MMA: Johny Hendricks
Maynard (11-2-1), who fights Nate Diaz this weekend at The Ultimate Fighter Finale inside Mandalay Bay Events Center, came as close as one can get to winning a UFC title when he fought then-champion Frankie Edgar to a draw in January 2011.
Judges selected by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that night scored the bout 48-46 for Edgar, 48-46 for Maynard and a 47-47 draw. Edgar retained the belt and went on to defeat Maynard in a rematch nine months later.
Even before the draw with Edgar, Maynard said he has believed mixed martial arts needs to alter the way it scores fights -- and a half-point system would do that.
"If they did half-points, it would be better for the sport," Maynard told ESPN.com. "It's always 10-9, 10-9, 10-9. There's no way to add in that 'this guy did more in that last round.' The half-points would help choose who won the fight."
In the first round of that 2011 title bout, Maynard appeared to be on the verge of a finish when he knocked Edgar down multiple times with punches.
All three judges gave Maynard a 10-8 score in the first round. Some argued that if that dominant of a round was 10-8, then a 10-7 round doesn't really exist.
Edgar went on to recover, somewhat miraculously, between the first and second rounds. On one judge's card he won each of the next four rounds, thus the fight. Those rounds Edgar won were much closer than the one-sided first.
Under a half-point system, it's possible that one or two close rounds scored for Edgar would have rendered 10-9.5 scores, therefore altering the final result.
A similar situation occurred earlier this month in Las Vegas during a welterweight title fight between Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. St-Pierre retained his title via split decision.
In Maynard's opinion, the scoring of these types of fights isn't ruining the sport (a concern voiced by UFC president Dana White at UFC 167), but it demonstrates athletic commissions' unwillingness to evolve with the sport.
"The scoring system isn't ruining the sport, but it's not helping it grow," Maynard said. "There has been a lot of talk about judging, and you have to take that into account and evolve. The sport changes every year, every month, every day. That change has to happen with the scoring as well."
Several athletic commissions have tested the half-point system through trial runs, although a committee ultimately advised the Association of Boxing Commissions against its use in 2012. The system has its fair share of detractors, including White.
Obviously, Maynard has history to consider when it comes to his stance. The 34-year-old lightweight, whose fight with Diaz on Saturday could very well go to a close decision as it did in 2010, said if commissions don't change the scoring system, they should at least clarify more what they're scoring in a fight.
"It's just kind of hard to tell what they want," Maynard said. "There are a couple that look at the points, that look at damage as points. Some don't look at the ground game at all.
"I don't know. That's the question. What do they want, what do they look at, how will they score it?"
ESPN Stats & Information
At UFC 167, many felt that Johny Hendricks did enough damage against Georges St-Pierre to become the new UFC welterweight champion. On Glenn Trowbridge’s scorecard, Hendricks did just that. The other two judges (Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks) saw the first round for the champion, giving him the 48-47 decision and the victory for St-Pierre’s UFC record-breaking 19th win inside the Octagon.
While the decision can be argued for both fighters, it marks just another recent example of champions barely leaving the Octagon with their titles.
UFC 165 - Jon Jones defeats Alexander Gustafsson (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
In September of this year, Jon Jones made the sixth defense of his UFC light heavyweight title against his toughest challenger to date, Alexander Gustafsson. While Jones outstruck the challenger 28-19 in significant strikes in the opening round, Gustafsson scored a takedown while Jones was stuffed on all three of his attempts.
Gustafsson won Round 1 on all three scorecards. Rounds 2 and 3 are where things got tricky with the judging. Neither man gained a takedown (Jones 0-for-3, Gustafsson 0-for-2), but Jones held the striking advantage in Round 2 26-15 and Round 3 29-26.
Jones won four of the six cards in those two rounds. Round 4 was again close in significant strikes (27-26 Jones), but the champion did more damage, winning all three scorecards.
Round 5 was again close, with the significant strikes even at 24 for both fighters and Jones landing a takedown while stuffing all four Gustafsson attempts.
When the final scorecards were read, Jones was ahead on all cards, earning the unanimous decision.
UFC on FOX 7 – Benson Henderson defeats Gilbert Melendez (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Benson Henderson made the third defense of his UFC lightweight title in April 2013, defeating former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.
Round 1 went to the challenger despite landing fewer significant strikes 9-7. Melendez did land his only takedown of the fight and landed the better strikes in the eyes of the judges.
Round 2 was again close, with the champion holding a 15-13 significant strikes advantage. Both fighters landed hard shots in the cage, but Henderson won the round on two of the three judges’ scorecards. Henderson responded with his best round of the fight, landing 15 of 29 significant strikes (52 percent) and landed two leg kicks during the round that knocked Melendez off balance.
Rounds 4 and 5 were virtually even on the cards despite Henderson outlanding Melendez 29-16 in significant strikes. Henderson landed 12 leg kicks to help him win Round 4 on two of the three cards.
In the final round, Melendez won two of three cards despite landing only 15 percent of his significant strikes. Melendez won the fight 48-47 according to the first card, but Henderson won 48-47 on the other two cards, retaining his title.
UFC 125 – Frankie Edgar draws with Gray Maynard (48-46, 46-48, 47-47)
Frankie Edgar held onto his UFC lightweight title after a very tough fight with the only man to beat him, Gray Maynard, to start the fight calendar in 2011.
The first round of the 2011 Fight of the Year was its most memorable, with Maynard knocking the champ down three times and furiously landing punches to the head. Maynard would win the round 10-8 on all cards, outstriking Edgar 47-10, with 25 of those deemed significant.
Edgar would rebound in Round 2, outstriking a hesitant Maynard 21-6 to win the round as well as landing the slam that you see in the UFC PPV entrance video today.
Round 3 was the closest round of the fight, with Edgar holding a 21-17 significant strike advantage, but Maynard landed two takedowns.
Round 4 went to Edgar across the board as he landed 52 percent of his significant strikes, the highest in any round. Edgar also landed two takedowns.
With the fight on the line, Round 5 was a 20-16 advantage to Edgar with neither man gaining a takedown (Edgar 0-for-3, Maynard 0-for-7).
Maynard would win on two of three judges’ scorecards to close out the fight. The first announced card of Glenn Trowbridge (only one to pick Hendricks) was 48-46 Maynard, while Edgar won a card 48-46 and the final judge scored the bout 47-47 for a split decision draw.
UFC 104 – Lyoto Machida defeats Mauricio Rua (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
In October 2009, Lyoto Machida made the first and only defense of his UFC light heavyweight title against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rua came out the gates with his best statistical round, landing 70 percent of his significant strikes (19 of 27).
Machida landed nine significant strikes and stopped Rua’s lone takedown attempt, winning the round on two of three judges’ scorecards. Machida unanimously won Rounds 2 and 3 on the scorecards, but was outstruck 40-16 in significant strikes. Machida did stop each of Rua’s takedown attempts in the rounds and quality kicks the body and legs to win each of the rounds.
The fourth round was a 10-1 striking advantage to Shogun, and he won on two of the three cards. Round 5 was unanimous to the challenger, who mixed in 11 significant strikes to the head and legs while the champion Machida landed six.
In total, Rua outlanded Machida 80-38, with a 49-4 advantage in strikes to the legs. Machida did his damage with punches and kicks to the body, holding a 24-16 advantage. When the scorecards were read, Lyoto Machida won all three cards with identical 48-47 scores to retain his UFC light heavyweight title.
In the UFC’s 20-year history, only one champion has ever lost his title by way of split decision (Kevin Randleman to Bas Rutten at UFC 20). Whether it’s intended to be or not, the words of the famous wrestler Ric Flair come to mind: “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” In the world of the UFC, most of us are still wondering if there’s an exact definition to what that means.
Hendricks will need confidence, patience, discipline, intelligence, offensive and defensive grappling, stamina, feints, level changes, head movement, footwork and, maybe, some luck for good measure. A little luck never hurt anybody in a UFC title fight.
That left hand, though -- the reason you hear so much about it is because even though Hendricks (15-1) must take every tool he has into the Octagon against St-Pierre, at any moment that one left hand might be all it takes.
