothing happens on the feet though before the round ends. 10-9 Perez and I think Figueroa clearly needs a finish.

Third round and Figueroa looks to use his jab to begin with. Perez clips him with another couple of counters though and lands a sharp leg kick too. Looks like Perez’s nose is bloodied though. Good front kick from Perez again. Another kick lands low but Figueroa says he’s fine. Crazy wheel kick misses for Perez. Beautiful takedown though and he plants Figueroa on his back in half-guard again. Again he looks to set up an arm triangle choke by pinning the left arm with his head and working the body with elbows and punches. Pretty tricky to get that from half-guard though – I’ve only ever seen Massaranduba manage that and that dude is a fucking tank. Perez manages to move into side mount, but he’s on the wrong side for the arm triangle that he was setting up. Instead he switches to north/south and drops a heavy knee to the body. Scramble from Figueroa and he explodes to his feet, but Perez nails him with a knee to the body and a right before bringing him right back down. Figueroa gets to his knees but takes a couple more knees before breaking off. Seconds to go now and Perez lands a knee and a HARD RIGHT that wobbles Figueroa. Another combo follows but Figueroa’s chin holds up. They trade off with some more strikes and that’s the fight. I have this 30-27 for Erik Perez.

Judges agree with me and all score it 30-27 for El Goyito, Erik Perez. This was an excellent showing from the young prospect in a fun fight, and he showed tremendous improvements from the Mizugaki loss – particularly in his grappling game and in his wrestling. It’s always nice to see quantum leaps in skill from younger fighters and I think Perez definitely has a future as a title contender at 135lbs if he can continue on this path. Figueroa meanwhile is going to find it hard to stay in the UFC at this point I think, but maybe a drop to 125lbs could help him? He looks small for 135lbs to me and was easily outmuscled by Goyito here.

Welterweight Fight: Rick Story vs Brian Ebersole

Both of these men were in pretty dire need of a win here, as Story had slipped back again with a loss to Mike Pyle in May – his fourth in six fights – while Ebersole had last fought in July 2012 (!) in a really shoddy loss to James Head. With Story being the more explosive fighter I was picking him to right the ship and take the win.

Fight begins and Ebersole shoots right away, but Story defends it and then swings some heavy leather at the veteran. Can’t believe Ebersole is only 32 by the way as he appears to be pushing 40! Story continues to chain combinations and swing hard at Ebersole, but he hasn’t landed cleanly yet. He is forcing Ebersole back though. Good left hand lands for Story and snaps Ebersole’s head back. More of the same continues as Ebersole seems unable to stop Story from swinging combos at him even if they’re not landing cleanly. Nice exchange sees both men land. Beautiful left to the thigh from Story in an odd move for him. Left to the body and right to the head follow. Left hand backs Ebersole up badly and he might be in trouble. Only seconds remaining though and Ebersole manages to avoid getting hurt again. 10-9 Story; not the best round I’ve ever seen.

Into the 2nd and Story lands a hard leg kick to begin. Left hook glances for Story and then he clinches and drops for a single leg. Blatant fence grab saves Ebersole initially but Story drags him down soon after and gets side mount. Nice reversal from Ebersole though and he’s back on his feet. Leg kick lands for Ebersole. Harder one connects for Story. Takedown attempt from Ebersole is easily avoided by Story. One-two stuns Ebersole and he has to back up sharpish. Story is clearly conserving his energy here rather than throwing the kitchen sink at the veteran. Ebersole for his part looks unsure of how to approach this though. Couple of jabs land for him but Story again easily shrugs off a takedown attempt. Nice step-in elbow lands for Ebersole. He’s beginning to land his jab more now but Story’s still walking him down and tagging him with bigger punches. Hard right hand to the body from Story. Big left hand comes over the top and lands too. Takedown attempt again from Ebersole and he gets deep on a single, but Story shows excellent balance to avoid and remains vertical. Round ends with Story breaking the clinch with a nasty flurry, and they trade to the buzzer, popping the crowd finally. 10-9 Story.

Third and final round and Story continues to walk Ebersole down, stuffing a takedown before muscling Ebersole to the ground himself. Big punches land for Story from the top and he stands over Ebersole and drops a huge right hand that connects. Ebersole somehow just eats it up and pops back up to his feet. Another hard leg kick lands for Story. Couple more shots for Story set up the clinch. Ebersole quickly breaks off after a knee to the thigh. Nice jab lands for Ebersole but Story makes him pay with a heavy right hook. Ebersole’s chin is awesome as Story is landing some bombs here and yet the guy doesn’t even appear to be stunned. Left hand connects to the temple but again Ebersole just takes it. Body kick glances for Ebersole but again he gets tagged with hard punches from Story. Ebersole is having some success with the jab but it doesn’t seem to be fazing Story. Big leg kick from Story finally has Ebersole in trouble, as he clearly wobbles from it and looks to be in pain. Surprisingly Story doesn’t go right back to the technique though and Ebersole soldiers on. Ebersole is tough as leather. Another leg kick almost takes Ebersole off his feet and another one causes him to drop, lunging for a takedown in the process. Story winds up on top though and takes side mount, grabbing a front facelock as Ebersole attempts to scramble to end the round. Got to be a 30-27 shutout for Rick Story.

