Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.
Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has won all of his last six title defense by unanimous decision. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Twenty years is a long time. That's how long the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been around, with Saturday night's gala event in Las Vegas as the anniversary celebration.
Five years, six months, and 29 days is a long time, too, for anything to persevere. It's an astonishingly prolonged period for one to reign as champion among the best fighters in the world.
When Georges St-Pierre steps into the octagon to face Johny Hendricks in the main event of UFC 167 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena (10 p.m. ET, PPV, $54.99), he will be defending the welterweight title -- regained from Matt Serra way back in April 2007 -- for the ninth consecutive time. With Anderson Silva having been dethroned over the summer, GSP is the fight promotion's longest-reigning king.
The 32-year-old St-Pierre (24-2 overall, 19-2 in the UFC) is in his second stint as UFC belt holder, although he's had the strap around his waist for so long that it's easy to forget that. He first became champ back in 2007 with a knockout of Matt Hughes but five months later was KO'd by Serra in one of the biggest upsets in title-bout history. GSP stands at No. 2 in both the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings and the UFC's media-voted tally and obviously is top dog at 170 pounds everywhere you look. His last defense was a dominant unanimous decision over Nick Diaz in March.
Hendricks (15-2, 10-1 UFC), No. 2 on the SI.com welterweight list and in the UFC rankings, earned this shot at the belt with a unanimous-decision win over Carlos Condit in the co-main event of that card in Montreal with GSP vs. Diaz at the top of the marquee. The 30-year-old is a two-time NCAA Division I national champion wrestler whose calling card in mixed martial arts is not the takedown but the knockdown. Prior to the Condit fight, "Bigg Rigg" needed just 46 seconds to flatten Martin Kampmann. Two fights before that, he put away Jon Fitch in 12 seconds. Top guys both.
So there you have it: An enduring champion who's become known for possessing the sport's preeminent wrestling game but being susceptible to the occasional big shot (St-Pierre) is taking on a challenger far more decorated in wrestling and with one-punch knockout pop (Hendricks). Sounds promising, doesn't it?
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET) and the card's other three will stream on the UFC's Facebook and YouTube pages (6:45 p.m.).
He's the one to beat GSP.
That's what we heard about Jon Fitch, who was going to grind the champ into the canvas; about B.J. Penn, who was going to twist him into a pretzel; about Thiago Alves, who was going to give him a kick in the pants ... and legs, both legs; about Dan Hardy, who was going to mesmerize him with his Technicolor mohawk; about Nick Diaz, who was going to walk Georges down and make him fight like a man.
Over the years, the UFC has sold us on a murders' row of St-Pierre challengers. And GSP has murdered every last one of them.
But Hendricks is different, isn't he? Aren't you interested to see what St-Pierre does against a man he has no right dominating in wrestling? It's what he has done with everyone else he's fought, which has allowed him to dictate where the fight takes place and at what pace. And having seen St-Pierre get clipped on a couple of occasions -- in the KO loss to Serra and in last November's bout with Carlos Condit, who dropped him with a head kick but couldn't finish the job -- aren't you keen on seeing the champ in with a man with thunder in his left fist?
We've been building toward this fight ever since Hendricks' 2011 destruction of Fitch, who hadn't lost to anyone not named Georges St-Pierre in nearly nine years, a stretch of 24 bouts. The quick KO was Hendricks' third straight victory, and when he added notches on his belt for Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampman, it appeared that his time had come. But Nick Diaz made enough noise to steal away the title shot, and Hendricks was given the tough task of getting through Carlos Condit, which he did. "If I don't get the title shot, I'm devastated," he said during the Fox telecast. "I think I would have to step back and rethink what I should do with my career."
*Official weights announced at Friday's weigh-in (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)
Other Numbers To Count On
88: Accuracy percentage of St-Pierre's takedown attempts, according to FightMetric statistics. That's the best in UFC history, as is St-Pierre's total of 84 takedowns. While Hendricks has defended takedowns at just a 63-percent clip, the challenger's wrestling resume should make him a handful.
2,398: Strikes landed by St-Pierre in his 20-fight UFC career, by far the most in the promotion's history.
1.27: Strikes absorbed per minute by GSP, sixth-best in the UFC. Of course, Hendricks only has to land one.
6: Consecutive decisions for St-Pierre, all of them unanimous on the scorecards.
5: First-round finishes among Hendricks's 15 wins. GSP hasn't had one since 2005, when he submitted Frank Trigg.