What is it about that left hand that makes it so dangerous and gives us reason to believe Hendricks could become just the third man to ever defeat St-Pierre (24-2), and first since 2007?
ESPN.com asked that question of Hendricks, as well as St-Pierre and five previous Hendricks opponents with firsthand knowledge of that stinging left.
Hendricks: "Realistically, [the power] comes from my legs and my butt. I walk around at 225. I have big legs and a big butt. That's where all the power comes from. And, you know, wrestling -- always being in that stance and ready to explode."
Handling Hendricks' power
T.J. Grant (lost to Hendricks via majority decision at UFC 113 in May 2010): "The thing is, he doesn't have to try to throw for power -- he just has it. He has always got his legs involved in every punch, too. That's when you murder guys, when you have your feet and hips involved in every punch. That's why Johny has so much power is all his life in wrestling. When he throws that big Popeye forearm at your head, you're going to go down."
St-Pierre: "His left is his signature move but he works on many things. He's a very complete fighter. He's probably one of the best in the division in knockout power and the reason why is he's so good you don't see it coming. The way he throws it, I believe you don't see it coming."
Martin Kampmann (lost to Hendricks via knockout at UFC 154 in November 2012): "I think the problem was I was preparing too much for the left hook and then he came straight with one. The one he got [Jon] Fitch with, he was throwing it wide, wide. With me, he came straight down the middle."
Rick Story (defeated Hendricks via unanimous decision at TUF 12 Finale in December 2010): "During the fight, when he was punching me, I thought, 'Eh, this is nothing I haven't felt before.' He's placing them. His punching power isn't seriously superior. To be able to place them you have to throw them and some people hesitate. He has got confidence in it now so he's throwing a lot more."
Josh Koscheck (lost to Hendricks via split decision at UFC on Fox in May 2012): "For me, it was no big deal. I like fighting southpaws. I prefer it. They are better for my style. When he throws the left, I throw the right. I think he has definitely got power in his hands because he has knocked out a lot of guys and the ones he hasn't have felt it because they've been knocked down, but for me it was no big deal."
Mike Pierce (lost to Hendricks via split decision at UFC 133 in August 2011): "It wasn't his straight left hand that caught me off guard. His left uppercut is kind of funky and then his coach [Marc Laimon] yelling, 'Cheeseburger, cheeseburger!' code names for combinations. He hits pretty hard but not the hardest. I got thumped pretty hard by Aaron Simpson, that was probably the hardest I've ever been hit."
Koscheck: "The game plan for Johny was to mix it up on the feet. You can hear [trainer] Bob Cook in the corner, it's crazy, he's always saying, 'Get off first! Be first!' That was pretty much our game plan -- get off first, get on him. With Hendricks, it's much easier to get off first and then get away from the big left hand."
Grant: "He has got timing. He puts his whole body behind his punches. He is accurate but a lot of times he also level changes with his head and hips and that kind of brings the guys' hands down. He 100 percent commits. He's a confident fighter. When you're confident, you don't hesitate and those milliseconds of hesitation are the difference between knocking a guy out or taking him down."
Story: "What's important for Georges is to stay out of Johny's range. What's important for Johny is to get into Georges' range. He's going to have to mix it up and get pretty creative. Georges has been doing this a long time."
Hendricks: "Whenever you're wrestling in college, you've got to do all these setups and your reaction from [outside of an opponent to inside] has to penetrate through all these distractions and get to the legs very quickly and explosively. That's what has really helped me out [in fighting]. They try to keep me at bay because I'm so short, but I use that explosiveness to close the distance."
Kampmann: "If Johny catches him on the button he'll hurt him, but St-Pierre is going to fight him smart. He's going to try to jab him from the outside the whole fight. Johny is good at closing the distance but he's going to get jabbed the whole fight. If Johny commits hard, that's how I think St-Pierre will take him down. Even though Johny is the better wrestler, I think St-Pierre can still take him down. That's how I think St-Pierre is going to fight him, but sometimes s--- don't go to plan."
Koscheck: "Johny Hendricks is a tough young fighter and I wish him the best but I think St-Pierre will outpoint him. Georges is smart. He's a game planner. He'll jab, use his wrestling at times, keep Johny at a distance and get off first. Georges is a lot faster than Johny. He'll end up winning a decision."
Pierce: "I'm definitely going for Johny Hendricks. I want to see him knock Georges St-Pierre out. In his past several fights Johny has really excelled at catching guys. St-Pierre has shown in the past he doesn't have the best chin in the world. We all saw him fall to Matt Serra and I think Hendricks has all the capabilities to do the same sort of thing and even more so."
Grant: "You can never count Georges out of any fight, but I think this is probably the most dangerous fighter he has fought just because Johny has that great wrestling pedigree. Unlike Koscheck, I feel like he's really good at making the knockout happen, whereas Koscheck wings a lot of right hands and if it doesn't land, he doesn't always have the second and third option -- I think Johny does. I give the advantage to Johny, personally."
Hendricks: "Whenever you get a guy that walks in at 190 to 195 pounds -- that's usually what I walk into the Octagon at -- and you get that moving pretty quick, he can throw a 50 percent punch and lay somebody out. It's about accuracy. You touch that jawline and anybody is going night-night."
If that sounds unpleasant, it's probably because it most likely is. The best thing Story could think of when it comes to staying in a hotel for that long?
"It's kind of nice," he mumbled unconvincingly. "All the accommodations are here as far as toilet paper and shampoo -- and stuff."
Got it. And at the top of the many general reasons one might want to avoid this situation, Story doesn't speak French. Meaning, a large fraction of the French Canadian television channels available in his room are completely worthless to him.
"I've been killing time watching Netflix," Story said. "I've been watching a lot of Netflix."
Pause. "A lot of Netflix."
In addition to streaming online movies, Story spent his time in Montreal developing his craft at Tristar Gym alongside UFC champion Georges St-Pierre. It's the first time Story (15-7), who meets Brian Ebersole at UFC 167 on Saturday in Las Vegas, has held a fight camp outside his home state of Washington.
The idea of Story temporarily joining the Tristar team was first broached in March, in a locker room the two fighters shared at UFC 158 at Bell Centre.
St-Pierre was headlining the card in a welterweight title fight against Nick Diaz. In the co-main event, Johny Hendricks was set to take on Carlos Condit. Everyone in the building knew if St-Pierre and Hendricks won, they'd fight each other next.
And as fate would have it, there was Story -- the only man with a win over Hendricks -- scheduled to fight Quinn Mulhern on the preliminary card, sharing a locker room with the Canadian champ.
"[Tristar coach] Firas Zahabi was very persistent in getting us to come," Story said. "Pat White is my coach and he and Pat talked that night in Montreal.
"Originally, we thought it would be better if Johny beat Georges, because I'm the only one to ever beat him so it would make it easier to get a title shot sooner. Firas was so persistent, though. He kept emailing Pat, calling Pat, calling the gym."
Eventually, the deal Tristar offered was too good to pass up. In addition to the benefit of high-level sparring partners including St-Pierre, Zahabi worked a deal that covered the cost of Story's entire eight-week stay.
"I don't know exactly how the deal was worked out, but we had our hotel paid," Story said. "Pat and I have separate rooms, he's been here with me the whole time. Our food is paid for. It was like, a great deal."
As much as St-Pierre obviously wanted Story in his camp, the timing of this experience probably couldn't be better for Story as well.
That signature win over Hendricks in December 2010 is a fairly distant memory. A six-fight winning streak had him cracking top-10 lists in early 2011, but Story has endured a 2-4 skid in his past six fights. He suffered a split-decision loss to Mike Pyle in his previous performance at UFC 160 in May.
Physically, Story says, he has been fine during this stretch. It's been a mental issue. Every fighter handles a loss differently. In Story's case, for whatever reason, it was difficult to get going again once the winning streak was broken.
"I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but you walk the walk for a long time, you get knocked off course and then it's kind of hard to get back on the horse," Story said.
"I lost to [Charlie] Brenneman and then there were some fights that I wasn't completely focused on. I wasn't doing the things I needed to be doing to go into the fight with confidence. It was really cool being able to come here and do that for this training camp, with no distractions. My confidence is through the roof right now."