Scorecards read 30-27, 30-27 and 30-27 for Rick Story. Not the most inspiring fight ever – easily the worst thus far on this card in fact – as Ebersole was tough enough to survive everything Story threw at him, but he wasn’t dynamic or hard-hitting enough to actually have any meaningful offense, and the mix made for a dull outing for the most part with the odd highlight. I’m surprised Story didn’t throw more leg kicks when it was clear that Ebersole couldn’t take him down and they were hurting him, but c’est la vie I guess.

Middleweight Fight: Thales Leites vs Ed Herman

After a few years in the wilderness, Leites had returned to the UFC in impressive fashion in August, comfortably outpointing British brawler Tom Watson, while Herman’s last fight had been a Fight of the Night award winner against Trevor Smith. Smart pick here seemed to be Leites due to his stifling grappling game, although with his formidable skills Herman was a decent underdog bet.

Round One and they circle and throw some feeler strikes, but Leites connects with a short right hand and sends Herman down. Herman quickly fires back with an upkick as he doesn’t appear to be badly hurt, but Leites gets on top and begins to drop some hard punches from above while avoiding a few more upkicks. Leites settles into half-guard and he works to pass. Herman does a good job defensively to prevent him from gaining a dominant position, but Leites keeps working and finds himself in side mount. Crowd begin to boo despite Leites doing some nice work, but then it’s understandable as this show is crying out for a finish at this point. Herman manages a reversal and gets up to his feet in the clinch. Leites quickly works for another trip, but Herman manages to defend initially although he can’t shake Thales off him. Another trip attempt is successful and Herman’s in half-guard again. Scramble from Herman allows Leites to take the back with both hooks, in a seated position with his back against the fence. Leites works for the choke and then looks like he might be prepping for an armbar, but he loses the hooks and Herman rolls into the turtle position. Good punches land for Leites from there and he gets the hooks again with thirty seconds to go. Herman rolls a couple of times but can’t shake Thales off, but with seconds to go he manages to reverse to his feet as Leites looks to use his leg to trap an arm. Round ends there. Leites dominated that round, but not quite enough for a 10-8.

Round Two and Herman looks exhausted to me although he does open with the more effective strikes. Single leg attempt from Leites and he drives Ed into the fence. Herman defends well and stays on his feet, and he lands a nice elbow inside the clinch too. He can’t shake Thales off though and the Brazilian hits a trip takedown to guard. Easy pass into half-guard follows. Beautiful transition follows and he takes the back with both hooks again. He tries to switch to mount, but Herman shifts his hips and then lands an illegal upkick. Ref Kim Winslow gives him a quick warning but Leites remains on top, landing an elbow before passing to side mount. Herman gives his back again but almost manages to stand. Leites prevents that though and rolls him through, slapping both hooks in again in the process. Less than a minute to go here and Thales tries to transition for something, but messes it up and winds up in Herman’s guard again. Herman looks gassed as Leites moves into half-guard. Crowd begin to boo now. Round ends with Leites on top. Dull round but 10-9 Leites again.

Between rounds Herman’s corner are going crazy telling him to get fired up. Round Three and he opens with a jab, but he looks too gassed to really do much and Thales closes him down with a right hand and grabs the clinch. Good combo breaks for Herman but Leites seems fine. Ed does manage to separate from it though. Leg kick connects for the TUF veteran but Leites catches him with a combo and looks for the clinch again. Takedown is blocked by Herman and he lands a nice clean uppercut. Left hand breaks for Herman. Good overhand right connects for Leites as Herman misses a right of his own. Takedown attempt is blocked by Herman. Leites really telegraphed that one. Knee to the body from Herman and he forces Thales into the cage. Takedown attempt from Leites but Herman BLATANTLY grabs the fence to avoid. Kim Winslow outright yanks his arm off the fence and that allows Leites to drag him to the ground in half-guard. Nice pass into side mount follows and Herman sort of rolls onto his side, almost giving his back. Crowd are now sick of this unfortunately. Leites gets the back with both hooks, but there’s less than a minute to go and Herman’s defending well. An attempt to mount causes Leites to end up back in half-guard, but he ends the round with full mount. 30-27 for Leites I’d say.

Judges all have it 30-27 for Thales Leites. This wasn’t a horrible fight or anything but it was a bit like Story/Ebersole but on the ground – Leites dominated and Herman had little to no offense, but was tough enough to stop the Brazilian from finishing him and it made for a bunch of slow periods. Normally I don’t think the crowd would’ve turned on it like they did but after four straight decisions the show was dying for a finish and Thales unfortunately couldn’t deliver.