St-Pierre becomes champion for the first time:
Hendricks floors Fitch with a left (don't blink):
It's all about that left hand. Talk about a weapon.
He's not going to knock you out with it, but -- wait, huh? What? Oh, you thought I was talking about the Hendricks hamhock, the one that crumbled Fitch and Kampmann in a single motion? (An exaggeration) No, I was referring to the GSP jab, which keeps you right where he wants you while slowly messing up your features.
Everyone knows what Hendricks is going to do. And there's no doubt that St-Pierre and trainer Firas Zahabi, along with strategist-to-the-stars Greg Jackson, have a plan in mind to keep Hendricks' left fist away from St-Pierre's right cheekbone. Footwork will be involved, for sure, as will another use of those legs: kicks launched to tenderize the muscles in Hendricks's lead right leg.
But the jab will be -- or should be -- a constant. It will keep Hendricks at a distance, and will set up the array of other strikes that reside in the GSP toolbox. With all of the talk of Hendricks' power punches, let's not lose sight of the fact that Georges is the more versatile and sound striker.
Hendricks has a puncher's chance. St-Pierre has a technician's chance.
"I know exactly what Georges is. He's a jab guy and a takedown guy. He's going to lay on top of you as long as he can, he's going to try and control the clock, he's going to try and get you as tired as he can as quickly as possible. That's Georges. Me, on the other hand, you don't know. Am I going to knock you out? Am I going to take you down?" --Johny Hendricks during an appearance on the AXS TV show Inside MMA
"People talk about his left hand, but Johny's a very well-rounded fighter. He's got a lot more than that. I'm not focused on one thing, I'm focused on everything he has. It's like an exam. When you're in school and you study for an exam, you're going to be very confident." --Georges St-Pierre during a conference call with members of the media
"Georges St-Pierre, he's just a more polished fighter. Johny Hendricks, he's dangerous and he's got good skills, but he is a little rough around the edges when it comes to his whole game. And Georges is just such a technician. He puts things together so well and is just a sharp, clean fighter. I think that's going to make the difference." --Carlos Condit, who has fought (and lost to) both men, speaking on Inside MMA
St-Pierre is a favorite at all sports books checked, with odds ranging from -240 (bet $100 to win $41.67) to -280 (bet $100 to win $35.71). Odds on Hendricks range from +180 (bet $100 to win $180) to +231 (bet $100 to win $231).
If we never get a chance to ogle Arianny Celeste or Brittney Palmer prancing around the octagonal perimeter holding up a card bearing "2" on it, that's bad news for St-Pierre.
But I'm thinking we're going to get to make eyes at the octagon girls as they walk around with "4" and "5" signs. And that'll represent a whole new frontier for Hendricks, who's never been past three rounds. For GSP, it'll be another day at the office. He's gone the distance in his last six fights and in 11 of his 24 career wins.
Why is this one going the distance? Because that's what St-Pierre does, and he'll be the one dictating the storyline of this fight, not Hendricks.
Just because Hendricks sharpened his wrestling over the last few weeks by working out with nationally ranked studs at his alma mater, Oklahoma State, that doesn't mean he's assured of never ending up on his back. MMA is about multitasking. Those Cowboys in singlets aren't putting the fear of punches and kicks in you when they try to drive through you with a double-leg. GSP has the athleticism to get on top of Hendricks and to get out from under him if necessary. St-Pierre by decision.
Johny Hendricks' powerful left brought a quick end to his bout with Martin Kampmann last November. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
The Tweet Beat
Join the conversation about St-Pierre vs. Hendricks on Twitter. Track the hashtags #GSPhendricks and #ufc167 to see who's tweeting what about Saturday's fight.
· Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans, light heavyweight
· Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler, welterweight
· Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley, welterweight
· Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov, flyweight
· Non-PPV fights (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Donald Cerrone vs. Evan Dunham, lightweight; Ed Herman vs. Thales Leites, middleweight; Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story, welterweight; Erik Perez vs. Edwin Figueroa, bantamweight.
· Facebook/YouTube fights (6 p.m. ET): Jason High vs. Anthony Lapsley, welterweight; Will Campuzano vs. Sergio Pettis, bantamweight; and Gian Villante vs. Cody Donovan, light heavyweight.
· Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow, and Joe Rogan will provide analysis for the PPV and prelims on Fox Sports 1, Facebook and YouTube. An hour-long postfight show begins at 1 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 2.
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