Confidence, a few new techniques, and all of the free travel-size shampoo bottles he can handle -- maybe Montreal wasn't so bad to Story after all.
ESPN Stats & Information
St-Pierre will face No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks, who seeks to join Matt Hughes and Matt Serra as the only men to defeat GSP.
Here are the numbers you need to know for the fight:
18: St-Pierre has won 18 of his 20 UFC bouts and if he defeats Hendricks, GSP will break a tie with UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes for most wins in the UFC.
11: St-Pierre is currently riding an 11-fight win streak, suffering his last loss at UFC 69 in April 2007 to Serra. Eight of those victories have come by unanimous decision, including St-Pierre’s past six wins. Hendricks is on a six-fight win streak, suffering his last loss at “The Ultimate Fighter 12” finale in December 2010 to Rick Story.
5: Hendricks has five UFC victories by KO/TKO in 11 fights, tied for fourth most in UFC welterweight history. Before making his UFC debut, Hendricks had three KO/TKO wins in five fights. St-Pierre also has five UFC wins by KO/TKO, but none since UFC 94 in January 2009 against BJ Penn.
75: St-Pierre has landed 75 percent of his takedowns in the UFC, highest all time. Hendricks has been taken down seven times in his UFC career in 23 attempts (70 percent defense).
12: Hendricks landed 12 takedowns in 15 attempts against Carlos Condit in his last fight at UFC 158. "Bigg Rigg" lands an average of 5.5 takedowns per 15 minutes. St-Pierre has an 88 percent takedown defense, ranking first in the welterweight division and seventh all time.
40: If the fight lasts more than 40 seconds, St-Pierre (5 hours, 3 minutes, 12 seconds) will have more total fight time in the UFC than any other fighter, passing Penn (5 hours, 3 minutes, 51 seconds).
3: Since the start of 2011, Hendricks has won three knockouts of the night bonuses, second most in the UFC with Travis Browne. Hendricks also has a fight of the night bonus for his fight with Condit. St-Pierre has just one knockout of the night bonus for his victory over Hughes at UFC 65.
3: Hendricks will be only the third southpaw St-Pierre has faced in 20 UFC fights. At UFC 54 in 2005, St. Pierre faced Frank Trigg and defeated him by rear-naked choke in the first round. In his last fight at UFC 158, St-Pierre dominated Nick Diaz for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision.
10: UFC wins for St-Pierre in Las Vegas (10-0), but he hasn’t fought there since UFC 100 in July 2009. The past five wins for GSP have been outside of Las Vegas (four in Canada, one in New Jersey). Hendricks has a 1-1 UFC record in Las Vegas.
Statistical support from FightMetric
Apparently, wins (Pierce has nine in the UFC) haven’t caught Silva’s attention. Neither have finishes (two in his last three fights). It’s time to try beer.
“Maybe I need to get a big pitcher of beer for Joe and sit down and hash this out,” Pierce told ESPN.com. “No, it’s just one of those things where I have to keep doing what I’m doing until they can’t ignore me anymore.”
Pierce (17-5), who faces Rousimar Palhares at UFC Fight Night 29 next week in Sao Paulo, Brail, wants a fight that matters. The kind of fight that breaks you into the Top 10.
He holds a lifetime UFC record of 9-3. All three losses were by close decision to highly ranked opponents. The split decision loss to Josh Koscheck in February 2012? Pierce says he “clearly” won that.
Following his last victory, a TKO finish over David Mitchell in the second round at UFC 162 in Las Vegas, a photo was taken of Pierce smiling toward Silva, with his hands at his sides turned upward, like -- Hey Joe, can I get a big fight now?
What he got was Palhares (14-5), who is on a 2-fight losing streak and dropping to welterweight for the first time. Pierce, meanwhile, has won four in a row.
How does Pierce, 33, feel about this matchup leading into the fight? ESPN.com asked him, among other things.
ESPN: What was your first reaction to hearing you were fighting Palhares?
Pierce: I thought it was kind of funny because if you look back on my career, there have been a lot of guys the UFC has thrown at me where it was their last chance at doing something. If they didn’t do something, they either got released or would drop a weight class or something. It’s kind of like another one of those situations. He’s lost twice in a row and is dropping to 170. I’ve dealt with guys before who have dropped from 185 and it didn’t go their way.
ESPN: Why do you think the UFC likes to book you against that type of opponent?
Pierce: Man, your guess is as good as mine. I’ve done some things in the sport. I’ve beat some tough guys and I’ve had real close calls with some guys that are fighting for the title real soon. It does blow my mind as to why. I can’t quite answer or fully understand it.
ESPN: That kind of matchmaking starting to bother you?
Pierce: Of course, I’m p---ed off. I want to start getting those main card fights against notable guys. Palhares has fought some tough guys. He’s got a little bit of credence to his name but I want to start working my up. This guy is coming off two losses and I’m on a 4-fight win streak. Typically, they don’t match up guys like that.
ESPN: Have you complained to the UFC about it?
Pierce: I haven’t had too much interaction with Joe Silva. I’ve had brief words with him. He’s not a huge fan of most people who smash guys up against the fence and grind on them, hit them on the side, that sort of stuff -- which, I get. That’s not exciting. He’s like, “I don’t care if it’s a submission, a TKO or a knockout. Look for finishes.” I get that, but it’s hard to do that sometimes when a guy is fresh or you have two skilled fighters. It’s hard to catch them sleeping. And I have had two good finishes in my last three fights.
ESPN: What are your thoughts on Palhares’ style? He has a history of going real deep on submission attempts in the Octagon.
Pierce: Well yeah, there was that one clear, obvious one where he held it when the referee told him to let go and he got fined by a commission (UFC 111). Then recently, he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels (UFC on FX 6), so this guy is definitely a cheat. There’s no surprise. He’ll do anything to win because he’s either desperate or an (a------). I’m not too concerned about that. I come in expecting he’s going to be mean, try to be a bully, try to cheat -- I have to deal with it.
ESPN: The tag “underrated” has started to follow you. You agree with it?
Pierce: Whenever the media does mention me it’s always as, “the most underrated welterweight.” I thoroughly agree with that. I think for whatever reason, people overlook me, but I don’t think the fighters do. I think the fighters in the welterweight division think, ‘That’s not really a guy I want to fight.’
ESPN: You’ve had close losses to Johny Hendricks and Koscheck. You ever think about those? Like, if one judge had seen it different, your entire career changes?
Pierce: I only think about them when guys interview me and bring it up. No, I think about it from time to time. Had things gone my way, of course things would be a little different but that’s how it goes when you have judges who don’t see what everybody else sees. Especially with the Koscheck fight -- I clearly won that fight. I won it on paper. I won it visually to everybody watching except for the judges it seems like. At the end of the day, those three judges get to make that decision and they didn’t do a good job that night I believe -- but you’ve got to look forward.
There are only two welterweights who can claim to be better than Carlos Condit and neither is named Martin Kampmann. Condit not only exacted revenge Wednesday night at Bankers Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, he dominated Kampmann en route to a fourth-round knockout win.
The victory avenged a split-decision setback Condit suffered to Kampmann in April 2009. Their first fight was closely contested; not so the second time around.
Condit punched Kampmann in the face repeatedly throughout the bout, eventually leaving it bloody and puffy; he connected with kicks to the body, which slowed Kampmann’s attack and evaporated his confidence.
The performance was impressive, but more important it strengthened Condit’s case to get the winner of Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks -- those two are set to meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. Normally it would be unthinkable to suggest that a fighter who lost his two previous bouts to the men slated to compete for the belt deserves to be next in line for the title shot.
Both ESPN.com and UFC.com, however, rate Condit the No. 2 welterweight contender behind Hendricks. Even UFC president Dana White can’t take issue with those rankings.
“It was an absolutely great fight. Carlos Condit just proved why he is the No. 2 [welterweight contender] in the world,” White said after Condit improved to 29-7.
Who deserves the St-Pierre-Hendricks winner more? The guy with the strongest counter is Rory MacDonald. But it’s not clear that MacDonald will step in against friend and teammate St-Pierre, if he is still champion after 167.
