By Dwight Wakabayashi
The much-anticipated UFC 158 is finally upon us. Here’s a breakdown of the main card of the first show in Canada of 2013.
Mike Ricci (7-3) vs. Colin Fletcher (8-2) – lightweight
TUF 16 finalist and Canadian lightweight Mike Ricci gets a shot at redemption after his official UFC debut in December. How this fight made the main card with John Makdessi vs. Daron Cruickshank and Dan Miller vs. Jordan Mein on the preliminary card is beyond me, especially since Cruickshank has a win over Ricci in 2011.
Ricci struggled badly against Colton Smith in the TUF final, and could not create space or stop Smith from taking him down and mauling him on his way to the win. The Tristar product has a very skilled and cerebral game and needs to put it all on display in front of his home fans to gain redemption from that last performance. Fletcher lost his last fight in the TUF Smashes finals and will pose a similar style problem for Ricci that Smith did as he has seven submissions in his eight career wins.
The winner of this fight will live to see another day in the UFC, while the loser may find a pink slip waiting for him shortly after the fight.
Chris Camozzi (18-5) vs. Nick Ring (13-1) – middleweight
I know I should stop trying to do Joe Silva's job but this is another puzzling pick for the main card. Ring gets another chance in Montreal after pulling out of UFC 154 in November at the last minute due to illness. The Calgary middleweight has only lost once in his career and can get himself back into the contender mix with a finish against Chris Camozzi.
Camozzi is no joke, as he is currently on a three-fight winning streak and looking to keep it going with a step up to Ring. Both fighters are well rounded, so look for this fight to happen all over the place in the cage and Ring will need to push the pace as the key to finding an opening later in the fight. The winner of this fight will get a big-name middleweight for his next fightand a chance to climb into the UFC top 10.
Jake Ellenberger (28-6) vs. Nate Marquardt (32-11) – welterweight
In the first of a welterweight triple play, Jake Ellenberger gets a chance to make a statement and put himself back into the title picture against veteran Nate Marquardt.
In the last three years, Ellenberger has only lost to the elite in the division in Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit. He is coming off a nice bounce-back win against Jay Hieron and is a beast in every way. He can only get better from his recent losses and should be ready to run through Marquardt.
While Marquardt is an excellent fighter and always game, he is coming off a surprising loss to Tarec Saffiedine in which he lost the Strikeforce title. If Ellenberger can get a dominant finish here, he gets right back into the title picture for the remainder of the year.
Carlos Condit (28-6) vs. Johny Hendricks (14-1) – welterweight
The Rory MacDonald call-out aside, this is the right fight for both Condit and Hendricks to settle the debate on who the true No. 1 contender is in the welterweight division. The injury to MacDonald aligned the stars and this could be a possible fight of the year.
Hendricks believes that he should already be fighting for the title based on his five-fight winning streak and knockouts over Jon Fitch and Kampmann. Condit just lost his shot at the title last November but I still believe he is the No. 1 man in the pecking order of the division and he can prove it once again by beating Hendricks. Distance will be the key in this fight as Johny will have to close the gap on Condit without eating shots.
Condit will look to use his reach and arsenal of strikes to hurt Hendricks every time he comes in on him, and his movement and angles will be a puzzle that will be tough for Hendricks to solve. The winner of this fight, no matter how he gets the win, should be the undisputed No. 1 contender to the welterweight title.
Georges St-Pierre (8-7) vs. Nick Diaz (27-8-1) – welterweight
After all the hype, words and bad blood, the fight is finally here.
Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz have both been perched at the very top of the MMA food chain and in each other’s sights for many years now. The lead-up to the fight has been as crazy and interesting as any Diaz has been involved in to date, and I am very glad it's time to turn talk aside and see these men fight. A GSP-Diaz title fight should not need circus-like hype to get fans going as they are the absolute best fighters in the world.
This fight has all the makings of a classic, but it may turn out to be very similar to the GSP-Condit fight, with GSP dominating from the top for five rounds. Diaz has some of the best boxing in the world and will try his best to keep this fight on the feet, but if he is able to get some shots in and hurt St-Pierre, St-Pierre will surely halt the barrage by taking Diaz down. Condit has a very dangerous ground and submission game but he was unable to create the space on GSP to use it, and Diaz will have the same difficulties.
If St-Pierre wins this fight and Hendricks wins his fight, GSP-Hendricks will be a slam dunk for the next welterweight title fight. If Condit wins, it will pose a tough situation for the UFC as fans may not be ready for St-Pierre vs. Condit 2 quite yet.
If Diaz wins and all post-fight tests come back clean, he will fight the winner of Condit-Hendricks.