By: William Holmes
The UFC returns to one of the hotbeds of MMA action at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on Saturday night as UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre takes on former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz in the main event of the night.
This is a title fight that was previously supposed to happen on October 29, 2011 at UFC 137, but the ever eccentric Nick Diaz failed to show up for multiple press events and the fight was canceled.
This card is stacked with some of the top welterweights in the division, and the following is a preview of the televised fights on PPV.
Mike Ricci (7-3) vs. Colin Fletcher (8-2); Lightweight Division
Mike Ricci was a member of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson and made it all the way to the finals before losing to Colton Smith. The fact that he’s a Canadian and that he appeared in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter helped land him a spot on the pay per view card.
Four of his victories have come by way of KO/TKO and only two of his fights have gone to a decision. He previously fought for Bellator in 2010 and lost to Pat Curran by knockout in the first round.
Besides the Ultimate Fighter he does not have any impressive victories on his record and has spent most of his career fighting for regional promotions.
His opponent, Colin Fletcher, is four years his elder and two inches taller. Seven of his eight victories were by way of submission. Fletcher is currently 0-1 in the UFC. His only fight in the UFC was a loss to Norman Parke in December of 2012.
He has spent most of his career fighting in England, but he does have two fights with the biggest English promotion, BAMMA.
It’s rare to see the UFC give a TUF finalist a tough fight immediately following TUF finale, and Ricci is no exception. A loss for either fighter could result in them being cut from the UFC
Chris Camozzi (18-5) vs. Nick Ring (13-1); Middleweight Division
Both Camozzi and Ring are former The Ultimate Fighter Contestants who had to withdraw from the tournament due to injury.
Both are also possibly fighting for a job to stay in the UFC.
This is Camozzi’s second stint inside the UFC. He was first released in 2011 after his loss to Kyle Noke at UFC 127. He defeated Strikeforce veteran Joey Villasenor and was invited back to the UFC. He’s a tall and well rounded fighter. He has five KO/TKO, six submissions, and seven decisions on his record. He is vulnerable to an effective jiu-jitsu game as three of his losses have come by way of submission. His most impressive victory to date was a decision victory over Luiz Cane in October of 2012.
Nick Ring has the more impressive record, but he’s 34 years old and is likely past his athletic peak. He’s gone 3-1 in the UFC, but two of those victories were controversial and many feel he should be 1-3. He has solid wrestling, but his striking is suspect and Tim Boetsch exploited it when they fought in September of 2011.
Ring has a good record, but he has not looked too impressive while fighting for the UFC. The younger Camozzi should be able to win the fight if he’s able to keep it standing.
Jake Ellenberger (28-6) vs. Nate Marquardt (32-11-2); Welterweight Division
Nate Marquardt is lucky to have a job with the UFC. Not only did he test positive for a banned substance twice, he also got soundly defeated in his last fight in Strikeforce against Tarec Saffiedine.
But if you are able to look past his positive drug tests you’ll see that Marquardt is a highly experienced veteran with all around ability. Only eight of his victories have went to a decision. He’s been a member of an elite MMA organization since 2005, whether it be Strikeforce of the UFC. He’s spent much of his career campaigning as a middleweight, but two hard defeats to Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen convinced him to move down to the welterweight division.
He had success in Strikefroce and defeated Tyron Woodley by KO to win the Strikeforce welterweight titile, but he was soundly defeated by European kickboxer Tarec Saffiedine in the last event of the Strikeforce promotion.
Saffiedine showed that Marquardt is vulnerable to leg kicks, luckily for Marquardt Ellenberger is not known for his kickboxing ability.
Ellenberger has been with the UFC since 2009 and has enjoyed a moderate amount of success within the octagon. He lost his first UFC bout to Carlos Condit by a close split decision, and then rattled off six straight victories defeating opponents such as Sean Pierson, Jake Shields, and Diego Sanchez.
He unwisely chose to stand with kickboxer Marttin Kampmann in June of last year, but was able to rebound from that loss by soundly defeating Jay Hieron in October.