Besides, MacDonald needs to prove he has surpassed Condit before his case of being next in line to get a title shot is taken seriously. Condit has a victory over MacDonald -- a third-round knockout in June 2010.
MacDonald can claim that he is a vastly improved fighter since the loss to Condit -- there is no doubting that argument. But he should have to prove it, just as Condit did Wednesday night against Kampmann.
The only way MacDonald moves ahead of Condit in the title-shot pecking order is to prove it. Exact revenge on Condit and the debate ends. Until then, it should be all about Condit. Other than coming up short against St-Pierre and Hendricks, Condit did nothing to diminish his reputation as a top-rated welterweight.
“There are a lot of intriguing matches in the division, but of course, I’d like to get that title shot, possibly Johny Hendricks or Georges St-Pierre, whoever wins,” Condit said. “But there are other fights out here that are interesting also. We will see what happens.”
It sounds as though Condit wouldn’t mind further cementing his position as the No. 2 welterweight contender with a win over MacDonald. That fight, however, only makes sense if MacDonald is successful against Robbie Lawler at UFC 176.
As for Kampmann, he has some soul-searching to do. The loss was his second in a row -- to Condit and Hendricks. Losing to those guys doesn’t place Kampmann (20-7) in the steppingstone category. But the manner in which he went down, getting knocked out in each of those setbacks, will make it difficult for Kampmann to get a sniff at a title shot anytime soon.
Kampmann is now forced to play the waiting game. He entered Wednesday’s rematch ranked seventh by ESPN.com among 170-pound fighters, and sixth by UFC.com. Kampmann must now keep a close eye on where he falls when those polls are next released. Expect him to remain in the top 10 -- but barely.
“Sixteen,” Kampmann interrupts. “Sixteen fights.”
If Kampmann and Michael Bisping ever go out for beers, it’s easy to picture them hugging it out at least once over one brutal similarity. These two have fought consistently well for years in the Octagon but have yet to fight for the title.
How many times has Kampmann pictured a fight against reigning welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre? He can’t give an exact number. But bring it up and he stares at the ground like a kid describing what he’s wanted for the past five Christmases -- and is still waiting.
“I’d love to fight GSP. I’d ... “ He breaks sentence and shakes his head. “I know it wouldn’t be an easy fight, but I feel I could beat him. I’d love to get the chance to fight him -- very much.”
Despite a first-round knockout loss to Johny Hendricks in his last bout, Kampmann (20-6) feels that fight is within his grasp.
To an extent, the UFC must agree. It booked Kampmann to a main event fight against highly ranked Carlos Condit on Wednesday, at UFC Fight Night 27 in Indianapolis.
“I think a loss always sets you back, but I think I’m still one of the guys at the top,” Kampmann told ESPN.com. “I was calling out [Nick] Diaz and Condit. I want to fight those guys coming off losses who are still ranked real high.”
It’s not as though Kampmann gives off a sense of desperation to get to the title, but the veteran understands he’s not an up-and-coming prospect anymore.
Whereas he used to consistently travel to different gyms for different looks when living in Denmark -- including Sweden, Brazil and Thailand -- these days he remains relatively grounded thanks to his wife and two sons.
While younger fighters typically return to the gym quickly following a tough loss or a rough sparring session, Kampmann has been cognizant of the need to let his body heal in between fights.
Even though he’s still confident in his chin, Kampmann knows he’s now suffered four knockout losses in his career.
“Of course I’m worried [about that],” Kampmann said. “It’s not going to make me any smarter getting punched in the head, but that’s the sport. That’s the risk. I think after the [Jake] Ellenberger fight I took a long break. It’s definitely something I’ve gotten more aware of in my career.
“I feel I have a good chin. I’ve had a good chin my whole career. If you get rocked too many times, though, and don’t respect it, I think that’s the problem.”
This week’s bout against Condit (28-7) is a rematch of a bout that took place in April 2009 that resulted in a split decision victory for Kampmann.
Kampmann doesn’t have a long history of fighting opponents multiple times. It’s happened once, against British welterweight Matt Ewin. It went well for him.
“In the first fight, I got on top, elbowed him, and I think I broke his orbital bone,” Kampmann said. “He didn’t come out in the second round. The second fight, he shot in, I sprawled and started elbowing him again, and he tapped out.”
If Kampmann can be as successful in the second rematch of his career, he’ll be once again in striking distance of that Christmas he’s spent seven years working toward.
LAS VEGAS -- UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has echoed recent comments made by his teammate Rory MacDonald that the two will never fight.
Speaking to reporters at the MGM Grand Hotel on Monday, St-Pierre shrugged off questions regarding a future fight between them as nothing more than media nonsense.
“You guys want a story,” St-Pierre said. “Make conflict happen with me and Rory. It’s not going to happen. Rory and I are tight. We’re friends.”
St-Pierre (24-2) and MacDonald (15-1) are longtime training partners at Tristar Gym in Montreal.
St-Pierre is scheduled to defend his title for the ninth time against Johny Hendricks (15-1) at UFC 167 in November. MacDonald, meanwhile, is coming off a heavily criticized decision win over Jake Ellenberger at a UFC on Fox event on Saturday.
Last week, MacDonald plainly stated to media he and St-Pierre had no intention to fight each other. MacDonald has climbed to No. 3 in the UFC’s division rankings.
UFC president Dana White responded that he didn’t believe MacDonald’s comments. St-Pierre was there to back him up on Monday.
You guys want a story. Make conflict happen with me and Rory. It's not going to happen. Rory and I are tight. We're friends.” -- Georges St-Pierre, on why he won't fight friend and fellow contender Rory MacDonald
“Rory and I, we’re friends, you know?” St-Pierre said. “I don’t know what to say. I’m friends with Rory. We text, we call each other.
“There are many ways of doing things. Maybe I want to go up [in weight]. Maybe he might go up. There are many other options. I have a plan for my career. I can not tell you everything, guys, but there are other ways of doing things.”
St-Pierre currently sits second all-time in consecutive title defenses with eight. He trails only former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who defended the 185-pound title 10 times in a row before losing it to Chris Weidman earlier this month.
When asked if St-Pierre would remain in the weight class long enough to take that record from Silva, his response was unclear.
“It’s a good question now that you say it,” St-Pierre said. “I don’t know.
“I’m taking it fight by fight. I don’t think about records because every fight is different and has its own problems.”
The champ also defended MacDonald’s conservative approach against Ellenberger, which led to the unanimous decision victory.
“The truth is, it’s not only because Rory is my friend, the truth is we all knew by watching the fight Rory was winning,” St-Pierre said. “It was up to Jake Ellenberger to take the risk to change the momentum of the fight, not Rory.”
After all, if frenetic back-and-forth action is what we want in a main event, this is the formula -- even if the guys fighting in it, challenger John Moraga and 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson, are lighter than most sophomores in high school.
But then again, everybody loves a headliner consisting of two loaf-fisted heavyweight monstrosities trying to take each other's heads off. Given these perhaps outdated but still popular appetites, it's risky to trot out the remora instead of the sharks, is it not?
Not that these are the only factors.
By now you know that nobody knows who Moraga is, and that's why so many people are dishing the CliffsNotes. We need to learn of the fly on the fly. The 5-foot-3 Johnson is better known, but not to the dreaded "casual fans," the ones presumably being tempted toward their television sets. So what we're talking about by making two fairly anonymous fighters the main attraction on a big, widely seen card is that technique, athleticism, skill and speed -- colliding like two angry hummingbirds in a jar -- are more than enough.
The truth is, it might be. Particularly if each has his moments putting the other in trouble. The question then becomes: Does any of this change Johnson's approach? Johnson is holding the flyweight belt in part because he fights smart (a euphemism for "boring" in the minds of some people). He hasn't been involved in a fight that didn't go the distance since 2010, when he fought Damacio Page in the WEC. If he fights tactically against Moraga -- which by all rights he should and Moraga expects -- doesn't he make the least of the coveted spot?
That's all left for Saturday night. Drama is sometimes in the smaller details, and those are on display this weekend in Seattle.
