SI.com analysts Dave Doyle, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 154 on Saturday in Montreal.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit
DOYLE: If you go up and down the lists of plusses and minuses with these two fighters, the only thing in Condit’s favor is St-Pierre’s potential ring rust. That doesn’t bode well for your chances against someone like GSP, who has something to prove in his hometown. St-Pierre by TKO.
HUNT: St-Pierre is such a technician, analyzing opponents the way a statistician pores data. Condit could be the toughest first fight back ever — he’s an unpredictable striker with the killer instinct — but St. Pierre has adjusted his schedule to minimize ring rust and knows his key will be superior wrestling. St-Pierre by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Has GSP’s fighting spirit been rusted over during his 19-month absence from the octagon, or will it come bursting out of him like dammed river water? I suspect the latter, and that it will be further fueled by an enthousiaste Montreal crowd. Condit is coming off a fight in which he fended off bullying with movement and counterstrikes. But that bully knew only a straight-ahead path to his prey, making him easy to retaliate against. St-Pierre, by contrast, comes at you in innumerable ways, making every Condit counter susceptible to being countered. Sooner or later, the champion will seize control, and when he swarms he won’t stop until he’s pulled away by the man in the black shirt. St-Pierre by TKO.
WERTHEIM: It’s been a long layoff for St-Pierre and Condit’s a fighter that’s easy to root for. But realistically how do you pick against GSP? It will be interesting to see how his knee holds up, but he’s such a versatile fighter it’s hard to see an upset. St-Pierre by decision.
Martin Kampmann vs. Johny Hendricks
DOYLE: The head says to go with Hendricks, who has made steady progression toward the top. Kampmann has shown as much heart as anyone in the UFC with his comeback wins. My gut tells me this will be a thriller. Kampmann by submission.
HUNT: OSU wrestling ace Hendricks is on a roll and has some stinging hands to boot. Though arguably more well-rounded, Kampmann is just too hit or miss. Hendricks by KO.
WAGENHEIM: The 13-1 Hendricks has two split decisions among his last three victories, and the other win was a 12-second flash KO. He hasn’t dominated anyone over three rounds for a while, and that is what he’s being asked to do against the slicker-striking Dane. Kampmann by decision.
WERTHEIM: Kampmann is an admirable veteran with one of the great hearts in UFC history, but Hendricks’ wrestling superiority will be the difference. The former Oklahoma State star scores a ground-based verdict. Hendricks by decision.
Francis Carmont vs. Tom Lawlor
DOYLE: Clown-prince Lawlor has finally looked like a serious fighter in recent outings, but a hard-charging Carmont, winner of all three of his UFC fights, is a tall order. Carmont by submission.
HUNT: I feel like this one is Frenchman Carmont’s to win in friendly territory, so why does my brain keep stopping on Lawlor? More experience against tougher fare and better wrestling skills. Lawlor by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Carmont trains in Montreal’s Tristar gym, where the vibe has been considerably amped up with GSP readying himself for Saturday’s return. Soaking in that added intensity will help keep the French middleweight, winner of eight straight, on a roll. Carmont by submission.
WERTHEIM: Carmont has some nice buzz. Lawlor represents a big step up in competition. It says here he’s up to it. Carmont by submission.
Nick Ring vs. Costa Philippou
DOYLE: Ring got a gift decision in his UFC 149 victory over Court McGee. Philippou won’t let it get that far as he racks up his fifth straight UFC win. Philippou by TKO.
HUNT: Both have victories over Court McGee and Riki Fukuda within their last four appearances — durable additions to anyone’s win column. Both are competent (and confident) strikers, but Ring, more the kickboxing purist, will have the greater stand-up arsenal and the crowd behind him. Ring by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Both of these guys are standup standouts, so expect to see some slick fisticuffs. Philippou is the faster man, but Ring has a multifaceted arsenal and an uncanny ability to avoid the worst that his opponent dishes out. Ring by decision.
WERTHEIM: Philippou is on a four-match win streak. There’s a lot riding on this fight: the winner takes a step up and the loser takes a step down in a crowded division. Philippou by decision.
Mark Hominick vs. Pablo Garza
DOYLE: The loser of this meeting between two struggling featherweights is probably gone from the UFC. The veteran Hominick’s sheer force of will spells the difference here. Hominick by decision.
HUNT: Kickboxing veteran Hominick secured superstardom among Canadian fans when he bravely rode out Jose Aldo’s brutal five-round beatdown at UFC 129 in April 2011. Don’t think the UFC won’t want to capitalize on a potential hometown-hero moment. Enter Garza, a submission specialist who probably won’t get a chance to show it. Hominick by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: It’s now or never for Hominick, who after taking José Aldo to the limit in a decision loss last year has dropped two more fights. Garza is a desperate man, too, having lost two in a row. But Mark has the grit to survive. Hominick by decision.
WERTHEIM: Hominick was a hot fighter not that long ago. Now he’s fighting for his contract. The UFC has a way of helping out struggling fighters with their matchmaking. Hominick by decision.