It’s been a long way back for GSP. Originally, he was going to face Nick Diaz at UFC 137 but Diaz went AWOL on everyone and White became fed up with Diaz and pulled him out of the fight. Condit replaced Diaz, but St. Pierre had to pull out because of a knee injury. Oddly, Diaz was placed back in the main event, this time against BJ Penn after Condit decided to wait for GSP to heal.
But waiting did him no favors as it was Diaz who was given the fight against GSP at UFC 143. But GSP then tore his ACL and Condit took his place. Condit beat Diaz for the interim championship and now faces St. Pierre at UFC 154.
The second fight from the top is another welterweight battle between top contenders Martin Kampmann and Johny Hendericks. Both men are on a multi-fight win streak and the winner could become the next number one contender, though it all depends on who wins the main event as there is a superfight possibly awaiting GSP, which would likely ice the championship for most of 2013.
We’re going to give our predictions for both fights. In addition to the regular cast of characters from FGB, joining us with their predictions are Stevie J from Angry Marks, friend of the website JP, Ryan Pike from Tough Talk MMA and Heidi Fang from MMA Fight Corner.
Martin Kampmann vs. Johny Hendricks
Duan says: Hendricks by decision
This is actually one of the toughest fight to call all year. The bookies like a Hendericks decision, and I think that’s probably where the wise money goes. Both these guys are super durable – I’m expecting a distance fight – and more often than not that favours the stronger wrestler. I’m certain that Hendericks, with his amateur pedigree and physicality, will secure a couple of takedowns minimum, and in a tight contest that will be what separates them.
I don’t underestimate Kampmann at all. I know just how tough, and how dangerous, he is. He will hang in there, and if Hendericks gives him anything, he will take it – striking or sub – it doesn’t matter. I just don’t see Henderick making that mistake. We’re yet to ever see him in real trouble.
GG says: Kampmann by 3rd round TKO
Like Duan said, this is a tough one. I feel that Kampmann is the more talented fighter, but Hendricks has the better game plan and is probably the smarter fighter. If Hendricks decides that he simply wants to outlast Kampmann, I think he’ll be able to win by decision. But I think Kampmann is defensively deficient enough to where Hendricks will get comfortable on his feet. And that’s where Kampmann will catch him. No matter what happens, this is one of the best match-ups of the year.
Stevie J says: Hendricks by decision
Martin Kampmann already owns wins over some of the biggest names at welterweight outside of GSP, including his opponent Carlos Condit. He comes in riding a 3-fight winning streak, including a KO of a man seemingly destined for a title shot in Jake Ellenberger. Hendricks is on a roll of his own though – 4 straight including a razor close win against former #1 contender Josh Koscheck and the most devastating loss former #1 contender Jon Fitch has ever suffered in UFC. Whoever wins this fight will most likely go on to face the winner of GSP vs. Condit, especially if they win impressively, so the stakes are incredibly high. Wrestling and ground game favors Hendricks, an impressive 4-time All American from Oklahoma State. Experience and jiu-jitsu favors Kampmann, as he has a nasty rear naked and a guillotine choke, although Hendricks has NEVER been submitted and has only lost once as a pro. That plus the fact Hendricks has one punch knockout favor starts to tip the balance his way, and the fact high caliber wrestlers can control where a fight goes (grind your foe on the fence or take him down and mail him) tips it even further. The wildcard is that when Hendricks fought a wrestler his caliber in Koscheck, it nearly went South for him, and you can’t underestimate how much Kampmann has trained with Team Couture to stuff a takedown and perhaps get a few of his own. You can find a million reasons for either man to win, which is what makes it such an intriguing fight, but in my heart I believe that Hendricks can edge this one out and take a unanimous decision _OR_ if Kampmann makes a Franklin-esque mistake, KO him cold.
Carlos Condit vs. Georges St. Pierre
Alan says: GSP by decision
GSP’s long layoff has resulted in many things both actual and possible. He possibly could have severe ring rust. He possibly won’t be the same fighter he was before the injuries. Most importantly for business however is that his lengthy absence has without question made a GSP main event an even rarer commodity than ever before. At least to me, it feels like a big fight, just because he’s involved and he hasn’t been in such a long time. The other thing that makes this exciting is the quality of his opponent. After his masterful performance against Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit has more respect than ever before. He is a serious threat.
When it comes to the fight itself, GSP’s biggest strength is Condit’s biggest weakness. That being wrestling. However this is by no means going to be a case of GSP getting on top of his opponent and having it easy. Carlos Condit doesn’t let people have it easy. He will fight tooth and nail to get up or to put St. Pierre in danger with submissions or even strikes from the bottom. If it stays standing for any length then it’s a super even fight and GSP’s ring rust and injuries will be really tested.
I’ll go with the safe option and say GSP is still as good as ever (I’m learning the lessons of Adrian Peterson…. the bionic man) and he takes this by decision. It will be competitive and a fun watch though.
Heidi says: St. Pierre by decision (split)
It’s been 18 months since GSP last stepped foot in the octagon. Rarely do we have champions or athletes fully bounce back to being who they were following an ACL surgery, but GSP is no ordinary champion. Condit may have finished 26 of his opponents, but St. Pierre hasn’t lost in nine fights which date back to 2007. I don’t think he’ll blanket Condit. I think we’ll see a competitive, tactical matchup and St. Pierre will edge out the decision.
Ryan Pike says: St. Pierre by decision
Saturday’s basically a national holiday for Canadian fight fans, as the Gretzky of Canadian MMA has returned. This will be an interesting fight, and it hinges on the health of St-Pierre’s knee and his confidence in it. If he has confidence in his ability to do his power take-downs, the fight is done. He’ll wrestle-fuck Condit, frustrate him and grind out a five-round decision win.
If he’s tentative at all, it could be a long night.
JP says: St. Pierre by 3rd round submission
The temptation here is to take Condit because he is the more active and entertaining fighter, plus he isn’t coming off a serious knee injury. But when it comes to preparation, few, if any fighters top St. Pierre. I do not believe he would step into the octagon after his rehab unless he felt he was where he needed to be to pull out a victory. I think every fan will hold their breath the first time a Condit kick lands on that knee. But I still look for GSP to work his takedowns and game for a submission through most of the rounds; avoid the standup talents of Condit and kicks in particular. Rear naked choke wins it for GSP in round three.