Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Rocktagon Recap of UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks!

Featuring an up and coming whippersnapper laying the smack down on a cagey veteran, a cagey veteran laying the smack down on an up and coming whippersnapper and arguably the WORST decision in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship!


Less than five months ago, Chris Weidman shocked the world by knocking out Anderson Silva -- in turn, bringing his almost seven year reign as UFC Middleweight Champion to an end. With the Spider’s title loss, that made Georges St-Pierre the company’s de facto iron man -- having held the UFC Welterweight Championship since April 2008, he’s experienced nary a blip in his half decade reign as the world’s premier 170 pound fighter.

On a show that commemorates the company’s 20th year in existence, GSP -- more or less the face of the UFC at this point -- defends his title against arguably the most dangerous opponent he’s ever faced: Johny “Big Rig” Hendricks, a Texas-tough, mountain man bearded grappler whose diminutive stature conceals one of the deadliest left hands in the sport’s history.

GSP, however, hasn’t just run through every welterweight challenger he’s encountered over the last five years, he’s basically done so without experiencing a single moment of concern. After exacting his vengeance on Matt Serra, St-Pierre not only tore through Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck, he managed to do so without even losing a single round. After another facile championship title defense (this time, against Strikeforce mega-bust Jake Shields), GSP rehabbed for more than year, and had his toughest match to date as current WW champion against Carlos Condit. Despite being rocked by the head kick heard ‘round the world, GSP managed to weather the storm, and outwrestled “The Natural Born Killer” to take home yet another decision victory. And in his last fight, GSP just made Nick Diaz look foolish, completely neutralizing the formally-feared striker with sound jabs and even sounder wrestling.

Whereas Silva had shown a chink in his armor in previous contests (before dropping the belt to Weidman, Chael Sonnen’s wrestling proved to be Anderson’s hitherto unexposed Kryptonite), GSP hasn’t really shown any key weaknesses in the cage -- save, perhaps, for a highly susceptible noggin, as Mister Serra no doubt proved to us all back in February 2007.

Hendricks -- whose pro record as a fighter is 16-1 -- is, stylistically, very similar to the man that gave GSP his second career loss, and thusly, ended his first reign as UFC welterweight champion. Alike Serra, Hendricks is a cagey wrestler, with solid takedown defense (that poor showing against Rick Story, we’ll try to forget about). And also like Serra, Hendricks can lob some bombs, as evident in his hilariously one-sided victories over Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann. In recent decision victories against Condit and Koscheck, Hendricks has proven that he can whiff some stiff jabs, and that he can also defend takedowns -- as well as dish them out -- rather easily.

The storyline here is crystal clear, folks: will GSP’s tried-and-true wrestling approach, peppered with defensive jabs, be enough to give the Canadien another decision win, or will Hendricks be able to successfully defend St-Pierre’s grappling and land that demonic left that sends “Rush” crumbling to the canvas?

Well, there’s only one way to find out, of course: welcome, all to The Rocktagon Recap of UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks!

We are coming to you LIVE from Las Vegas, Nev., while I call this shindig from the quaint and cozy (and now 100 percent carcinogenic smoke-free!) Bailey’s in K’Saw -- which, in case you haven‘t heard, is also the new home of the Atlanta Braves (hooray for WORSE traffic at the 285/75 intersection!). Our hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan…for whatever that’s worth, I guess. Tonight’s show marks the 20th anniversary of the organization, so will we be seeing any cameos of the fayed husks of former competitors? Apparently so, because as soon as I thought that, holy shit, it’s Dan Severn on screen!

Flyweight Bout
Tim Elliott vs. Ali Bagautinov 

Bagautinov is basically an anorexic Fedor, while Elliot is more or less James Franco’s character from “Spring Breakers.”

Ali controlling the bout early, landing more punches and kicks than his cornrowed adversary. Ali with a takedown, but Elliot is right back up. Ali with a kick that drops Elliot late in the round.