Lightweight Fight: Donald Cerrone vs Evan Dunham

I was surprised that this one was left on the prelim card, but then with a card as loaded as this something was always going to miss out. In a strange note both men were coming off losses to the surging Rafael Dos Anjos, although to be fair Dunham had looked better in his loss than Cerrone and it could be argued he’d deserved the decision. Even so, I was taking Cowboy to pick up the win here as I figured his style just matched up well with Dunham – I’d say he’s better in all areas, really.

Fight begins and Dunham shoots literally right away. Cowboy stuffs it though and breaks off with a knee. Cowboy looks really aggressive here and he’s stalking forward already. Big knee lands for Cerrone to the body. Dunham comes in swinging too but Cerrone’s using the knee to keep him off. Lunging counter knee rocks Dunham and Cowboy charges in with a right hand and another knee that send him down. Dunham’s in deep trouble. Cowboy pounces and looks for the finish, but Dunham does just enough to hang on and survive despite Cowboy pounding him from half-guard. Dunham looks busted wide open. Reversal from Dunham and he manages to put Cerrone on his back, but Cowboy goes for a triangle right away and then transitions into an oma plata. He uses that to sweep and get back on top, grabbing a front facelock as Dunham rolls. Looks like an anaconda choke is open but he doesn’t go for it and Dunham manages to get to his feet, forcing Cowboy into the fence. Good knee inside from Dunham. Dunham looks like he’s trying for a trip, but he can’t quite get it. Good defense from Cerrone. Big knees from Cerrone separate and have Dunham hurt again. Another one lands to counter Dunham’s lunging punches. Dunham has blood running down his face badly. Leg kick connects for Cowboy. Beautiful combination lands clean for him too as does a leg kick. Dunham just can’t land on him at all and keeps eating the counter knee every time he tries. He looks wobbly too. Cerrone continues to land on him although the round ends with a Dunham leg kick. 10-9 Cerrone.

Into the 2nd and Dunham rushes in with a leg kick and tries to turn it into a brawl, but Cerrone quickly circles out after landing a knee. Body kick from Cowboy. Takedown attempt by Dunham is stuffed nicely. Elbow lands for Cerrone. Again he lands the counter knee when Dunham throws punches in. Glancing right hand from Dunham. Takedown attempt by Cerrone is avoided but he connects on a right hook as Dunham defends. Knee lands once more from Cerrone, this time to counter a takedown attempt. Good combo from Dunham. Body kick from Cerrone. Dunham’s left eye looks a mess. Stiff left hand from Cerrone sets up a glancing head kick. Body kick from Cerrone and Dunham shoots, but Cowboy defends and hits a takedown of his own into side mount. Nice. Two minutes to go and Dunham manages to get to half-guard. He looks to set up a sweep but Cerrone works too and looks for full mount. Reversal from Dunham but as he gets on top Cowboy slaps on a TIGHT TRIANGLE CHOKE. Dunham tries to pull free but Cowboy flips him halfway over and Dunham has to tap whilst pretty much upside-down.

TREMENDOUS fight and probably the best showing from Donald Cerrone since his win over Jeremy Stephens in 2012, as he fought the perfect fight – completely owning Dunham on the feet even when Evan got aggressive, particularly with that counter knee – and on the ground he was way too smooth despite Dunham being a BJJ black belt. Dunham brought his customary aggression and really went for it, but the unfortunate truth was that he was faced with a guy who was basically a better version of himself here, and was out of his depth from the start. Total show-saver too after the previous couple of dull fights. God bless Donald Cerrone – one of the most exciting men to watch in MMA today.

Flyweight Fight: Ali Bagautinov vs Timothy Elliott

As a fan of the Flyweight division I was glad when the UFC decided to showcase this fight as the main card opener, particularly as both men were coming off big wins in exciting fights – Bagautinov over Marcos Vinicius and Elliott over Louis Gaudinot – and the winner would be in a good position for a possible future title shot. As far as a pick went, I was behind Bagautinov for no real reason really.

Round One and Elliott comes forward with his hands down and his head out in a really odd stance. Low kick from Elliott is caught and Ali sends him down, but he pops up immediately. Nice counter right lands for Ali as Elliott continues to come forward with his chin out. Couple of kicks come up short for Elliott and Ali glance on a counter right again. Into the clinch and Ali lands a knee to the body before they break. Left hand lands for Bagautinov. Elliott charges into a clinch but Ali shrugs him off and clips him with a right to the temple on the way out. Leg kick from Elliott. Couple of combos land for Ali and Elliott dives for a leg as he seems stunned. Bagautinov blocks it but Elliott seems okay now and continues to push forward. Couple more counterpunches connect for Ali. Left hand lands nicely for Elliott. Beautiful takedown from Ali but Elliott pops back up only to take a hard knee to the chest. Combos glance for both men. One minute to go. Elliott is still sticking his chin out despite eating more punches in this round. Hard right lands for Bagautinov. Another one lands but Elliott comes back with a knee. Takedown attempt is blocked by Elliott but he takes a glancing combo on his way out. Nice combo from Bagautinov and Elliott goes down off a head kick right before the buzzer. Close-ish round but Bagautinov landed the better shots, so 10-9 for him.