Ellenberger has considerable power, seventeen of his victories have come by way of KO/TKO.
Marquardt is six years older than Ellenberger, is coming off a very bad loss only three months ago, and is strictly tested by the Athletic Commissions due to two prior positive drug tests. His career has been on a downward slide, and Ellenberger is starting to reach his peak.
Ellenberger will win on Saturday, but it will be tough for him to stop Marquardt.
Carlos Condit (28-6) vs. Johny Hendricks (14-1); Welterweight Division
The winner of this bout will likely get a shot at Georges St. Pierre for the UFC Welterweight title.
Condit is the former WEC Welterweight champion and is a terrific all around fighter. He has thirteen KO/TKO’s and thirteen submissions. He’s never been knocked out and is known for his aggressive style and swarming his opponents.
Condit is 5-2 in the UFC, with his losses coming to Martin Kampmann and Georges St. Pierre. He’s been impressive in his stoppages of Rory MacDonald, Dan Hardy, and Dong Hyun Kim. He showed he can be patient and fight technically in his decision victory over Nick Diaz in February of 2012.
He is a complete fighter who comes up with an effective game plan and tends to execute it well inside the octagon.
His opponent, Johny Hendricks, is a former wrestler for Oklahoma State University and two time NCAA Division I champion in wrestling. He’s a rare wrestler who likes to stand and bang. Eight of his victories have come by way of KO/TKO. Hendricks is also a former WEC veteran.
His only loss was a close decision loss to Rick Story in December of 2010. Since then he’s defeated T.J. Waldburger, Mike Pierce, knocked out Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, and decisioned Josh Koscheck.
He has the power to defeat Condit, but he does not have his technical striking ability. Condit has trained with Georges St. Pierre, so he should have no problems stopping the takedowns of Hendricks. As long as Condit can avoid the power shots of Hendricks he should win the decision victory.
Georges St. Pierre (23-2) vs. Nick Diaz (26-8); UFC Welterweight Title
Georges St. Pierre is considered by many to be the greatest UFC welterweight of all time. Nick Diaz is considered by many to be the greatest Strikeforce welterweight of all time.
This is a title fight that’s been years in the making.
St. Pierre only fought once since April of 2011 so ring rust may be a problem. He also hasn’t stopped an opponent since 2009. But as far as pure technical skill and the ability to mix striking with grappling, there is nobody better than GSP.
He has not lost in the UFC since 2007 when Matt Serra caught him and surprised the world by stopping him in the first round. He’s defeated everyone and anyone, including B.J. Penn, Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, Matt Serra, Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, and Carlos Condit.
There are very few, if any, holes in his game.
Nick Diaz is the perfect type of fighter to find it.
Diaz is already playing mind games with GSP. He has publically called him out for using steroids and has been calling him out in the media for years.
Diaz also trains with Jake Shields, the fighter who likely gave GSP his toughest test in the past five years. Shields gave GSP a harder time in striking than expected, and Diaz is a much better than Shields.
Diaz has defeated the likes of B.J. Penn, Paul Daley, K.J. Noons, Hayato Sakurai, Marius Zaromskis, Scott Smith, Frank Shamrock, and Takanori Gomi.
Granted, GSP has a more impressive list of conquered opponents than Diaz, but Diaz is a fighter who has only lost once while fighting some of the best.
Diaz’s lone loss in the UFC came against Carlos Condit in February of 2012. It was a disputed decision loss that could have gone either way. He hasn’t fought in a year due to testing positive for marijuana immediately after the fight.
Diaz has had trouble against wrestlers, especially early on in his career. If he is able to keep the fight standing he has a significant advantage over GSP.
But he won’t be able to keep the fight standing. He hasn’t faced a fighter with GSP’s caliber of wrestling since Sean Sherk in 2006. And GSP is a much better MMA wrestler than Sherk.
GSP will win another decision victory, but if he isn’t able to land a few takedowns early on this could get interesting.