The introduction of Moraga
Though the flyweights carry an onus of not being able to finish fights, Moraga crushes onuses like a cold monkey wrench. In two UFC bouts, both at 125 pounds, he has finished the guy in front of him. Should he do to Johnson what he did to Ulysses Gomez (that is, knock him out), here's guessing that everybody knows exactly who Moraga is come Sunday morning.
Aesthetically, the flyweights are fun to watch and almost impossible to truly behold with the naked eye. They require remote controls and liberal use of the slow-motion button. But do we ultimately value that? Should Moraga-Johnson underwhelm, this could be the last flyweight tilt (title or no) we see headlining a big card for a long time.
MacDonald as legit contender
Who has Rory MacDonald fought, cynics want to know. After all, Che Mills isn't in the UFC anymore and Nate Diaz is more of a natural lightweight (as is BJ Penn). As for Mike Pyle? He's awfully long in the tooth. But remember, MacDonald did have Carlos Condit on the ropes until the final seconds. And if he beats Jake Ellenberger, who has won eight of nine, MacDonald puts his name into imminent welterweight contention.
Ellenberger's chance to make statement
Say that Ellenberger goes in and savagely puts MacDonald away in the first round, as he's known to do. What then? The guess is that such an outcome sets up a fight between Ellenberger and Demian Maia as a true No. 1 contender bout while Georges St-Pierre-Johny Hendricks plays out in November.
It's crazy, but the last time Robbie Lawler won consecutive fights was all the way back in 2007. He traded wins and losses for four years in Strikeforce, coughing up a bit of his mystique. But the upset victory over Josh Koscheck in February put a little wind back in his sail, and should he beat Bobby Voelker on Saturday, he'll essentially have a clean slate.
Can 'Mighty Mouse' finish a fight?
Truth is, Johnson looks better each time we see him in the cage. He looked good against Ian McCall the first time and better against him the second time. Johnson looked great against Joseph Benavidez. Ditto John Dodson. The knock is that Johnson is a points fighter who does just enough. Does that end against Moraga?
Can Ellenberger win a decision over MacDonald?
You ask people how Ellenberger wins his fight against MacDonald and they'll say via knockout. But what happens if MacDonald stays disciplined and is there all night? Can Ellenberger eke out a win on points? He did fade against Martin Kampmann and Diego Sanchez, and neither is as big and strong as MacDonald.
Realistically, there's only one Guillard, and that's the same one who will show up in Seattle. He switched training camps (yet again) to Denver, where he's been training with Trevor Wittman. Thing is, he loves his power and trusts it to trump everything he'll encounter. Against Mac Danzig, who has gone 3-6 in his last nine fights, Guillard will once again sink or swim by his infatuation.
How does Carmouche rebound?
Fate is funny. For a few seconds at UFC 157, it looked like Liz Carmouche was about to defeat not just Ronda Rousey but the very reason for women's MMA in the UFC. It was a tense few moments when she had Rousey's back, but in the end, Carmouche went down gallantly. Facing Jessica Andrade, Carmouche -- the biggest favorite on the card -- has to guard against the spiral.
Will MacDonald come around to GSP?
This question is premature, which makes it the kind of question we love to ask. Yet should MacDonald beat Ellenberger, St-Pierre take care of Hendricks in November and the two be asked to fight each other thereafter, we have arrived at the next Jon Jones-Rashad Evans (and the hunch is MacDonald won't protest for long).
WHO'S ON THE HOT SEAT?
John Albert -- He has lost three fights in a row since beating Dustin Pague in his UFC debut. A loss to Yaotzin Meza is almost a guaranteed pink slip. But if Albert wins? Yahtzee! The "Prince" lives to see another day.
Aaron Riley -- Riley is only 32 years old but has been in 44 fights. He's been around the block a few times. In his last fight against Tony Ferguson, in 2011, he suffered a broken jaw. Should he lose to Justin Salas, if he doesn't hang up the gloves himself, the next pair he wears might not say "UFC" on them.
Trevor Smith -- The Strikeforce immigrant takes on an angry Ed Herman, who, in a fit of optimism, made a cameo appearance in Strikeforce against Ronaldo Souza and lost badly. Tough draw for Smith. Herman's relevance is at stake.
Melvin Guillard -- Yes, there's a Leonard Garcia thing going on here. Guillard always comes to fight, does so on short notice and lets the chips fall where they may. Dana White likes him. But he needs a win badly. Very badly. Then the UFC won't be forced to make any hard decisions on him.
Mac Danzig -- See Guillard.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the flyweights have one speed, which is blue blur ... because Johnson is one of the most underrated fighters to ever carry such mastery to the cage ... because Moraga swings for the fences and is fighting for his late cousin Jay ... because there's not one, but two women's fights, and Julie Kedzie versus Germaine de Randamie will have your grandmother spitting out her tea ... because Danny Castillo does love himself a brawl ... and for that matter so does Michael Chiesa ... and Jorge Masvidal ... because Herman can't afford to lose to Smith, and when a "Short Fuse" meets "Hot Sauce," the thing gets flammable ... because MacDonald is fighting Ellenberger, and it won't cost you a dime.
When Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald step into the Octagon on July 27 in Seattle for the co-main event at UFC on Fox 8, it will be very easy to tell them apart. They’re cut from two very different cloths.
“We’re two different species,” Ellenberger recently told ESPN.com. “He’s a Cro-Magnon; I’m a Neanderthal. We have different bone density, power, pure instinct, savagery.
“He’d be better at painting caves; I’d be better at killing mastodons.”
There is, however, a tie that binds them. Both are highly-ranked contenders in the UFC’s welterweight division.
Ellenberger is ranked fourth by ESPN.com; MacDonald sits at No. 6. UFC.com places Ellenberger fourth, while MacDonald occupies the three-spot.
“The winner of their showdown is likely to land a 170-pound title shot if champion Georges St-Pierre and top contender Johny Hendricks settle their issues in the foreseeable future. But if a St-Pierre-Hendricks fight doesn’t materialize, Ellenberger envisions participating in a welterweight title eliminator.
Everybody in UFC is tough. But I've been building up, especially in my last fight. I have a new boxing coach [Carlos Ruffo] who focuses on my strengths and what I need to do to get better.” -- Jake Ellenberger on his improved boxing skills
“If [St-Pierre] and Hendricks doesn’t happen next, then I think Hendricks and me are going to decide who’s going to be the next No. 1 contender,” Ellenberger said.
In either case, Ellenberger knows his title shot isn’t far away. And when it arrives, he plans to be more than ready to secure the gold.
Since a second-round TKO loss to Martin Kampmann in June 2012 (a bout Ellenberger was in control of before a knee took him down and snapped his six-fight win streak), he has rebounded with two victories in a row. The Kampmann loss still stings, but Ellenberger doesn’t dwell on it.
Instead, that loss serves as motivation. Ellenberger has always worked to improve his fighting techniques. But the man who dons the Octagon these days is a complete fighter.
Because Ellenberger is a physically strong, highly skilled wrestler, no one has controlled him on the ground. But he is now equally dangerous standing.
Ellenberger has settled in as a proficient boxer. His skills in that discipline were on full display during his most recent fight, a first-round knockout of former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt at UFC 158 in March.
“My whole time in UFC has been about working my way up,” Ellenberger said. “It’s the hardest sport to be consistent at. But I’m focused on the big picture.
“Everybody in UFC is tough. But I’ve been building up, especially in my last fight. I have a new boxing coach [Carlos Ruffo] who focuses on my strengths and what I need to do to get better.
“I’m also in Las Vegas from time to time. Actually I’m there quite a bit; I only live about four hours from Vegas. And when I’m there I’m working with [renowned boxing trainer] Jeff Mayweather.”
Not a single stone has gone unturned in Ellenberger’s boxing development -- footwork, head movement, rolling with punches, jabs, you name it. And through it all, Ellenberger has not compromised his wrestling in the least.
Ellenberger has combined wrestling and boxing in a way that has onlookers shaking their heads. By the way, his jiu-jitsu, especially defensively, hasn’t suffered, either. He can accurately be labeled a full-fledged mixed martial artist.