Round Two and Elliott continues to push forward with his herky-jerky style, but he has to land to make all this movement count and he isn’t really doing that. Good uppercut lands for Ali. Combination catches Elliott coming in. Leg kick lands for Ali too. Knee from Elliott but Bagautinov gets a takedown. Elliott goes for a guillotine and it looks quite tight, but Bagautinov shows some serious strength and shakes him off. Elliott manages to get a takedown coming out though and lands in Ali’s guard. Ground-and-pound from Elliott as Ali keeps shifting his hips to look for a possible submission. Oma plata attempt allows him to sweep and he pops back up to his feet at the midway point of the round. Elliott continues to push forward but again walks into a hard counter right. Combination lands for Ali to peg Elliott back a bit. Body kick from Bagautinov. Elliott just isn’t landing much at all to be frank. Low kick does connect for him. Good head movement from Elliott forces Bagautinov to miss a bunch of strikes, but he connects on a counter right. Scramble follows and Ali winds up on top and almost takes the back, but Elliott pops up. Single leg attempt from Bagautinov but Elliott defends nicely. Right hand lands for Elliott. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Bagautinov.

Round Three and Elliott pushes forward and takes some counterpunches although he does get through with a right hand of his own. Good inside leg kick from Elliott. Left hand lands for Ali. Nice front kick connects for Bagautinov. Big overhand right glances for the Dagestani too. Elliott is still having trouble actually landing anything significant for all his odd movements and aggression. Knee from Ali has Elliott backing up a little. Elliott keeps pushing forward but again he takes a harder one-two on the counter. Trio of hard shots over the top connect for Bagautinov, albeit not totally cleanly. Ali is clearly outlanding Elliott at this point. Nice combo finally lands cleanly for Elliott. Takedown attempt is blocked by Ali but he eats a combo as they separate. One minute to go and Elliott really charges forward but eats another cleaner counter. Less than a minute to go and it looks like the fight’s going to continue down the same path. Good combination by Bagautinov but Elliott manages to hit a takedown right before the buzzer. For all Elliott’s aggression I think that’s a 30-27 for Ali Bagautinov.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Ali Bagautinov. Not a bad fight by any means but Elliott’s tactic was a bit frustrating to me as he kept coming forward with this odd style almost like a hybrid between Dominick Cruz and Keith Jardine, but he didn’t actually land many significant strikes and most of the time was walking into hard, nasty counterpunches from Bagautinov, who really only didn’t get the finish because of Elliott’s awesome chin and the fact that he never truly caught him clean on the jaw. You’d have thought after two rounds Elliott would change it up but I guess he thought the tactic was working better than it actually was if that makes sense. Perfectly acceptable fight but it did become like wash, rinse, repeat by the end.

Welterweight Fight: Tyron Woodley vs Josh Koscheck

This one was a battle of great wrestlers and in a way, Woodley is like the new version of Koscheck – a powerful guy for the weight class with knockout power, but not afraid to use his wrestling to hold people down, either. I was picking Woodley to win too as I feel Koscheck’s a shot fighter at this point – he has been pretty much since GSP caved his eye socket in back in 2010 in fact.

First round and Koscheck stalks forward, but walks right into a quick overhand right. Uppercut into another right land for Woodley and Koscheck is down! He pops back up but Woodley grabs a front facelock and cracks him with a knee. Kos drops down to avoid another knee and then looks for the takedown, but Woodley stuffs it and they exchange some knees inside. Herb Dean calls a clean break and they restart. They circle off with both men glancing on punches, and then Woodley clips him with another right hook and a HARD leg kick. Exchange sees Koscheck land a hard right and now Woodley backs up a bit. Koscheck stalks forward and Woodley lands a right of his own. Big right lands again for Woodley and this time Koscheck’s legs buckle and he goes down. Woodley follows with some BRUTAL SHOTS from the top and it looks like Koscheck’s out, but Herb lets it go and he manages to recover enough to grab full guard. Holy shit did he take some shots then. Woodley controls him from the top, but Koscheck manages to hang on to recover. Herb decides to call a stand-up with about a minute to go, and Koscheck again comes forward as Woodley’s backing up a little now. Koscheck’s face is marked up badly. Big right hand misses for Koscheck and a second attempt is met by a HUGE COUNTER RIGHT THAT STOPS HIM DEAD!~! Left-right land cleanly for Woodley too and Kos goes DOWN AND OUT. Good lord.