Hey, AH-NOLD is in the house tonight! And he draws a huge pop, which is probably going to be louder than anyone else’s reaction (save GSP, perhaps) this evening.

Elliot shoots for a takedown, and Ali responds with a guillotine attempt. Elliot takes the full mount, but his punches aren’t doing much to his Russian foe. About two minutes left in the round, and things get vertical. Ali with some more punches, and he stuffs a takedown attempt by his opponent as the round ends. 19-19, so this third and final round is going to decide it.

Ali comes out swinging, hitting Elliot with a barrage of rights. Now Elliot’s firing back, but his takedown attempt is for nil. Elliot with a takedown and a solid knee as the round concludes. Elliot probably won the last minute of the bout, but Ali sure did score a lot of strikes during the first four. Probably Ali’s round, but it could go either way, really.

And it’s a unanimous decision victory for Ali. Royce Gracie makes an appearance on the Jumbotron, what, with this being the 20th anniversary shindig and whatnot.

Welterweight Bout
Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley 

For whatever reason, Joe Rogan is downright OBSESSED with criticizing Woodley’s chiseled physique, stating that all of his muscles require more energy over the course of the fight and it lowers his overall stamina. Not that he’s doing any pre-emptive HGH damage control or anything…

Well, it doesn’t take Woodley long to put Kos down with a right. Kos rebounds, and sandwiches Woodley up against the cage. The ref intervenes, and it’s time to get all sorts of Strikeforce-y in this bitch. Woodley connects with a few more punches, and Kos whiffs on a heavy punch. He gets to eat an uppercut for his efforts. Kos gets knocked down again, and Woodley is feeding him some nasty shots. They two stand once more, and Woodley puts Kos down and out with a mean right and a follow-up shot that sends Kos to La-La-Land (which, as it turns out, may or may not have a Friday night death slot on Spike TV.)

An impressive showing from Woodley, whom proceeds to thank the Lord for giving him the inhuman ability to punch people in the face, and hard.

Welterweight Bout
Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler

A real contrast of styles here; Lawler is a super-punchy veteran who's been in among the craziest wild gorilla fights in MMA history while MacDonald is a super technical, TriStar Gym-trained wunderkind that many MMA analysts hail as the “next breed” of Ultimate Fighter. Rory comes out to that one Rihanna song about finding love in a hopeless place, which is probably the weirdest damn selection for a walkout tune I’ve heard in quite some time.

A ton of Canucks are in the building tonight, and MacDonald receives what is far and away the loudest pop any fighter has received so far tonight.

MacDonald being very tentative with his striking, mostly just circling Lawler and feigning some takedown attempts. MacDonald is tossing body kicks like crazy, but they’re not really doing that much damage. Now Lawler is throwing some strikes to the body. Lawler shoots for a takedown, but doesn’t get it, as the round concludes.

The Canadian shoots for a takedown as round two begins, but nothing happening there. More body kicks from MacDonald, and Lawler is throwing some loopy looking home run shots. MacDonald finally gets the takedown, but his ground and pound really doesn’t do much. 19-19 in my estimates, although I could see a 20-18 verdict in MacDonald’s favor.

Lawler, as expected, comes out throwing some insane hooks, and MacDonald responds with a takedown. The ref stands them up, and MacDonald shoots for another takedown. Now Lawler is in the full mount, but he lets MacDonald stand up…he wants this shit to get EliteXC up in here. LAWLER WITH A LEFT THAT PUTS MACDONALD DOWN! Lawler in side control, and MacDonald is in serious trouble here. MacDonald tries for an armbar, but it’s for naught. Half a minute left, and the two competitors get vertical. MacDonald with a rather facile takedown in the closing seconds of the fight, but his his GNP isn’t enough to finish Lawler.