So when Ellenberger speaks of being the Neanderthal to MacDonald’s Cro-Magnon, it’s not a slight at his opponent; it’s the description that best describes the action that will take place on fight night.
“I feel great about the fight,” Ellenberger said. “[MacDonald] is a guy who really motivated me to work harder.”
Ellenberger intends to be the more dominant man inside the cage in Seattle. He intends to put a vicious beating on MacDonald: Whether it’s on the ground or standing doesn’t matter.
When the result is announced, Ellenberger will lift his hands briefly if he wins -- a friendly acknowledgement to the fans -- then turn his attention to claiming the title. Ellenberger is all about becoming UFC welterweight champion. He won’t accept anything less.
The timing is perfect for Ellenberger to realize his goal: His skills are at peak levels, and his confidence couldn’t be stronger. Everything is in place, even his willingness to savagely pummel an opponent inside the cage -- and he possesses the tools to do just that, if need be.
Maybe Ellenberger’s description of himself as a Neanderthal isn’t too far off. But let’s be clear on one thing: Ellenberger remains a highly intelligent fighter. No one is going to catch him by surprise with a knee anymore -- he’s too smart to fall for that again.
“The timing is perfect for me,” Ellenberger said. “I’m in a good place mentally and physically. I couldn't be better.”
St-Pierre (24-2) holds the record for total UFC wins (along with Matt Hughes) at 18 and is second in title defenses with eight. He ranks No. 1 in the UFC in career takedowns, takedown accuracy and total strikes.
From August 2007 to April 2011, St-Pierre won a record 33 consecutive rounds.
Prior to his recent title defense over Nick Diaz at UFC 158, St-Pierre's former manager Stephane Patry penned a column for a Canadian website that outlined St-Pierre's plan of two more fights -- a title defense against Johny Hendricks and a "super fight" against Anderson Silva -- and then retirement.
Whether or not that comes to fruition, ESPN.com decided to speak with some of the brightest minds in the sport on what has fueled St-Pierre's historic career, what it will take to disrupt his success and whether or not he's still at his peak.
"We kind of always knew he would eventually become a champion ... "
Pat Miletich, former UFC champion, longtime trainer, analyst: I used to go up to Tristar Gym years and years ago because my wife is from Montreal. I would teach a bit here and there when those guys were younger. Georges was always very respectful. He actually came into one of my seminars and sat in and watched when I was teaching up there at different spots in Montreal. We kind of always knew he would eventually become a champion. It was just something you could tell. Before Matt [Hughes] even fought him the first time, Matt and I both publicly said in interviews, "Georges is going to be the world champ. Just not yet."
Matt Hume, trainer, matchmaker, ambassador: The moment I recognized he was a very special martial artist was when he did Abu Dhabi (Submission Wrestling championships). He went against a guy named Otto Olsen. Otto Olsen, the first time he did Abu Dhabi, he went all the way to the finals against Marcelo Garcia with only six months training. Otto was great. He got really good at head control and started destroying people. The next Abu Dhabi, his first match was against Georges St-Pierre, who wasn't known as a great grappler, and he beat Otto that day. He shot a double on him, which is something he's very well known for now and escaped what a lot of people call the D'Arce now. Georges' posture on his shots was perfect and his explosiveness and awareness of where his head was when he got to the ground. That was the moment that told me this guy really gets out of his element. He really learns.
Matt Hughes, former UFC champion, went 1-2 in three fights against St-Pierre: Usually when I tie up with somebody, I feel I'm stronger than the other person and with Georges, I can't say I was stronger than him. I'm a big welterweight. I probably cut more weight than Georges does, which you think would give me a strength advantage but I didn't feel I had that advantage against Georges.
Miletich: After the first time Matt fought him and beat him, I asked Matt, "He's pretty strong isn't he?" We were walking through the tunnel back to the locker room and he looked at me and said, "You're damn right he's strong."
Hughes: I don't think he's a great wrestler. I think if you put him on a wrestling mat against Josh Koscheck, Josh would beat him up. What Georges does so well is mixes everything up and camouflages his takedowns with his striking. When you're out there against Georges, you don't know if he's going to kick, punch, close the distance and gets his hands on you or take a shot. He's pretty one-dimensional on the ground. You don't see him going for many submissions. He is really there to keep people down. But he's effective at his striking. He likes to stand up in people's guard and that gives him power in his punches. But his No. 1 thing is to keep people down.
Marc Laimon, grappling coach, trains Hendricks: One of my black belts and I were talking about this and he was saying St-Pierre kind of reminds him of a guy who pushes to half-guard, does enough to get the advantage to win and stalls the rest of the match. Against Nick Diaz, for somebody to talk so much trash, I didn't see that killer instinct. I saw a guy win and stay busy and active and do enough to win, but not a scary, killer, bloodthirsty guy wanting to kill you. I see a pro athlete doing his job very well.
Mark Munoz, UFC middleweight, NCAA wrestling champion: Pure wrestling is a totally different sport than MMA wrestling. In MMA wrestling, you can't shoot to your knees anymore. If you shoot to your knees, you're being stopped because there's too much distance to cover when you change levels. You've just got to explode and run through them in a power double and that's what Georges St-Pierre does. He is such a gifted athlete at first-step explosion and he's got long arms.
Hughes: He does everything pretty well. His lead strike, I believe, is his left leg. Usually, it's people's rear leg but I figured out real quick his left leg in the front of his stance is what he has all his power with.
Hume (on St-Pierre's intimidation factor): It's not the same extent as [an Anderson Silva.] Anderson put Rich Franklin's nose on the other side of his face and what he did to Forrest Griffin, making him miss the punches and dropping him with the jab -- it's the striking aspects, getting the bones broke in your face from an unprotected knee bone, those things scare people. I think with Georges, people don't look at him the same way as Anderson. They see it more as, "I don't know how to beat this guy." Not so much, "This guy is really going to hurt me bad."
Laimon: He still does things very well. The timing on his double leg is impeccable. He's still very fun to watch but when he was going for the title and he murdered [Frank] Trigg and murdered Hughes -- oh man. That guy is a killer and I don't see that guy anymore.
"What's going to beat Georges, is a hit ... "
Munoz: The guy that beats St-Pierre is the guy that is able to counter the jab. Able to circle, have good footwork, and counter while moving his feet. Not countering in front of him, because that's where GSP is able to capitalize -- when he jabs or throws punches, the other guy counter punches and then he drops down and shoots.
Miletich: You have to take him out of his comfort zone. It's not like there are a lot of guys out there who are going to take him down and submit him, but a guy who can actually take Georges down and make him nervous on his back a little bit is certainly going to help. In terms of striking, guys that use feints and fakes very well and they've got to be able to do that better than him. When somebody is throwing feints and fakes at you, they're trying to make you guess on what's real and what's not. When you're not able to do that (as good as St-Pierre), he is sticking you with the jab. Then he's able to progressively chips away at you because he feints the jab and throws the cross. Then feints the cross and throws the hook. It goes a lot deeper than that, but a guy who can do that better than Georges and throw it back in his face and has the power to hurt him standing, plus the technique to take him down, is pretty much what it's going to take.
Hughes: That's a very easy question for me to answer. What's going to beat Georges is a hit. You can tell it in the way he fights. He does not want to get hit. You see what happens when he gets hit. Any big hit is going to hurt Georges. My speculation would be that Georges has been hit in practice and he don't like it. This is all my speculation -- that he's been hit, knows his body doesn't like it and he's not going to get hit anymore.
"Johny is a different breed of cat ..."
Munoz: St-Pierre is not going to want it to be a brawl. He's going to want to execute that jab, circle around him, stop shots, drag behind him and take his back. I don't think he's going to be able to hold Johny down. Everybody who wrestled him [in college] had trouble holding him down. What you're going to see Johny do is knee slide -- which is, shoot his knee forward and stand up to his feet. He's not going to stay turtled up. He's going to hand fight, look for wrist control and get up.