Awesome fight, one of the best knockouts of 2013, and a star-making performance from Tyron Woodley. What’s not to love? Seriously, the Woodley who was despised as a lay-and-pray artist in StrikeForce seems to be gone at this point as this was his second ridiculous knockout of 2013, and if anything this was more impressive than the Hieron finish as not only is Koscheck a tougher opponent, but he also used more movement and had Koscheck’s timing down, allowing him to catch him with the brutally clean counter for the knockout. I’ve been a fan of Woodley’s for years so it’s awesome to finally see him living up to his potential in the UFC, and I genuinely think if he continues on this path he could have his hands on the title by the end of 2014. Guy is a monster at this point.

Welterweight Fight: Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald

This fight was put together after both men’s performances on the July Fox show – basically poles apart as Lawler had fought an entertaining fight and knocked out Bobby Voelker, while MacDonald had lulled people to sleep in a dull decision win over Jake Ellenberger. The general consensus was that Lawler would at least force MacDonald into a more exciting fight. Despite the styles seeming to favour Rory, I was firmly behind Lawler basically because I’m biased – shit, I’ve been a fan of Ruthless Robbie now for ten years!

Round One and Lawler comes out aggressively, opening with a trio of leg kicks. LOUD crowd chant for Rory as Lawler lands with another leg kick. Glancing left hand backs MacDonald up but doesn’t land cleanly. Right hand glances for Rory. Leg kick lands again for Lawler. MacDonald keeps throwing a front kick out to try to keep distance. Both men throw leg kicks and clash. Outside of Robbie’s leg kicks neither man’s really landed anything significant thus far. They continue to circle and Rory seems happy just to throw the front kick and the odd jab. One minute to go and Lawler looks to trap him against the fence, but Rory quickly retreats out. Right head kick lands cleanly for Lawler and he follows with some sharp left hands as Rory tries to grab the leg. Lawler gets free and the round ends just after. 10-9 Lawler as he landed the more significant strikes – really passive round for Rory actually.

Round Two and MacDonald quickly looks for a single leg, but Lawler stuffs it and lands some quick punches that force Rory to separate. Back to the jab and front kick for MacDonald as he stays just out of the way of Lawler’s shots. Body kick into a right hand from MacDonald. Right hook answers for Lawler. Nice inside leg kick connects for Rory. Combo from MacDonald ends in a glancing head kick. I’d forgotten this was a slower fight at the start. Nice takedown from MacDonald into Lawler’s guard. Action slows down from there as Rory does nothing from the top, and that allows Lawler to attempt a scramble. MacDonald grabs a front facelock to stop him from getting up, then tries to use a cradle to flip Lawler onto his back. Lawler turns back to guard and lands some decent shots from the bottom, but Rory passes into half-guard. Big flurry of elbows land for Rory but Lawler escapes to full guard to end the round. 10-9 MacDonald to even things up.

Round Three and Lawler looks fired up. He comes out swinging and TAGS MacDonald with a right hook and an uppercut that have Rory on the run. Knee attempt from Lawler turns out to be an error though as Rory takes him down. Beautiful elevator sweep from Lawler almost allows him to reverse, but MacDonald shows good base and keeps top position. Crowd begin to boo as Rory does nothing, and Mario Yamasaki calls a stand-up. Again Lawler comes in swinging and he cracks Rory with a left hand. Takedown from Rory but this time Lawler’s elevator does work and he reverses into top position and opens up with some big shots! Rory gets full guard, where he manages to tie Lawler up. Looks like he’s got a bloody nose though. Lawler decides to bring the fight back to the feet, and now Rory looks rattled. He throws some punches that come up short, and Lawler lands with another hard left. They exchange briefly and Rory claims an eye poke. Yamasaki calls time to let him recover but he quickly decides to continue. Takedown attempt from MacDonald but Lawler shows sick balance and stays on his feet. He continues to push forward and then draws Rory into a trade and DECKS HIM WITH A LEFT HAND!~! Crowd go WILD as Lawler comes over the top with big punches to look for the finish, but Rory manages to survive again although he gives up side mount. More shots land for Lawler but Rory sneaks half-guard back as he looks for the knee-on-belly. Lawler quickly works back to side mount. Another brutal right hand lands cleanly for Lawler as Rory gets half-guard again. Sweep attempt from Rory but Lawler remains on top. Armbar attempt from MacDonald but Lawler pulls free and they’re standing. Lawler pushes forward, but MacDonald manages to hit a double leg and puts him on his back in half-guard, and from there HE opens up with big elbows to end the fight. 10-9 Lawler and I have it 29-28, but the first round was very close. Great round.

