When the UFC 158 card was announced back in December 2012, not only was it the most anticipated card in recent history, but for many, including myself, it was prematurely considered the company’s event of the year for 2013. The marquee featured a triple header package of Welterweight bouts that carried title implications.
Opening triple header was the pairing of sluggers and wrestlers, Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger and Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks. The centerpiece was supposed to be a rematch between Rory “Ares” MacDonald and Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit. Finally, the long-awaited meeting between Nick Diaz and Georges “Rush” St. Peirre would finally take place.
But of course, to the chagrin of its front office, the UFC is once forced to shuffle its deck after strategically stacking it. On February 18th, Rory announced his pulling out of the card due to a neck injury. This led to the promotion of Hendricks into the co-main event to face Condit. Leaving Ellenberger without an opponent, once UFC Middleweight and former Stirkeforce Welterweight champion Nate “The Great Marquardt tweeted the following:
Just heard @EllenbergerMMA doesn’t have anyone to fight March 16 as of today. Just so happens I’m free that night! ;) Whatcha think??
With that said, the alterations to the welterweight triple header were completed.
Six welterweights fight to further cement their legacies in what is arguably the company’s deepest and most intriguing division. Couple that with a pair of lightweights and middleweights who are clawing their way into the top 10 of their respective weight classes, and the result is a five bout, main card with its alterations, that has the potential to warrant its pre-fight claims.
Without further ado, here’s how I think the bells will tole in Montreal’s Bell Centre come March 16th:
Whenever a “Martian” comes in contact with a “Freakshow”, such a meeting could become chaotic. With both fighters being triple threats in the striking, takedown and submissions departments, you could not ask for a more evenly matched affair. Fletcher is described as being unpredictable. While that’s a plus as far as entertainment is concerned, a mismanaged use of unpredictability can land you in a dangerous spot. I think RIcci will capitalize on such an opportunity and use his wit to overcome Fletcher’s tricky ways; taking this one in a decision.
Both Ring and Camozzi are solid strikers and submission artists. An area of this fight to watch closely is the takedown/mat game. Going into this bout, Camozzi takedown ability, both administering and defending are left to be desired, while Ring has proven to be solid in this area. It’ll be the ground game that helps Ring finish his evening on a promising note. This affair will also conclude in a decision.
Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger vs. Nate “The Great” Marquardt (Welterweight Division Bout)
If you are willing to call out Jake Ellenberger in your return match to the mecca of Mixed Martial Arts, you’ll never beaccused of lacking fortitude. Then again, it is Marquardt, who swam among the sharks of UFC once upon a time. With powerful punches and formidable wrestling, Ellenberger has the package needed to present problems for Marquardt. On the flip side, “The Great” is just as exceptional with his takedowns. In addition, he can carry out a submission game and unleash a diversified striking attach that can give “The Juggernaut” fits. In his return to the octagon, Marquardt will make a lasting impression with a second round knockout of Ellenberger.
Carlos “The Natural Born Killer” Condit vs. Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks (Welterweight Division Title Contention Bout)
If there was such an award as the MMA Scholar of the Year, it should’ve been awarded to Condit back in 2012. Reason being, his strategy against Nick Diaz back at UFC 143. Striking at will, while distancing himself from Diaz’s reach was genius, to say the least. In addition to taking Diaz out of Diaz’s physical element, “The Natural Born Killer” was able to frustrate the Stockton, California native. I’m led to believe Condit’s approach will be similar when he meets Hendricks. The problem with that is Hendricks has an amazing ability to close distance, so I don’t expect Condit to be as elusive. Once the distance is closed,either Hendricks will overwhelm Condit with his wrestling and them pound away at him, or he will seize that perfect moment on the feet and land a scud missile that will send Condit tumbling to the mat. Either way you slice it, Condit will suffer his first knockout loss.
Georges “Rush” St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz (Welterweight Title Bout)
It was during the post-fight interview of his win over BJ Penn at UFC 137 that Diaz declared St. Pierre was scared to fight him. He concluded the interview with a question that has run in the champion’s ears for two years, “WHERE YOU AT GEORGES…WHERE YOU AT M&*$@ F&%*@??” Well Mr. Diaz, the Welterweight champion will present and accounted come March 16th, as he stands across the octagon from you. Being the gentleman he is, St. Pierre has downplayed any emotional ties to this bout. When you respond to Diaz’s rant by labeling him the most disrespectful human being you’ve ever met and declaring this is the worst beating the UFC will ever witness, it means more to you than you’re leading on champ.
This is all being said to say that St. Pierre can’t let his emotions get the best of him. As much as he wants to cave Diaz’s face in, he has to remember that Diaz is the best boxer he’s ever faced. In addition, he has a black belt in Jiu Jitsu. In no way is this going to be a cakewalk for the champion. If St. Pierre wants to remain the champion, his best is following the game plan of Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson, who laid out the blueprint on how to beat a Diaz, courtesy of Nick’s younger brother Nate, back in December 2012. In order to to do this, St. Pierre must chop away at Diaz’s lead leg with kicks, follow-up with punches, without getting into boxing exchanges with Diaz and use his wrestling like never before. Even if St. Pierre gets Diaz to the ground, he must remain mindful of his Jiu Jitsu and not leave any of his limbs out in the open. Overall, I have St. Pierre retaining his title in a decision, but he cannot…CANNOT…allow himself to become vulnerable in any of Diaz’s comfort zones.
Those are my expectations for UFC 158. Check back here with us at TNP Sports for a full recap of this stacked card.
By Antoine Hoffman