UFC 167 takes place Saturday night, one of the biggest events of the year for the UFC. In the main event, the UFC's top star attraction and longtime welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre defends his welterweight title against one of his most dangerous challengers in recent memory, Johny Hendricks. Hendricks' elite wrestling and knockout power present a formidable challenge for the French Canadian champion. In the semi-main event of the evening, broadcast partners Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans will fight for their positioning in the light heavyweight pecking order. This is also the UFC's 20th anniversary show, as the first UFC show took place 20 years ago this week.
UFC welterweight title: Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
St-Pierre is one of the greatest champions in UFC history. He combines elite athleticism and work ethic with a dynamic and well-rounded game. He has dominated the welterweight division, one of the sport’s best, since capturing the title from Matt Serra over five years ago. Hendricks is an elite wrestler, a two time NCAA Division 1 national champion. In MMA, he has added a dangerous striking game with big knockout power. He is also a big game performer, having been an elite athlete since a child.
Round 1. Hendricks moves in and St-Pierre takes him down. St-Pierre looks for a guillotine choke but can’t get it. They return to the feet where St-Pierre throws some knees to the body. They are separated. Hendricks lunges in with an uppercut and St-Pierre looks for the takedown again. He grabs a single leg but Hendricks defends well from there. St-Pierre eats a series of elbows to the head as he looks for a takedown against the cage. Hendricks reverses St-Pierre and presses the champion against the cage. Hendricks dumps St-Pierre to the canvas with a takedown at the midpoint of the round. However, St-Pierre stands up within 15 seconds. They separate and Hendricks charges in with power punches. None comes close to landing. St-Pierre hits a head kick that does connect solidly. St-Pierre is bleeding very lightly from near his right eye. From the clinch, St-Pierre lands some more knees to the body. They separate and St-Pierre throws a few kicks high and low. Hendricks answers with a power punch of his own and the round concludes. Very tough round to score. 10-9 St-Pierre.
Round 2. St-Pierre opens with a low kick. He follows with some additional low kicks when Hendricks doesn’t check the first. Hendricks moves forward with heavy punches but St-Pierre is able to avoid them for the most part. Hendricks does it again and he clips St-Pierre. St-Pierre is hurt and he has to clinch. Hendricks goes back to work with the big storms of punches and they come in with such fury directed at the champion’s chin that it looks like the fight could be ended at any moment. The fighters trade leg kicks. St-Pierre’s face is already marked up. St-Pierre throws a few jabs to try to keep the challenger at bay. St-Pierre mixes in some hooks and some straight rights as well. Hendricks when he comes in will mix uppercuts, overhands and hooks. St-Pierre lands a nice head kick and jab. The champion is landing more but the challenger is landing harder. St-Pierre clinches in the final 15 seconds and they trade shots to the body as the time runs out on the second frame. 10-9 Hendricks.
Round 3. Hendricks misses an uppercut but connects with a hook at the start. St-Pierre goes to work with his jab. St-Pierre adds some leg kicks. Hendricks charges in looking for a big shot but is countered with a few jabs, the perfect deterrent to Hendricks’ power. Hendricks starts throwing jabs of his own. The crowd, which has gone back and forth between chanting for GSP and for Hendricks, returns to loudly chanting “GSP.” Hendricks ducks down a big to appear to tease a takedown and then fires in a power shot at the chin of St-Pierre. Hendricks doesn’t appear winded but his pace has slowed and with it, St-Pierre has done better at dictating the tempo and controlling with his jab. Hendricks, however, fires back with a hard straight punch, perhaps the best of the round thus far. Hendricks looks for a takedown in the final minute of the round. St-Pierre is pushed up against the cage and Hendricks secures the takedown with 30 seconds left. Hendricks lands some punches from the top and St-Pierre stands back up at the end of the round. 10-9 St-Pierre, 29-28 St-Pierre through three. However, the clearest round of the fight was Hendricks in the second.
Round 4. St-Pierre starts the round again trying to establish his jab. He isn't doing much obvious damage to Hendricks but he lands a lot more. Hendricks catches off balance and shoves St-Pierre down as he lands a punch. A minute and a half into the round, he begins throwing punches and elbows from top position. He drops some elbows from close range while stacking St-Pierre near the cage. Then, halfway through the round, Hendricks backs up and lets St-Pierre stand up. That may prove to be a massive strategic mistake. He was winning the round and now the round is up for grabs. St-Pierre is bleeding badly from the face, presumably from an elbow. St-Pierre lands a straight right and then looks for a takedown of his own. Hendricks fairly easily reverses St-Pierre against the cage and looks to take St-Pierre back down. St-Pierre reverses against the cage and then Hendricks does again. 10-9 Hendricks, 38-38 going into the final round.
