Nick Diaz and Georges St. Pierre will finally settle their differences at UFC 158 with the welterweight title on the line. The number one contender in the 170 pound division will also be determined when Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks meet in the co-main event.
Here are my predictions for the UFC 158 fight card set for March 16, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada:
Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz
GSP (23-2-0, 8 KOs) looked impressive during his last outing against Condit, holding his own in the striking department and dominating with his wresting. He also showed a lot of heart during the third round of their UFC 154 encounter when Condit hurt him with a high kick, maintaining his composure while "The Natural Born Killer" tried to finish the fight.
Diaz (26-8-0, 13 KOs) has had decent performances since his return to the UFC, but he had a hard time closing the distance during his last fight against Condit.
St. Pierre should be able to use his footwork to keep Diaz at bay, and he's clearly the better wrestler. Nick is extremely dangerous off his back, but it's hard to see him submitting GSP -- who isn't a slouch on the ground either.
Prediction: GSP wins via decision.
Johny Hendricks vs. Carlos Condit
In a perfect world, Hendricks (14-1-0, 8 KOs) would be the one facing GSP at UFC 158, but that's not how the cookie crumbled. Instead of a title shot, Hendricks will now have to defeat the former interim welterweight champion if he wants to remain a title contender.
Striking wise, Condit's (28-6-0, 13 KOs) arsenal is more diverse, but Hendricks packs some serious heat in his punches. Hendricks is also the better wrestler, so he'll get to dictate where the fight takes place. It should be a very competitive match, but I think Hendricks will make history and become the first man to knock Carlos out.
Prediction: Hendricks wins via KO.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Nate Marquardt
Marquardt (32-11-2, 15 submissions) is coming off a loss to Tarec Saffiedine and he'll be in for another tough night when he squares up against Ellenberger (28-6-0, 17 KOs) at UFC 158. Both men have similar skills, but Marquardt -- who fought as a middleweight for over 10 years -- will be the bigger, stronger man.
Nate was impressive in his welterweight debut against Tyron Woodley, and it wouldn't be fair to judge him off his performance against Saffiedine -- who was simply a bad matchup for him. Ellenberger doesn't have the striking style to keep him at bay like Tarec did, so I expect Marquardt to redeem himself on Saturday.
Prediction: Marquardt wins via TKO.
Nick Ring vs. Chris Camozzi
Ring (13-1-0, 6 submissions) will look to take another step up the middleweight rankings when he faces Camozzi (18-5-0, 6 submission) at UFC 158. Chris is a game fighter, but the matchup seems to favor Ring. The Canadian should be able to use his speed to avoid Camozzi's power, and he should also have the advantage in the grappling department.
Prediction: Ring wins via decision.
Mike Ricci vs. Colin Fletcher
Fletcher (8-2-0, 7 submissions) will have a significant reach advantage during their UFC 158 encounter, but Ricci (7-3-0, 4 KOs) will probably get the better of the striking exchanges. Ricci is a technically sharp striker, and he's displayed knockout power in the past.
Both men struggled against wrestlers during their previous outings, but Ricci seems to be the better grappler. He should be able to dominate the fight wherever it takes place, so I expect him to emerge victorious.
Prediction: Ricci wins via TKO.
Patrick Côté defeats Bobby Voelker
Darren Elkins defeats Antonio Carvalho
Jordan Mein defeats Dan Miller
Daron Cruickshank defeats John Makdessi
Rick Story defeats Quinn Mulhern
T.J. Dillashaw defeats Issei Tamura
George Roop defeats Reuben Duran
Previous fight card predictions (UFC on Fuel TV 8): 6-5