And we’ve got a split decision – 29-28 Lawler, 29-28 MacDonald, and 29-28 for Robbie Lawler to take the win. Big crowd pop for that which tells you a lot considering the massive chants for Rory at the beginning of the fight. Basically the story of the fight was that Lawler grew in confidence throughout as MacDonald came out with a really passive gameplan and once Lawler seemed to realize that Rory couldn’t hurt him, he really came out hard in the third round and effectively that won him the fight. Just goes to show the difference experience makes as the old Robbie Lawler would never have been able to be that patient in the first couple of rounds, while MacDonald paid a heavy price for his lack of aggression. First two rounds of this weren’t much to look at but the third was five tremendous minutes of MMA and more than made up for it.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Rashad Evans vs Chael Sonnen

With Chael already announced as coaching against Wanderlei Silva on TUF Brazil 3 to build to a fight between the two, this seemed like an odd fight to make, particularly as Rashad seemed like a horrible match for him on paper and I’d have thought the UFC would’ve wanted him to come into the Wanderlei fight off the win over Shogun. But hey, I guess they don’t feel the need to protect Chael as the guy can talk his way into making any fight interesting. Rashad had last beaten Dan Henderson in June and I figured this would be another major win for him just because he matched up with Chael really well due to his size, wrestling game and more dangerous striking.

Fight begins and Chael pushes forward really aggressively before shooting for a takedown. Rashad stuffs it and they end up clinched on the cage. Rashad ends up muscling Chael into the fence, and they jockey for position with neither man really gaining the advantage. Couple of good punches from Rashad and now he drops for a takedown, but Chael defends just as well. Big right hand breaks for Rashad. Chael tries to fire back but Rashad gets the better of it and then looks for a trip. Sonnen blocks and lands a good knee to the body. They continue to exchange inside before Rashad drops for a double leg and this time connects his hands and gets it. He passes immediately into half-guard and then into side mount. Chael tries to get a hip escape to half-guard, but Rashad lands a couple of good shots from the top. Scramble attempt from Chael but he can’t get up from underneath Rashad and he eats a nasty elbow that causes him to turn his back. Rashad continues to land hard shots and now Chael looks like he’s in trouble. Rashad gets full mount and then opens up with some more shots. Chael gives his back and stops defending, and Rashad continues to bomb away until Herb Dean calls the stoppage. Wow.

I know I took Rashad to win this one but I certainly didn’t expect it to be that quick and brutal. Basically once Rashad got Chael on his back the fight was all but over and the actual finish was genuinely brutal – Rashad’s first stoppage since his 2011 mauling of Tito Ortiz, too. Sonnen’s never been great off his back but then usually he doesn’t need to be as, well, how many people could actually take Chael Sonnen down like that? Tremendous performance from Rashad Evans in a short and explosive fight. Oddly too the result was probably good for the UFC as Rashad now has a lot of momentum back while the loss doesn’t really hurt Chael as we knew he was fighting Wanderlei next anyway and due to his ability to sell a fight verbally it doesn’t really matter if he wins or loses.

UFC World Welterweight Title: Georges St-Pierre vs Johny Hendricks

Realistically speaking, this fight probably should’ve taken place in March, but GSP had unfinished business to settle with Nick Diaz (despite Diaz coming off a drug suspension and not having won a fight since 2011…) and so Hendricks fought Carlos Condit instead. Thankfully he managed to pass that test (just about) and this fight was finally set up for the 20th anniversary show. Of course, despite Hendricks showing absolutely brutal knockout power in his fights with Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann as well as his background as a world-class wrestler, I was still picking GSP knowing he’d beaten amazing wrestlers and guys who hit hard before – usually with ease, too. Going into the event there were some rumors, however, of GSP considering retirement if he won the fight, but I was choosing to ignore them.

Round One begins and GSP throws out some distance-gauging strikes before ducking under a punch from Hendricks and tackling him to the ground. Johny immediately gets butterfly guard and looks to reverse, but GSP grabs a guillotine and sneaks into top position….and it almost looks like Hendricks taps, although I think it was more just a random hand movement as he escapes right after and they come back up to their feet in the clinch. They exchange some knees to the thighs and body from inside the clinch and Hendricks manages to muscle GSP into the cage. GSP forces him out and they continue to exchange knees until ref Mario Yamasaki calls a clean break. Let uppercut glances for Hendricks, but GSP grabs onto a single leg. Good defence from Hendricks and he lands some uppercuts inside for good measure, but St-Pierre muscles him into the cage. He can’t get Hendricks down though and takes some SOLID elbows to the side of the head. That forces Georges to give up on the takedown, and Hendricks quickly switches position and forces him into the cage with a couple of knees to the legs. Takedown attempt from Hendricks now as the crowd begin a loud GSP chant. Hendricks completes the takedown, seating GSP up against the cage in half-guard, but the champ immediately gets to his feet. Couple more good knees to the legs from Hendricks. They break with two minutes to go. Hendricks glances with a knee that Joe Rogan, it must be said, totally oversells on commentary. Inside leg kick from GSP. GSP’s face looks marked up already. Jab lands for Georges. Head kick follows but doesn’t land cleanly. Back to the clinch and they exchange more knees to the legs, although again Rogan only seems to be talking about Hendricks’. GSP lands a couple of good ones to the body actually. They break and GSP lands a jab. Big right hand misses for the champ. Inside leg kick from Hendricks. Striking exchange continues with both men landing some decent shots until the round ends. Tight round but I’d go 10-9 Hendricks, largely for the uppercuts and the series of elbows he landed to the head. It was far closer than Rogan made out on commentary unfortunately, but yeah.

