Many view Johny Hendricks as a legitimate threat. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
A 20th birthday is always met with tempered excitement. You have already been an adult for two years, so buying cigarettes and voting is no longer cool. You are an excruciating 365 days away from being able to purchase your own beer. There really is no basis for celebrating two decades of existence.
However, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is always looking for a reason to party, and in honor of its 20th anniversary, the promotion has put together one of the year’s best top-to-bottom cards with UFC 167 on Saturday in Las Vegas, where they always -- wink, wink -- check IDs.
Lawler is dangerous, but is not a top 10 fighter, according to the latest Sherdog.com divisional rankings. Beating him does little for MacDonald’s advancement, but a loss would crush any title momentum.
The Not So Underdog: GSP is a -225 favorite, the lightest he has been since his rematch with B.J. Penn almost five years ago. Hendricks pulls into this title fight as a legitimate threat to the UFC’s top pay-per-view draw, with his aforementioned wrestling credentials and coma-inducing paws. Correctly or incorrectly, the bookies seem to think Hendricks has a better chance than most to stop St. Pierre’s ability to jab, secure takedowns and control his opponent. I guess a highlight reel that includes quick, one-punch KOs against Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch would make anyone a believer.
The 9-0 bantamweight makes his UFC debut against short-notice opponent Will Campuzano at UFC 167. Will the Pettis Brothers stake their claim as the best one-punch family or simply settle for being a pair of top-level professional ass kickers with the same last name?
Useless Fact: Though he currently holds a 1-2 record in the UFC at 205 pounds and former champion Rashad Evans owns a 12-3-1 mark at the same weight, Sonnen is a mere +155 underdog; and yet, it does not seem that weird. Coming off arguably the best win of his career, a guillotine choke submission against Mauricio Rua, Sonnen is back in the spotlight as a credible opponent and not just a guy who knows how to successfully lobby for the match he wants. Evans has tiptoed through the tulips in his last four fights, sleepwalking through decision wins against Phil Davis and Dan Henderson and decision losses to Jon Jones and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. The timing is perfect for Sonnen fans to get excited about his chances.
What It All Means: Regardless of the outcome against Evans, Sonnen is already booked to face Wanderlei Silva after he coaches against “The Axe Murderer” on Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.” The world of combat sports has always been about building on your last win, as if you are always in the playoffs. Skirting that scenario gives the impression that you are outside a tangible path to a title. Since this is Sonnen -- the weight class-jumping, titleholder-challenging master of manipulation -- we are talking about here, it makes sense. It is the ultimate hall pass.