A split decision victory for Lawler, in what has to be one of the year’s biggest MMA upsets. Huh…a burly American, pounding out a hard fought decision victory over a technically gifted Canadian grappler; foreshadowing for tonight’s title bout, perhaps?

Miesha Tate is in the audience. Cue a friggin’ hilarious retrospective video featuring a gaggle of early UFC heavies, including ART JIMMERSON, who is STILL walking around with one glove on his hand.

A trailer for “Grudge Match,” which is probably going to suck, but I’ll end up seeing it anyway. And one more hard sell for The Ultimate Fighter, and our co-main event is nigh…

Light Heavyweight Bout
Rashad Evans vs. Chael Sonnen

Evans looks WAY bigger than Sonnen when they stare down. Sonnen pushes Evans up against the cage, but Evans reverses. In a clinch, and Sonnen is looking for a guillotine. Evans gets a takedown, and pops Sonnen with some hard elbow shots. Sonnen is flat on his back, Evans has the full mount, and CHAEL is about to get fucked up something wicked. A defenseless Sonnen gets his skull drummed by Evans, as the referee quickly waves off the contest. What’s really funny here was how Sonnen was kicking his legs up and down while getting his face sanded off. It’s worth the effort to track down a GIF, I assure you.

You know…maybe Sonnen best stay away from the 205 division for awhile?

Chuck Liddell and Anthony Pettis are both in the crowd. Liddell gets knocked out by the light gust of the camera as it pans over the audience.

Brendan Schuab wants you to play “Assassin’s Creed 4,” which is one of the most random juxtaposition of any two things I’ve encountered in recent memory. Cue a freaking AMAZING trailer for UFC 168 -- recounting the first Silva / Weidman bout to the tune of AWOLnation’s “Sail” -- and folks…it’s finally time for the Welterweight bout we’ve been waiting months to witness..

UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT
Georges St-Pierre (Champion) vs. Johny Hendricks (Challenger)

Definitely a pro-GSP crowd tonight. St-Pierre rocks the gi, while Hendricks is sporting an orange shirt with his silhouette on it that you know you’re going to end up buying at some point this week.

GSP with an automatic takedown, and he’s looking for a choke early. Hendricks escapes, however, and they exchange knees in a clinch. GSP looking for a takedown, but Hendricks' swings prevents him. AND HENDRICKS WITH A TAKEDOWN OF HIS OWN! Hendricks with some knees, and GSP stands up. He’s throwing some high kicks, but nothing’s connecting. Hendricks with a solid left as the round expires. Improbably, a 10-9 round for the bearded challenger.

Some low kicks to begin round two, and the competitors exchange lefts and rights. Hendricks opens up, and GSP looks like he’s about to go down. The two clinch, and Hendricks is getting dangerously close to finishing St-Pierre…which leads to the referee STOPPING the bout so Hendricks can put his mouth guard in more snuggly. Oh, that is some bullshit and then some right there. Hendricks throwing more lefts, and St-Pierre eyes a takedown he just can’t get. In a clinch, and Hendricks outmaneuvers St-Pierre. This is probably the first time GSP has ever been in a bout where his opponent was the stronger fighter. GSP throwing everything at Hendricks, but nothing connects. Hendricks appears to be throwing the better punches at this point. I’ve got it 20-18 for Hendricks.

Round three begins. GSP with a low kick, and Hendricks responds with a straight jab. In a lot of ways, Hendricks seems to be besting GSP using GSP’s own tried and true techniques. GSP throws some right kicks, and Hendricks keeps him at bay with the left hook. And ANOTHER TAKEDOWN from Hendricks. 30-27, Beardy. All he has to do is not get finished in the next two rounds, and we should have ourselves a new Welterweight Champion, folks.

Round Four. GSP comes out swinging, but he slips, and Hendricks proceeds to smother him. Hendricks hits St-Pierre with some hard elbows and punches. GSP is up. Hendricks doesn’t have a scratch on him, and St-Pierre looks like someone’s been using his face as a cutting board. GSP gets battered as he tries to shoot for a takedown. GSP is outwrestled by Hendricks as the round concludes.

