The most highly anticipated event of the new year is just over 24 hours away as UFC 111: St.-Pierre vs. Hardy is set to go down on Saturday night from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
Starring in the main event is the UFC’s Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St.-Pierre (19-2) against the UK’s Dan Hardy (23-6) who has stepped to the forefront as No. 1 contender after beating the likes of Mike Swick, Marcus Davis and Rory Markham in pretty dominating fashion.
The star power of 2009’s Fighter of the Year (St.-Pierre) is somewhat overshadowing a stellar co-main event between heavyweights Frank Mir (13-4) and Shane Carwin (11-0). The big boys — who each will be pushing the heavyweight limit of 265 at weigh-ins — will be battling for the interim heavyweight title and the right to take on the true champion, Brock Lesnar in the summer.
It was Lesnar’s prolonged absence due to a bout with diverticulitis over the fall that has forced Carwin to fight Mir in this interim bout despite being pegged to fight Lesnar in November. This will be Carwin’s first fight in over a year while Mir recently defeated Cheick Kongo in early December at UFC 107.
Also on perhaps the UFC’s deepest card in recent memory is a stellar welterweight showdown between Jon Fitch (24-3) and Ben Saunders (8-1-2). Saunders takes the place of Thiago Alves who was scratched on Thursday after an irregularity found in his CAT Scan.
The Alves/Fitch rematch would’ve pit perhaps the two best welterweights in the sport this side of St.-Pierre in what would’ve been the favorite for “Fight of the Night” winner. However, in Saunders the UFC not only found a viable replacement and challenger for Fitch (whose only loss in his last 10 fights is to GSP), they also created a matchup that is just as intriguing.
That plus welterweight showdowns featuring Nate Diaz against Rory Markham and Ricardo Almeida taking on Matt Brown make this card an exciting one.
Meanwhile lightweight contests between Jim Miller (16-2) and Mark Bocek (8-2) plus Kurt Pellegrino vs. Fabricio Camoes will round out UFC 111’s main card.
No matter how deep this event is, it’s GSP who as not only last year’s fighter of the year but also one of the best pound-for-pound fighters steals the attention of this show.
GSP has defended his welterweight strap four consecutive times and has six consecutive wins since falling to Matt Serra in 2007. His last win, a dominating five round performance over Alves in which he suffered a pulled groin, cemented his status as one of the best fighters on the planet.
Against Hardy, GSP is looking to continue to cement that legacy, while improving as a fighter and making a case to fans and MMA analysts alike that he is the best fighter to grace the octagon. While for Hardy, the fight is without doubt the biggest fight of his career and the biggest night of his young life.
Meanwhile Mir and Carwin battle for a summer date with Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar and not to become an after thought in the suddenly deep and talented pool of heavyweights on the UFC roster.
Those are the elements at stake. We will see on Saturday night what stories are told for the future.