UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (24-2 MMA, 18-2 UFC) opened as a -225 favorite over his next challenger, Johny Hendricks (15-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC), who is a +175 underdog.
Veteran oddsmaker Joey Oddessa on Wednesday confirmed the opening line with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
Although a precise meeting date is yet to be set, Hendricks’ win over Carlos Condit this past Saturday at UFC 158 in Montreal set him up to face St-Pierre, who swept Nick Diaz with a unanimous decision in the main event. UFC President Dana White confirmed the two will meet for the 170-pound title.
The line represents the most competitive opening number for a St-Pierre title defense since he opened as a -270 favorite against Thiago Alves at UFC 100. Prior to that, he opened as a -180 favorite against B.J. Penn at UFC 94 and a -220 favorite against Jon Fitch at UFC 87. But since that trio of fights, he has started as a prohibitive favorite and maintained that through the close of betting against the likes of Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, Condit and Diaz.
Oddessa believes Hendricks’ strong wrestling background could pose a challenge to the champion.
“I’ve always admired the MMA wrestlers and been critiqued for it because of my love of the sport of wrestling, but there’s no bias in my price,” said Oddessa, who can be found at @mmaodds on Twitter. “It’s a more than a winnable bout for Hendricks.”
But apart from Hendricks’ wrestling prowess, it’s the Oklahoma native’s power in his hands that helps make a fight with St-Pierre potentially closer than many of his other title defenses.
“There’s not much to say about Georges that we don’t already know throughout his outstanding Hall of Fame career,” Oddessa said. “Hendricks is the best college wrestler St-Pierre has faced to date. Add to it, Johny has shown in his 15 wins that he poses as big a threat with his hands as his wrestling skills, both of which Georges has shown to be able to neutralize and overcome in the past.”
Hendricks has won six straight since the lone loss of his MMA career, which came at the hands of Rick Story at the TUF 12 Finale. In those six wins, he has three “Knockout of the Night” bonuses and a “Fight of the Night” for the unanimous nod over Condit on Saturday.
St-Pierre defended his welterweight title fight the eighth straight time and picked up his 11th win in UFC title fights, as well as his 11th straight overall. In his eight title defenses, all but one – a corner stoppage TKO of Penn – have been unanimous decisions. But all of those unanimous decisions have featured at least one 50-45 score from the judges, making him one of the most dominant champions in history.
And although the fans have been clamoring for a St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva superfight, which might be put on hold for St-Pierre vs. Hendricks, Oddessa believes Hendricks’ recent dominance and his legitimate threat to the champion could make people forget about the superfight for a bit.
“Coming off their last performances, both left little doubt to what the fans want to see before a catchweight superbout: a guy that poses a most dangerous threat to St-Pierre’s title,” Oddessa said.
For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Georges St-Pierre)
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