Fifth and final round. St-Pierre really has to finish St-Pierre over the next five minutes if he wants to hold on to his belt. Comedy to begin, as St-Pierre hangs on for dear life to a single-leg takedown he just can’t get. GSP with some solid shots, and he FINALLY manages to wrestle Hendricks down. Stand up ordered, and GSP keeps jabbing and looking for the takedown. He lands his second takedown of the round, but Hendricks instantly darts back up. Some jabs, but nothing significant, as the round concludes. A fairly obvious round for GSP, but I still have it 49-46 for Hendricks.

GSP climbs his trainer’s shoulders and he struts him around like a retard, even though it’s pretty obvious it was a losing effort on St-Pierre’s behalf. And I just think I will let this video right here tell you all you need to know about the night’s somewhat controversial decision.

…but seriously though, it’s a downright awful call, something that every reliable MMA journalist in the world and even the goddamn owner of the company considers bullshit. Making things worse, GSP cuts a bizarre promo where he says he’s “going away for awhile” because he can’t recall things. Keep in mind, these are words coming from a man who once claimed to be abducted by aliens, too.

Hendricks, obviously, was disappointed, and you can feel the resentment bubbling up after GSP says that nondescript stuff about pseudo-retiring. An outstanding fight, but a bout that, unfortunately  will forever be remembered for it’s atrocious judging instead.

Thanks to the guys at MMA Memes for the LULZ. 

SO, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Well, uh, an automatic rematch between Hendricks and St-Pierre seems to be the most obvious thing at this point, but since GSP apparently needs some time off to recover from his unfortunate case of bitch flu, it seems more probable that Hendricks and the winner of the upcoming Carlos Condit / Matt Brown bout will be duking it out in early 2013 for an interim WW belt. In besting Rory MacDonald, Robbie Lawler really elevated his stock; why not put “Ruthless” in the Octagon against Tyron Woodley next spring in a Welterweight championship eliminator fight? Evans looked downright bored in dissecting Chael Sonnen…with that in mind, how about putting Rashad up against the loser of the Jon Jones/Glover Texieria championship bout (whenever the hell that one takes place, I suppose?) As for the show’s big losers, why not stack MacDonald up against Tarec Saffediene and Sonnen up against Wanderlei Silva (since they’re both coaching the Brazil edition of TUF, I guess that last one goes without saying, though.) And for Mr. Koscheck? You had a good run, buddy, but it looks like it’s time for you to hang up the gloves…well, that, or jump ship to WSOF or Bellator. Not like there’s much of a difference between the two, I reckon.

SHOW HIGHLIGHT: The GSP/Hendricks fight was awesome, and so was the Lawler/MacDonald throwdown.

SHOW LOWLIGHT: Nothing really stunk on the main card…maybe some portions of the opening Flyweight match-up, perhaps?

ROGAN-ISM OF THE NIGHT: “He just toed him!” -- Joe Rogan, upon watching Ali Bagautinov high kick Tim Elliot.

FIVE THINGS I LEARNED FROM TONIGHT’S SHOW:

Sambo experts are generally better strikers than Riff Raff lookalikes. 

Somehow, being muscular puts you at a disadvantage in the Octagon.

Technical, defensive jabbing is cool and all, but sometimes, it pays to fight like a goddamn ape. 

When a large African-American man punches a Republican repeatedly in the head, the instinctual conservative reaction is to start dog paddling. 

In a fight in which one person doesn’t have a scratch on him and the other guy looks like his face has been run over by a lawnmower, the man whose face most resembles a raw steak is technically the victor. 

Well, that’s all I’ve got for this week. Crank up “Sonsick” by Sam Fermin and “17 Crimes” by AFI, and I’ll be seeing you in just a few, folks.

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