It’s North of the Border time again to Montreal for UFC 158. To say the event offers up a loaded fight card from top to bottom is an understatement.
The headliner features one of the most highly anticipated title fights in some time. Though it seems we say that a lot about the UFC, since they ultimately give their fans the fights they want to see most, this weekend’s main event is well deserving of the description.
One of, if not the “pound-for-pound” king of MMA Georges St. Pierre (23-2) will make his eighth defense of the UFC Welterweight strap since capturing it for a second time back in 2006 against Hall of Fame fighter Matt Hughes with a second round knockout.
His opponent is former Strikeforce title holder Nick Diaz (26-8), who had been scheduled to challenge GSP over a year ago until his pre-fight antics forced UFC President Dana White to replace him.
Though many expected the outcome of that originally scheduled bout to be highly contested, much of the shine is now off Diaz and that’s reflected in the betting line. Currently, odds makers have listed GSP as high as -500, with the take-back on Diaz an inviting +400.
Granted the betting public has yet to speak and can undoubtedly force an adjustment but the champion will enter the cage as a significant favorite to capture his 24th win and 11th in a row.
The reason for the sudden change in perception is due to the loss suffered by Diaz at the hands of Carlos Condit when they faced off for the interim belt 13 months ago, while GSP was on the shelf nursing a critical knee injury.
Also, GSP took a unanimous decision almost nine months later against Condit, in a bout that saw him land 35 more strikes and win the take-down battle in shutout fashion 7-0.
There’s no denying that Diaz provides a definite threat to any opponent with his well-rounded arsenal of skills. Most would agree the challenger is one of the most difficult boxers to stand with, most notably when fighting southpaw. Then add one of the most accomplished Brazilian Jiu Jitsu resumes by way of his Gracie tutelage, and you can easily see why he had won 11 straight contests going into his bout with Condit.
On the flip side, GSP has been included in the top “pound-for-pound” list now for a number of years and, at age 31, has not absorbed too much punishment throughout his career. He should stay there for a while longer, barring injury.
The champion is the prototypical complete MMA practitioner who brings to the cage every style of fighting needed to be a stylistic nightmare for anyone. His Muay Thai pedigree and kickboxing repertoire, when coupled with incredible power makes standing with GSP a bad option.
More of a problem for potential challengers to his title is GSP’s ability to take the fight to the mat at will. He averages over 4 take-downs per 15 minutes with a 78% success rate. That translates to him dictating where the fight takes place more times than not.
St. Pierre will have a two-inch reach advantage, but Diaz will stand taller. When they decide to strike, I have to give Diaz the advantage as far as landing more, since the stats reflect he’s landed over 2 strikes more per minute than the champion.
The stats also show that the challenger gets hit more as well. In fact, GSP avoids an amazing 75% of strikes and a little more than one per minute actually gets through. Diaz gets hit with almost 3.5 strikes.
Then when you take into account GSP is the harder hitter, I believe Diaz will be forced to circle the cage and utilize movement more than he has in past fights, rather than stand there and trade like he prefers.
When this fight hits the mat I am almost certain it will be due to GSP’s choosing since the numbers show that Diaz completes only 33% of his take-down attempts and avoids over 20% less than the champion.
While there it’s no secret that Diaz is extremely dangerous even off his back, but he’s also shown a lack of being able to defend against stronger wrestlers passing his guard. GSP is also a beast at controlling his opponents after taking them down, and can dish out some of the sport’s most devastating ground and pound.
Finally, though the betting line doesn’t offer much in the way of value…I just don’t see where this fight can take place that will give Diaz the best of it. Therefore, my prediction will be for St. Pierre to successfully defend his UFC Welterweight gold. To profit from it, I will go ahead and tie him into parlays with the bonus plays I’ve added below.
Pick: George St. Pierre
Bonus parlay picks – Johnny Hendricks over Carlos Condit; Jake Ellenberger over Nate Marquardt.
Fight record (last 3 yrs): 96-51 (65.3%)
Current run: 30-13 (69.8%)
Vegas-Runner, a pro sports bettor in Las Vegas, has been featured on CNBC/ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @vegasrunner, at Pregame.com and on AM 1100 ESPN (also FM 98.9) on Fridays and Sundays from 11 pm to midnight when he co-hosts First Preview. Contact Vegas Runner at [email protected].