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Five for Fighting: UFC 158 edition

With another major MMA event comes a new set of questions: Who has the most to prove? Which fight is flying under the radar? Who’s in danger of being cut? And so on. I’m pleased to have my colleague Dave Meltzer join me for the latest Five for Fighting, looking at Saturday’s UFC 158, which is headlined by Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz for the UFC welterweight title. 1. Who is under the most pressure? Dave Meltzer: Everyone has pressure during a time period when all but the top people can be cut with a bad showing. Even so, I think the answer is Georges St. Pierre. Everyone is expecting him to dominate Nick Diaz, easily take him down at will and keep him there. Because of that, he’s the one guy on the show who will get little praise for a dominant win, unless he finishes Diaz. Diaz has only been finished once in the last decade, and that was a blood stoppage. St-Pierre could win a 50-45 decision and get criticized for having a boring fight. So he’s in a situation where his smartest strategy to win, take Diaz off his feet and play it safe on the ground, is one he’ll be criticized for when it’s over. St-Pierre will only shut up critics with a finish, and that’s not likely to happen. But he both has to win and has to have an exciting fight, the latter will be a fight where he abandons what on paper is his best winning strategy. Almost everyone else on the card just has to follow the smart winning strategy and has no pressure on them past getting their hand raised and keeping their job. Dave Doyle: For Diaz, Saturday night is pretty much put-up-or-shut-up time. When he lost to Carlos Condit, he complained to Condit in the cage during the fight about his fighting style, then complained bitterly about the judging after the fight when the decision didn’t go his way. He fought the Nevada Athletic Commission over his suspension. He blew off his jiu-jitsu superfight with Braulio Estima, leaving a convention center filled with paying customers in the lurch. He returned and was gifted a title shot despite the loss to Condit and his subsequent behavior, and still he manages to feel disrespected. This is the type of thing that gets tolerated as long as you’re winning (and/or can sell a major pay-per-view main event). Diaz now has to prove he can back up his words against a guy with one loss since 2004 and do so while going up against possibly the most formidable home-court advantage in all of mixed martial arts to do it. That’s pressure. 2. Who, besides the main eventers, has the most to lose? Doyle: At first glance, the answer seems to be Johny Hendricks. After all, Hendricks made a lot of noise about how he should have gotten the shot at St-Pierre, and he has been promised he’s next in line if he defeats Condit on Saturday. But I think you can make the case that Condit has more to lose. If Condit can stop the guy that most agree is the real No. 1 contender, then he’ll have a win over Diaz, a solid effort in his loss to GSP, and a win over the anointed next one in his past three fights. But if he becomes the latest victim of Hendricks’ big left hand? Then all of a sudden he looks like a veteran who has come up short in back-to-back fights, he gets shoved down the pecking order a bit, and the whispers start that maybe his peak has passed. If Hendricks loses, a loss to someone with Condit’s credentials as a former champion is a setback, but Hendricks is still young career-wise and has time to regroup. Condit doesn’t have that luxury at this stage of his journey. Meltzer: The guy with the most to lose is obviously Hendricks. By all rights except the ultimate right, which is what business dictates, Hendricks should be facing GSP on Saturday. He was promised a title shot if he beat Josh Koscheck. Then he was promised a title shot if he beat Martin Kampmann. Both times he talked about sitting out and waiting, and both times he was talked out of it only to be put in with a dangerous opponent. This time he’s promised it if he beats Carlos Condit, who put Georges St-Pierre in the most danger of any fighter in the last six years. And still, if they can convince St-Pierre to face Anderson Silva, or if Diaz wins the title in a close or controversial manner and there is demand for a rematch, Hendricks once again will be in a position to either sit out or risk his shot once again. But he’s not like Diaz, in the sense that one loss will take him out of a title match. 3. What is shaping up to be fight of the night? Meltzer: Based on styles, the two I would have said, Hendricks vs. Jake Ellenberger and Condit vs. Rory MacDonald are both not happening due to MacDonald’s injuries. The main event pits two of the most talked about fighters in the sport, and between the crowd reactions and the intensity every Diaz fight has and St-Pierre’s popularity, particularly in Montreal, what is a good fight for any other two fighters will be a great fight here. But a great fight is not a lock is GSP employs his safest and arguably his best winning s…

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