Saturday, 15 March 2014 12:00
By Josh Nason, Wrestling Observer
The post-GSP era truly begins Saturday night as a new UFC welterweight champion will be crowned for the first time since 2007. However, beware the ghost of GSP. You never know when he'll appear out of nowhere....
- Dave Meltzer (23-2 - .900): Wrestling Observer founder & writer
- Josh Nason (22-3 - .850): Wrestling Observer behind-the-scenes guy, WON on Twitter
- Front Row Brian (21-4 - .800): MMA newsbreaker, Twitter personality
- Mike Sempervive (20-5 - .800): Wrestling Observer Live co-host | Big Audio Nightmare | future book author*
Vacant Welterweight Championship: Johny Hendricks (15-2) vs. Robbie Lawler (22-9-0-1)
Anyone have fun on Twitter Friday afternoon during Hendricks’ weight cut drama? Even Nick Diaz got in on the action, heckling Hendricks as he was trying to cut. Yes, this actually happened...several times. He saw his six-fight win streak snapped in his heavily disputed October title loss to then-champ Georges St. Pierre. He’s competed against (and beat) better competition lately than his opponent, but after the drama with the weight cut, how will he be physically Saturday night?
Lawler has been on a roll since coming back to the UFC, finishing both Josh Koscheck and a short-notice Bobby Voelker and downing Rory MacDonald by split decision in November. He struggled for consistency in Strikeforce, but on this week’s MMA Beat, Ariel Helwani brought up how he felt Lawler’s motivation was directly related to not being in the major leagues, aka the UFC. He has won titles before, but Saturday is the biggest fight of his career.
Also, do read this excellent feature by Chuck Mindenhall on Lawler and the rest of the Miletich Fighting Systems crew. It’s outstanding and will give you some real background into Lawler’s evolution.
Hendricks: Nason, FRB, Storm, Martin, Juon, Sawyer, Meltzer, Sempervive
Lawler: Pollock, Copp
Carlos Condit (29-7) vs. Tyron Woodley (12-2)
At 29, there’s few top 170-pound fighters that Condit hasn’t tangled with. Seemingly another big win away from another title shot, he’s exciting and very dangerous. A fun fact: Condit has awards in six of his last seven (four Fights of the Night, two KO’s Of Night). He’s coming off an August 4th round TKO win over Martin Kampmann.
Since coming to the UFC following the Strikeforce merger, Woodley has looked great (first round KOs of Josh Koscheck and Jay Hieron) and looked less than great (a bland split decision loss to Jake Shields). After climbing to 10-0, he’s 2-2 in his last four. Athletically gifted, Condit is the toughest fight of his career and while he has power, Condit has never been knocked out.
Condit: Nason, Storm, Juon, Pollock, Copp, Meltzer, Sempervive
Woodley: FRB, Martin, Sawyer
Diego Sanchez (24-6) vs. Myles Jury (13-0)
One of just three remaining fighters from the first season of TUF, Sanchez roared back to the fans’ collective conscious with his Fight of the Year candidate against Gil Melendez last October. Despite being a .500 fighter the last four year, he’s won Fight Of The Night honors in four of his last six. While a well-known gatekeeper at this stage of his career, Sanchez has proved capable of crowd-pleasing fights at age 32.
Since tearing his knee during the Brock Lesnar season of TUF, Jury has made the most of his opportunity with four UFC wins. He last was seen picking up a decision win over the later-cut Mike Ricci in September. He’s got 11 finishes in his career and if he can pick up a ‘W’ over Sanchez, that is huge.
Sanchez: Nason, Juon, Copp
Jury: FRB, Sempervive, Storm, Martin, Pollock, Sawyer, Meltzer
Jake Shields (29-6-0-1) vs. Hector Lombard (33-4-1-1)
At 35, Shields is looking to extend a two-fight win streak following split decision wins over Woodley and Demian Maia. If not for failing a post-fight drug test in August 2012, he’d have a four-fight win streak and be higher up the welterweight food chain. For what it’s worth, he hasn’t finished a fight in nearly five years. He’s a distance guy for sure.
Lombard is 2-2 in his UFC run and is coming off an October knockout of Nate Marquardt that took less than two minutes. HIs two Octagon wins have been first round KOs, while the two losses were split decisions (Yushin Okami, Tim Boetsch). The game plan is clear: hurt Shields early. For Shields, grind out another close win.
Shields: Nason, Juon, Meltzer
Lombard: FRB, Sempervive, Storm, Martin, Pollock, Copp, Sawyer
Ovince St. Preux (14-5) vs. Nikita Krylov (16-3)
Since coming over in the Strikeforce merger, OSP is 2-0 with wins over Gian Villante and Cody Donovan. Originally slated for a dance with Thiago Silva, that fight was pushed off due to injury and Silva’s latest string of bad decisions outside the cage. The 30-year-old has lost just once in the last four years, a span of 12 fights. The 22-year-old Krylov drops to 205 after a 1-1 stint at heavyweight. All of his 16 wins have been first round finishes and in fact, he’s only been out of the first round once in his 19-fight career.
OSP: Nason, FRB, Sempervive, Storm, Martin, Juon, Pollock, Sawyer, Meltzer