Hughes: Being the best wrestler doesn't mean that Georges can't take him down. He disguises things so well that he can get in on somebody by throwing punches, but Georges is going to have to work for it. He's going to have to spend more energy and that's a good thing in a fight -- to make somebody spend energy and take punishment along the way. I think if you look at who Georges has fought, Johny is a bad matchup compared to everybody else.
Laimon: I really think I've got a guy who matches up very well with him and is going to present problems. Johny is a different breed of cat. He operates on a different frequency. He's hungry and I think Georges is ripe for the picking. I think Johny Hendricks is coming into his prime and I see St-Pierre as an unbelievable LaDainian Tomlinson-type guy who is kind of at the [New York] Jets now. He was so dominant, the premiere guy, but if you look recently ... how many guys defend his takedowns? How many guys have been able to get back to his feet? Every time I see Georges, his face is busted up. These guys are putting their hands on him. Georges is hittable and being hittable against a guy like Johny Hendricks isn't good.
"I actually think the [Silva] fight will be pretty close ..."
Hume: Anybody who stands with Anderson is risking what he does to everybody. Anderson has been taken down. He's been mounted. He has been armbarred, but he has survived those things. He has a great ground game, too. Georges has great takedowns. He knows how to put people at their weakness. If you're going to try and fight Anderson at his weakness, it's going to have to be on his back.
Munoz: I think it's a bad matchup for Georges. Anderson is a big 185-pounder. I wouldn't say St-Pierre is a big welterweight. I've seen Anderson upwards of 215 pounds. At the same time, St-Pierre has double leg takedowns, which Anderson has trouble defending at times. I would give Anderson the nod because of his movement on his feet, elusiveness and precise punching.
Miletich: Georges is not going to win that standup fight at all. Anderson will shut down his feints. The victory is going to lie in Georges' ability to take down Anderson, which I think he certainly can. He could take him down and control him all five rounds because he's strong enough to do it. Anderson's takedown defense has gotten better over the years, but I still think Georges could take him down.
UFC president Dana White told reporters on Thursday he’ll talk to welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre soon. The two haven’t spoken since St-Pierre recorded his eighth consecutive title defense over Nick Diaz at UFC 158 last month.
Expectations have been that St-Pierre (24-4) would face Hendricks (15-1) later this year, but White said that bout would go on hold should St-Pierre express interest in a long-anticipated, lucrative superfight with middleweight champ Anderson Silva.
“I am literally going to call Georges St-Pierre today and see what he wants to do,” White said.
“If Georges says to me, ‘I want to fight Anderson Silva,’ you think I’m going to go, ‘No, you’re not. You’re fighting Johny Hendricks’?”
Silva (33-4) is scheduled to defend his 185-pound title against Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in July. In yet another superfight wrinkle, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will defend his title against Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 next week in Newark.
White said he’s interested in any fight that involves two of the three champions, saying if both St-Pierre and Jones wanted Silva, “that’s a good problem to have.”
Hendricks would be the clear loser if St-Pierre opts to fight Silva next. The former collegiate wrestler is on a six-fight win streak and was already leapfrogged earlier this year by Diaz, who was coming off a drug suspension.
White said St-Pierre would not vacate the 170-pound title if he took the Silva fight, meaning Hendricks would have to wait or accept another fight.
“If [St-Pierre] lost, he could still go back down and fight Hendricks for the title.”
Mitrione fined, suspended -- but forgiven
UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione has been fined an undisclosed amount and remains suspended for comments made last week regarding transgender fighter Fallon Fox.
The UFC quickly suspended Mitrione following an appearance on “The MMA Hour,” where he referred to Fox as a “freak.” Fox is scheduled for her third pro fight in May.
Mitrione (6-2), who defeated Philip De Fries via first-round knockout earlier this month, spoke with UFC president Dana White following the incident and took responsibility for his actions -- but there is no timetable for his return.
“It’s up to us,” White said regarding Mitrione’s suspension. “I’m not mad at Mitrione. He did something stupid. He knows he didn’t handle it the right way.
“I’m sure he wants to know [when he’ll fight again]. We’ll let him know when we decide. He was fined, too. Enough to make him call me three times.”
• A Brazilian fan attacked UFC light heavyweight Chael Sonnen during an event last weekend in Las Vegas, according to White.
Sonnen, who challenges Jon Jones for the 205-pound title next week at UFC 159, was in Las Vegas to attend "The Ultimate Fighter" finale at Mandalay Bay Events Center. According to White, he was involved in a minor scuffle during the show.
“I don’t know if any of you guys saw this, but he was there shaking hands with fans and one guy says, ‘Chael! Chael!” White said. “Chael goes over there and the guy started swinging at him, trying to punch him. The guy goes, ‘I’m from Brazil!'”
Sonnen (27-12-1) was involved in a heated rivalry with Brazilian middleweight champ Anderson Silva from 2010 to 2012. He went 0-2 in two fights against him.
• Whether his teammate claims the UFC lightweight title on Saturday or not, Nate Diaz says he’s moving back to 170 pounds.
Diaz (16-8) meets lightweight Josh Thomson on Saturday. His teammate, Gilbert Melendez, will look to dethrone champion Ben Henderson in the night’s main event.
Regardless of the outcome of either fight, Diaz says he intends to move back to welterweight, where he compiled a 2-2 record from 2010 to 2011.
“I already fought everybody at lightweight,” Diaz said. “I don’t think there is anything for me in the lightweight division. I already beat everybody or fought everybody. The only person who beat me was Ben. What, I’m going to sit around and fight all the same guys again? That’s boring. There’s no motivation in that.”
• Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier still wants to fight UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones -- just maybe not as soon as he once thought.
Cormier (11-1) faces arguably the biggest challenge of his career on Saturday as he takes on former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in the night’s co-main event.
The former U.S. Olympic wrestler has been quietly shedding weight for a potential trip to the 205-pound division. Cormier’s teammate, Cain Velasquez, currently holds the UFC heavyweight title.
Cormier has publicly expressed interest in fighting Jones previously, but now says he’d probably want a test fight at 205 pounds first. The 34-year-old experienced kidney failure while cutting weight in 2008 but is confident he can make 205.
“At first, I was so emotionally tied to [fighting Jones],” Cormier said. “I’ve thought about it, and I wouldn’t be opposed to fighting one time down there just to see how my body reacts to the weight cut. It would be very difficult to fight him in my first fight, a five-round fight.
“What if I get in a fight and I can’t do anything but wrestle because my arms are tired and my body isn’t responding to the weight cut? I don’t want that guy to be Jon Jones. Seriously, can you imagine standing in with him and not feeling your best?”
En route to arguably the most complete performance of his career, St-Pierre stalled Diaz’s vaunted boxing with sharp counters and slick movement, tortured him with relentless takedowns and rendered his black belt-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu all but nonexistent. It was yet another in a long line of blowouts from the 31-year-old welterweight champion, and it was so lopsided that it plummeted members of the Diaz camp into fits of paranoia, claiming there had to be spies in their midst.
Because, yeah, that was the problem.
The victory pushed St-Pierre to 24-2 overall, marked his 20th appearance inside the Octagon and extended his five-and-a-half-year win streak to 11 fights. It also further underscored the notion that he’s solved the grueling, complex riddle that is MMA competition as well as anyone in the sport’s short history.
The overwhelming response from the masses? At best, an indifferent shrug. At worst, well, let’s just say St-Pierre’s sixth consecutive unanimous decision win -- a stretch during which he's lost just three of 30 rounds on the official scorecards -- only provided more ammunition for critics who say he’s grown overly conservative. Tedious, even.
“GSP couldn’t submit a girl,” one reader on ESPN.com commented roughly 24 hours after UFC 158 wrapped.
“Wrestlers are ruining the marketability of this sport,” lamented another later in the week.
And another: “The Ultimate FIGHTING Championship should change its name to The Ultimate WRESTLING Championship if it is going to continue to show this garbage.”
Sound familiar? Responses like this are certainly not a new phenomenon. Seemingly every time St-Pierre makes another of the best 170-pound fighters in the world look downright helpless for 25 straight minutes and then walks out with a new notch on his championship belt, we hear the same refrain.