Round 5. The fighters exchange jabs and then St-Pierre goes for a takedown. He pulls Hendricks' leg away from the cage and then looks to get Hendricks off balance. Hendricks bounces on one foot back towards the cage and St-Pierre then pulls him back to the middle. Finally, St-Pierre gives it up and Hendricks pushes in for a takedown with less than four minutes remaining in the fight. Hendricks looks for a standing kimura but doesn't come close. St-Pierre lands some solid punches and then takes Hendricks down two minutes in. The crowd erupts. Hendricks quickly moves to stand back up. Hendricks stands up and St-Pierre presses him against the cage. The referee breaks them with two minutes left. St-Pierre moves in, lands a straight right, and goes for another takedown with one minute left. He gets it but Hendricks stands back up. Hendricks then pushes St-Pierre against the cage and goes for one final takedown as the round comes to an end with the crowd cheering loudly. 10-9 St-Pierre, 48-47 St-Pierre. Both men celebrate. The two most clear rounds of the fight were Hendricks winning rounds 2 and 4 but you've got to score each round individually and I had St-Pierre winning 1, 3 and 5 narrowly.
Winner: Georges St-Pierre, split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).
St-Pierre after the fight says he will hang up his tights for a little while to deal with personal issues. He doesn't explicitly say that he is retiring but that he will be gone for a period. Hendricks says that he thought he clearly won the fight.
Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler
MacDonald is one of the best young fighters in all the sport and is closing in on the top of the division. The only thing keeping him from a title shot is his close personal relationship with Georges St-Pierre. Lawler has fought in big fights for over a decade and comes into this fight with consecutive wins over Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker.
Round 1. Lawler lands a couple leg kicks early. The crowd loudly chants “Rory.” MacDonald looks for a takedown but quickly abandons it when Lawler reacts well. Both men are throwing a lot of kicks. Neither man is landing a lot of kicks. Lawler presses forward and tries to line up some power punches near the cage but MacDonald circles out of the corner before Lawler can capitalize on the position. MacDonald catches Lawler’s leg and throws a few punches. Tentative round. 10-9 Lawler.
Round 2. MacDonald presses forward aggressively and lands a kick before backing up. He lands another head kick a little later but continues to show a lot of respect for Lawler’s power. MacDonald uses a nice straight punch that connects to the chin of Lawler. MacDonald works some shots to the body and takes Lawler down with two minutes left in the round. Lawler starts to stand up but MacDonald prevents him from doing so. Still, MacDonald isn’t able to do any damage from the top. Finally, with 20 seconds left, MaDonald opens up with a series of elbows. 10-9 MacDonald.
Round 3. Lawler appears to stun MacDonald a little with a punch and follows with a hard uppercut. As he moves in with big punches, MacDonald drops down and takes Lawler down. MacDonald does little and the fight is stood up. Lawler lands a nice overhand. MacDonald goes for a takedown but in the scramble Lawler ends up on top and throws some wild punches that bloody MacDonald up. The fighters return to the feet and MacDonald lands another big punch. MacDonald goes for a takedown but can’t get it. Lawler drops MacDonald with a big left hand and looks to finish on the ground. MacDonald survives but Lawler gets side control. MacDonald briefly gets half guard but then loses it. MacDonald goes for an armbar but can’t get it and they return to their feet. MacDonald gets a takedown and lands a few elbows at the close of the fight. He really pours it on at the end with the crowd going nuts. 10-9 Lawler, 29-28 Lawler.
Winner: Robbie Lawler, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans
Sonnen has turned himself into one of the biggest stars in MMA with his trash talking and late career performance surge. After losses to champions Jon Jones and Anderson Silva, he appeared to be a man without direction. But a nice submission win over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and a rivalry with Wanderlei Silva breathed new breath into his career and a win here over Rashad Evans could spell big things for the Oregonian in 2014. Evans is one of the best light heavyweight fighters in UFC history, but he has stumbled after losing a title fight with former friend Jon Jones. Evans struggled against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and somewhat against Dan Henderson. Now, he looks to get his career back on track against a colorful and well known opponent.
Round 1. Sonnen immediately goes for a takedown. The fighters grapple for position up against the cage. Upon separation, they exchange hooks from close range. Both men land in the flurry and they return to the clinch.Evans finally gets a takedown halfway through the round. Evans begins throwing punches from top position. Sonnen tries to get up and eats some more punches. Evans begins opening up in the final 90 seconds and gets mount position. He continues firing down punches with Sonnen just covering up and Sonnen taps from the strikes.
Winner: Rashad Evans, submission, round 1.