By:Shaun Stephens

George St. Pierre is one of the best fighters that the UFC has ever had. Once he beat Matt Hughes for the belt at UFC 79, there was no looking back. He has successfully defended the belt for 9 fights. After his last fight which was against Johny Hendricks, he decided he needed to take a leave of absence. It was later noted that he left due to a OCD disorder.

At UFC 167, Hendricks gave St. Pierre a beating like he has never had before. GSP said after the fight that Hendricks deserved a rematch. What Hendricks did not know at the time that he would be fighting for the interim belt and not against GSP.

Johny Hendricks (15-2-0) faces off against Robbie Lawler (22-9-0 1 NC) for the vacant Welterweight Title. Hendricks has won 5 of his last 6, with the only loss coming against the former champ GSP. Johny gave GSP everything he could have handled and then some, but the judges thought he did not do enough to have beat the champ in a decision. Hendricks is a very good wrestler with heavy hands. Most of the wins come either from decision or knock-out.

Since coming over from Strikeforce, Lawler has won all three of his fights. His last fight was a decision win over Rory MacDonald. Robbie is a well-rounded fighter who has very quick hands and has a great defense. This is Lawler’s second time in the UFC. From 202-2004, he had a record of 3-3 before he was released. In 2011, he fought for the belt in Strikeforce but lost to Ronaldo Souza by submission in round 3.

Both of these fighters are expected to make quick work of each other. Their average time in the cage for a fight is 9 minutes and 10 seconds. 82% of Lawler’s wins come in from a knock-out compared to only 47% of Hendrick’s. Both fighters are really strong wrestlers, so I anticipate this being mostly a stand up fight.

Key number: 6. This is the average percentage of wins for both fighters by submission. This fight being won by submission is extremely unlikely to happen.

Prediction: Hendricks by decision.

Carlos Condit (29-7-0) comes in with a 3-2 record in his last 5 fights, but those two losses are against the former champ GSP, and the number one contender Johny Hendricks. If he wins this fight he will get the next chance of a title shot against the winner of Hendricks and Lawler. First, he has to get past his opponent Tyrone Woodley. Woodley (12-2-0) is also 3-2 in his last 5 fights. His last fight he Ko’d Josh Koscheck in the first round.

Condit is a well-rounded fighter with cardio for days. Woodley is more of a technique fighter with a strong emphasis on wrestling. If Woodley wants to win, he is going to have to make Condit fight his game and not let Carlos take control of the octagon. Woodley has a 94% takedown defense rate compared to Condit’s 41%.

Key number: 0.72, which is how the average of how many more takedowns Condit attempts than Woodley. With Woodley being a wrestler, one would think that he would have a lot more attempts than Condit.

Prediction: Condit by decision.

Since losing the title fight at UFC 107, Diego Sanchez (26-6-0) is keeping his comeback attempt alive by facing the undefeated Miles Jury (13-0-0). Diego 1s 3-3 in that time with losing his last fight by decision to Gilbert Melendez. Jury is 4-0 since coming into the UFC with beating Mike Ricci by decision in his last fight. Jury has a much better accuracy in striking defense and takedown accuracy than Sanchez. While Sanchez needs this fight to prove he still belongs in the UFC, Jury needs to prove to everyone in the division that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Key number: 1.74, which is the average of how many more strikes Sanchez takes per minute than Jury.

Prediction: Jury by submission in round 3.

UFC 171 has a lot of implications on the welterweight class. There will be a new champion for the first time since 2008. We could also see who the new champion will be taking their first title defense against.

This card is strong from top to bottom and I highly recommend you to watch.

*I got my statistics from ufc.com and fightmetric.com

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