Round Two and Hendricks comes out grinning wildly. Jab lands for GSP as does a leg kick. Couple of body kicks glance for the champ and a superman punch follows. Counter left from Hendricks backs GSP up a bit and his nose looks bloodied. Snapping jab lands for the champ. Counter left again from Hendricks and a short uppercut follows and GSP IS WOBBLED! Hendricks looks to flurry on him and two more uppercuts and a left-right combo have the champion in DEEP TROUBLE. He manages to clinch, but takes some more hard punches before Mario Yamasaki steps in to get Hendricks’ mouthpiece back in. Bad timing there. They restart and a leg kick connects for GSP, but Hendricks counters with a combo and evidently Georges is still foggy as he looks rocked again. Big knee to the body follows for Hendricks and he drives GSP into the fence, looking for a takedown while landing some knees to the legs. This is a big round for Hendricks. GSP blocks the takedown well and breaks free. Left hook lands for the champion and he follows that up with a stiff jab. Another one snaps Hendricks’ head back. GSP is looking badly busted up now and he eats another counter left when he throws a low kick. Superman punch glances for GSP. Couple more jabs from GSP but Hendricks counters with a right hook. Counter right lands cleanly for St-Pierre as Hendricks misses a knee. Big left hook lands to GSP’s temple. Both guys are really swinging hard now. GSP’s jab is beginning to work though. Hendricks answers with one of his own. Uppercut glances for Hendricks. Head kick lands for Georges but not cleanly. Exchange continues with both men landing some hard punches. GSP clinches with seconds to go and they exchange shots from there to the buzzer. Clear-cut 10-9 round there for Hendricks as he had GSP in some serious, serious trouble at points.

Round Three and Hendricks comes out swinging but doesn’t land cleanly. Hard inside leg kick from GSP. Knee lands for Hendricks in reply. Snapping jab from GSP and he follows that up with another leg kick. Good job by GSP of slipping a big left from Hendricks and countering with one of his own. Counter-combo glances for Hendricks but GSP stays in the pocket and fires back. This fight is great, must be said. Nice body kick into a left hook from GSP and he’s forcing Hendricks onto his back foot now. Big counter from Hendricks but GSP counters that with a heavy left hook that knocks Johny off balance for a second. Big GSP chant from the crowd. Pawing jabs look to set up a clinch for Hendricks but GSP dodges and clocks him with a right. Good left hand lands for Hendricks. Nice combo from St-Pierre. More punches land for GSP and he’s clearly outstriking Hendricks in this round. The challenger seems to be slowing down quite a lot. Couple of jabs connect for Hendricks though and GSP’s face is looking really messy now with some bad swelling around his left eye. Good left to the body from Hendricks but he takes three shots from GSP in the same exchange. Takedown attempt from Hendricks and he forces Georges back towards the fence. Thirty seconds to go and he manages to get GSP on his back in guard, where he lands some hammer fists and shots to the body. Joe Rogan immediately claims this might “cement the round for Hendricks” which is insane to me. St-Pierre reverses to his feet quickly anyway and the round ends in the clinch. Got that one 10-9 for St-Pierre, meaning it’s 29-28 to Hendricks going into the championship rounds.

Round Four and GSP pushes forward with the jab. Low kick is countered by a quick pair of lefts from Hendricks and the challenger glances with an uppercut too. Low kick lands for GSP. Pair of jabs land for Hendricks but he misses the big left hand. Both men miss on some big shots. Slip from GSP off the clinch sees him fall to his back in guard. Hendricks immediately begins to work the body and the head from there with some hard, short elbows and punches. GSP tries to kick him off and Hendricks surprisingly lets him up. St-Pierre’s face is a MESS now. Like worse than the first BJ Penn fight. Flurry from Hendricks and he lands with a pair of hard uppercuts. St-Pierre seems to be having trouble seeing, looking at this. Jabs into a left uppercut from the challenger. Counter by GSP pegs Hendricks back a little. He follows with a takedown attempt but Hendricks works to defend it and then switches, forcing Georges into the cage. He drops for a takedown of his own now and they really fight hard for the position, with GSP managing to sprawl free and grab a front facelock. They continue to jockey for position inside the clinch and the round ends shortly after. Largely even round on the feet but Hendricks got the takedown and did some substantial damage on the ground, so 10-9 for him and 39-37 going into the fifth and final round.