It’s difficult to think of another figure in any sport who has been as dominant for as long as St-Pierre and still so often has his tactics lambasted in the court of public opinion. It’d be a little like basketball fans of the 1950 and '60s constantly ragging on Wilt Chamberlain for shooting so many layups. Or college football fans threatening to give up on the sport if Bear Bryant didn’t stop winning national championships running the option.
Of course, we’re all entitled to our opinions, and people who shell out $50-plus for UFC pay-per-view events ought to have their voices heard. Still, too often the bellyaching distracts us from the larger truth: We may never again see a fighter dominate the landscape of the welterweight division with the same ease, poise or grace.
Now that he’s pushing into his 30s, on the heels of major knee surgery and with a brand new crop of contenders breathing down his neck, perhaps it’s time we started showing GSP a little love. You know, lest one day we wake up and realize we didn’t know what we had until he was gone.
If you come to MMA looking for blood and guts, St-Pierre’s style may leave you unmoved, but you have no choice but to recognize its effectiveness. On the other hand, if you like skill, determination and strategy, you can’t help but feel a little awed. Contrary to what his detractors might say, it’s a style that embodies the very qualities that make this sport great: The diverse, nuanced action, the need for constant evolution and the idea that mental acuity is as important as physical force (also, that having both doesn’t hurt).
Later this year, when he defends his title for the ninth time against the dangerous Johny Hendricks, the American will likely be the fashionable pick to bring St-Pierre’s historic run to a screeching halt. Some people will no doubt cheer that, if it comes to pass. Please excuse the rest of us if we pull on our “Karate Kid” headbands and perform a few silent crane kicks to mourn the end of an era.
Until then, my advice to the haters? Get on the bandwagon. Drink the Kool-Aid. Learn to like St-Pierre while we still have him. Who knows, someday you might just miss him.
By the time the smoke cleared, and Georges St-Pierre was eating pizza off the floor in celebration of his eighth title defense, Nick Diaz became MMA’s equivalent of the “boy who cried wolf (tickets).” He told Joe Rogan after the fight that he was through. Done. Kaplooey. Giving up the racket. Just like he did after his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 143.
Nobody believed him. Just like we didn’t after his loss to Condit. The difference this time was his change of heart happened quicker. Much quicker. Half an hour after retiring, Diaz was requesting a rematch with St-Pierre (using expletives for emphasis) in the bowels of Montreal’s Bell Centre. One minute he’s done, the next he’s not. You never know with Diaz (although you always know).
There are hurdles to this fantasy rematch that will never happen. His tests need to come back clean, something Diaz himself isn’t so sure about. Those metabolites can be hostile tenants. And he needs to pay his taxes. Even unpamapered fighters who have the burden of tweeting their own tweets have to pay their taxes. Uncle Sam doesn’t care about your geography.
Beyond the usual Diaz histrionics, the three focus-point fights of UFC 158 played out more or less predictably. St-Pierre continued to dominate, Johny Hendricks defended his No. 1 contender status a third time, and Jake Ellenberger continued lighting people up like a showroom gala. "People," in this case, being Nate Marquardt.
FIVE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
A: Turns out, no. Not really. Sometimes, but not often. And though Diaz was actively searching, he wasn’t particularly dangerous off his back, either. He was just on his back. And while there he was fending off incoming elbows, hammerfists and knees. Just the same as the noble optimistic fighters who went before him (Condit, Hardy, Alves, Penn, Shields). The thing is, once you get taken down by GSP, there is no takeup.
Q: Can St-Pierre get a finish?
A: All week the talk was “is Diaz in St-Pierre’s head?” If he was, surely he’d have needed a headlamp to find his way through the dark places. And as it turns out, St-Pierre treats people who get in his head the exact same way he treats people who have no in with his psyche. He dominates them thoroughly. (The answer to the question is: This isn’t 2006! Stop living in the past).
Q: Does Hendricks get the next title shot with a win?
A: At this point, if St-Pierre came out on record saying he’d like to fight Anderson Silva next -- even though Silva has a fight with Chris Weidman in July, meaning St-Pierre’s fight would be somewhere in the vicinity of November -- this would be the ultimate compliment to Hendricks. Problem is, it would feel like another slap across the bearded fellow’s face. Hendricks should be next. Under any meritocracy he should be. Should is a funny word, though. So is “merit,” which sometimes in the UFC means “LOL.”
Q: Can Diaz win a decision in Montreal?
A: Turns out Montreal had less to do with it than the tyranny he was facing with the wrestling skills. Remember when we were wondering if St-Pierre might be tempted into a dogfight with Diaz out of anger? Let me tell you something: Anger gets locked away in St-Pierre’s dark place come fight night. From cageside you could hear it banging and screaming to get out, but he is a strict disciplinarian. He just ignored it.
Q: What happens if Ellenberger/Marquardt goes to the second round?
A: We’ll never know because Ellenberger will be throwing them bombs, baby! Marquardt was hit with a mean combo in the first round and down he went. He surfaced a few moments later to protest the stoppage, but as Bellator’s Jimmy Smith pointed out on Twitter, “if somebody tells you ‘you were knocked out,’ you should generally take their word for it in my experience.” We were all witnesses, Nate.
FIVE NEW STORYLINES
Hendricks did everything he said he wanted to do. He threw his left hand early and often, and he connected plenty. He took Condit down and worked his ground and pound. He tied up, dirty boxed, and used his horsepower. And yet no matter what he did, Condit kept moving forward. Condit kept coming. Condit wouldn’t be put away. Condit is the spirit of the fight game.
Diaz and his taxes
Out of all the bizarre things that happened this week in Montreal centered on Nick Diaz (from his “wolf tickets” rant to the St-Pierre steroid allegations), his admission that he has never paid taxes in his life was startling. Does he wind up in jail? The future always looks like a minefield when talking about Diaz.
Ellenberger as a contender In the past three years, Ellenberger has lost once. And even in that one (a TKO loss to Martin Kampmann) he was dominating early but didn’t get the job done. If Hendricks’ injured left hand ends up sidelining him for a long period of time, it’s possible Ellenberger gets the call to see St-Pierre next. Nobody can question his credentials: 8-1 in his past nine fights, with five finishes.
MacDonald can still get his wish
Condit won’t be fighting for the title next, which means Rory MacDonald can still get his shot to avenge his only professional loss when he comes back from injury. That is, if the UFC still wants that. MacDonald is on a northbound surge up the welterweight rankings, and Condit has lost two in a row.
It’s Hendricks’ time
It’s either give Hendricks a title shot, or let him continue wrecking every contender coming up the ranks. In fact, if the UFC gives St-Pierre anybody other than Hendricks at this point, Hendricks should demand a fight with MacDonald to (A) take out a teammate of St-Pierre’s and (B) punish the UFC by batting back a hot prospect.
UFC 158 STOCK REPORTTrending Up
Ellenberger: He loves Canada. Last time he fought in Canada, it was against Sean Pierson at UFC 129. He blasted right through Ontario’s native son. This time it was veteran Marquardt who was on the wrong end of Ellenberger’s furious first-round volley. How would a fight between him and Hendricks play out? Dude.
Chris Camozzi: It was tougher than he wanted it to be, and he didn’t finish Nick Ring, but the Colorado fighter eked out his fourth consecutive victory. It might be time to test himself against a top-10 middleweight.
Darren Elkins: Somebody dubbed him the “anonymous contender.” That pretty much sums it up. He’s won five in a row at featherweight.
Marquardt: The loss to Tarec Saffiedine in his first title defense/last Strikeforce fight hurt more than this one. But the fact is that Marquardt is almost 34 years old and is riding a two-fight losing streak. Another loss in the division, and he might be out of the UFC.
Dan Miller: For as much as he’s a warrior (both in and outside of the cage), Miller has lost three of four. The loss to Jordan Mein hurts, too. He looked good from the gate, but things went south in a hurry when the armbar attempt came up empty.
Next for Ellenberger? Demian Maia. Two guys on the verge of something who would put on a great show.
Next for Condit? At last, that rematch with MacDonald.
Next for Camozzi? To paraphrase Goethe, “Be bold, and Wanderlei Silva will come to your aid.”