Round Five and Hendricks is SINGING TO HIMSELF in his corner which is insane. St-Pierre has a bad cut under his right eye. Jabs from GSP open the round and he comes out much more aggressively. Takedown attempt follows and he drives Johny into the fence and looks for a single leg. Hendricks defends but takes some nice short punches from GSP while he has his leg up. Uppercuts answer for the challenger. GSP is literally dragging him all over the cage but he can’t get him down. Hendricks turns the tables and forces the champ into the fence. GSP looks to wrap up a kimura but Hendricks muscles free. Head kick glances for GSP. Nice body kick follows and then GSP clocks him with a hard one-two that seems to have Hendricks hurt for the first time in the fight. Takedown follows and Hendricks is on his back to a massive pop. He immediately tries to elevate GSP off him, and then squirms almost to his feet. Georges grabs a front headlock to control him a bit and lands a knee to the body. Hendricks works back to his feet and forces GSP into the fence again. He’s outmuscling GSP in the clinch which is wild. Two minutes to go and they continue to muscle for position inside the clinch. Mario Yamasaki calls a break and GSP seems to be looking for the right head kick, glancing on it a couple of times. Massive chant of GSP from the crowd as he shoots again on a low single leg. Hendricks defends it well although he appears to grab the fence for a moment, too. Couldn’t quite tell on the camera angle. Hendricks has sick takedown defence but GSP manages to get him down. Only for a split-second though as he pops right up immediately. Round ends with GSP attempting to grab a kimura off a Hendricks takedown attempt, and he sits down on it as the buzzer sounds. Tremendous fight. Valiant effort from GSP in the fifth round but I’d score it 48-47 Hendricks.

Judges have it a split decision, 48-47 Hendricks, 48-47 St-Pierre….and 48-47 St-Pierre to retain the title. Big crowd pop for that as Hendricks sinks to his knees in disbelief.

This was, then, a genuinely tremendous fight – I’d say not quite as good as GSP’s one with Carlos Condit a year before that but easily his best fight since probably the Jon Fitch one prior to Condit. Both guys threw some hard, hard strikes and although it was GSP that came away looking busted up, there can be no doubt he hit Hendricks with everything he had, too. The grappling sequences surprised me the most I think as Hendricks appeared to be able to outmuscle St-Pierre, which has *never* happened before, not even when GSP was faced with brutally strong guys like Hughes, Trigg and Sherk. Just goes to show that there’s a difference between looking strong and actually *being* strong, as Hendricks looks like a smaller, chubby 170lbs when compared to say Thiago Alves who was thrown around by GSP. At the time the majority of fans were crying robbery, saying the decision should clearly have gone to Hendricks, and Dana White agreed with that too, but looking at it on a rewatch I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I mean yeah, I scored it for Hendricks but really it comes down to the first round – the second and fourth were clearly for Hendricks, third and fifth clearly for GSP – and the first round was very close as GSP landed more shots and had the takedown, but Hendricks did much more damage and landed the more significant strikes. Scoring the fight as a whole you’d go for Hendricks all day long, but doing round-by-round you could easily argue for GSP and I think there were far worse decisions in 2013 alone (Woodley/Shields for instance…). At the end of the day you could definitely say I think that Hendricks let GSP back into the fight in the fifth and that’s what really cost him – and he can’t blame the judges for that one.

Post-fight, well, everyone knows what happens as GSP stutters through an interview with Joe Rogan and then seems to sort-of announce his retirement, well, sort-of being the key term there. Of course since then the retirement’s been official and although Dana White was pretty bullish about him returning at some point, just this week he announced that he’s torn his left ACL so I think that’s probably it for him. I know this will be decried as fanboyism but I think he goes down as the best fighter thus far in the history of MMA. You could definitely make an argument for Fedor or Anderson Silva and that’d be fair but to me nobody dominated top level fighters quite like GSP did over such a long period of time – he effectively ruled over three different generations of fighters at 170lbs – the Hughes/Sherk/Trigg/Penn group, the Fitch/Koscheck/Alves/Shields group and then the Condit/Diaz/Hendricks era too. Save for a couple of bad minutes in the Octagon he would’ve gone 27-0 having never fought someone with a losing record, which is an unbelievable feat. Some people found him dull and so they won’t miss him, but as always, fuck them. I for one will miss him a lot. And regardless of the judges’ decision, this was a hell of a fight to go out with.

-Highlight reel rolls to close out the show.

Final Thoughts….

Obviously the UFC wanted to deliver a great show for the 20th anniversary and I think they accomplished that for the most part, although of course it wasn’t as good as the preceding UFC 166. Prelims aren’t great here due to the amount of decisions although the only outright dull fights were Story/Ebersole and Leites/Herman, and once you get to the main card it’s pretty spectacular, with Woodley’s brutal KO of Koscheck, Lawler’s miraculous win over MacDonald and Rashad crushing poor Chael in a one-sided massacre. Top it all off with an epic, controversial title fight that looks likely to close the book on the career of arguably the greatest fighter ever and UFC 167’s worth an easy thumbs up. One of the best shows of 2013.

Best Fight: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks
Worst Fight: Story vs. Ebersole

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com