On Saturday November 17,2013, the UFC will air its 20th anniversary fight featuring welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre putting his title up against No. 1 contender Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks. The co-main event will pit friends and co-commentators Chael Sonnen against ”Sugar” Rashad Evans.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with MMA insider Jay Pagliaro to get his insight on the fight card. If you have not heard of Pagliaro, it is not becuase he hasn’t been speaking. Pagliaro has spent seven years in sports radio covering MMA fights and UFC events.
He does live public radio shows now in his home city of Phoenix, AZ as well as a collaboration for a Tampa Bay, FL based station. Before he went public, however, Pagliaro was online with PullNoPunches Sports talk radio ( see link below).
We started out by asking the obvious question of whether or not Jay would be attending the fight in Las Vegas. As it turns out he has some previous commitments but will be stopping into a local Buffalo Wild Wings to do a live remote and check out the fight.
Incidentally, Jay mentioned he ate at Buffalo Wild Wings for the first time in 2007 and will not eat anywhere else.
GLV: GSP has had a great deal of success against fighters who were perhaps not as well rounded as he is. With Hendricks, he’s meeting someone with a skill set that matches his own. What kind of adjustments do you think GSP may have to make? What kind of strategies do you think might he employ?
JP: What I think GSP should do and I think he’s going to employ the strategy. He is the taller, lengthier of the two fighters. In a closely matched fight like this length and size may be quite a factor. I also think he may be the quicker of the two fighters. What I think he needs to do is incorporate that length, and basically pin John against the cage, fight boring. Fight a boring fight, don’t let Hendricks explode, don’t let Hendricks get off with his offense. Just basically pin him against the cage and take him out of the fight.
GLV: Do you think GSP’s black belt in jiu jitsu would match up well with Hendricks’ wrestling?
JP: No, because you know the thing about John is, he’s got very, very underrated grappling, he’s got very underrated jiu jitsu, training with Mark Lemoyne, who’s one of the best Brazilian jiu jitsu coaches out there with Cobra Kai. He’s got very underrated jiu jitsu. The thing about John is, his wrestling is so elite. This is a guy who is one of the greatest wrestlers ever to step foot out of Oklahoma. Three time State Champion; four time All American at Oklahoma State University; three time National Champion. I just think that with his jiu jitsu and his striking, I don’t think Georges is going to be able really to get his jiu jitsu off. I don’t think he’s going to be able to use his jiu jitsu as a factor.
GLV: As far as takedown defense, Georges has kind of got him. I mean they are sort of even, but GSP has the record for takedown defense, strikes landed. Numbers, of course, in a lot of cases, come down to nothing once you get knocked out. Do you think that this might be a good on-the-ground match up if they do go to mat?
JP: I think so because Georges has such good takedown defense. He’s one of the three best takedown defense in UFC history. John is such an elite wrestler, too. So it really has the potential to be a catch-as –catch-can scenario. What John is going to try to do, is he’s going to try to knock GSP out. You know GSP has got that suspect chin on him. He’s been rocked in the past three fights and I’ll tell you one thing that John has on all of them. He hits harder than all of them. John is one- punch knockout guy. The other three different opponents (GSP) fought were volume strikers and GSP was in a bad way against all three of them. If he gets in a bad way like that against John, he’s going to get knocked out.
GLV: Now (Hendricks) is legendary on his left hand, but GSP is a switch so he can come at him from any angle.
JP: Absolutely, and the thing about John, too is, people don’t realize that he has a strong right hand too.
GLV: The co-main event is Rashad (Evans) and Chael Sonnen. These guys have spent the last couple of years being friends, and being co-commentators. Of course, friendship goes out the window once you step in the octagon. How do you see that fight coming out?
JP: The thing about Rashad is he’s got such a fast shot, he’s one of the best take down in the business, and Chael is an Olympic level wrestler. If it turns into a wrestling meet, Chael beats him. There’s a big difference between wrestling and MMA wrestling. I just think that what Rashad has best is that quick double leg takedown. I think if he puts Sonnen on his back, Chael’s in trouble. I don’t see him finishing Chael off; but I think, as much as a Sonnen fan as I am, I think Rashad is quicker, I think he’s faster. I think that double-leg shot is what dictates how this fight goes.
GLV: Sonnen stood with toe to toe pretty much with Anderson Silva. Do you think if Sonnen can keep Evans on his feet they might be able to bang it out?
JP: It’s possible, definitely possible. If Chael could out-strike Anderson Silva he certainly can out-strike Rashad. Where these two differ is, Rashad has very good wrestling in his own right. That’s something that Anderson doesn’t have. We talked earlier about GSP having a high level of takedown defense and Rashad is the same way. Rashad is not going to be too worried about being taken down by Chael because he’s got that good sprawl, that really good takedown defense so, it very well could turn into a striking fest. I think Chael has got the heavier hands, I think he is the quicker striker, but I also think that Rashad is more elusive with his striking. He can use the kicks, the strikes and the muay thai. So this is a really evenly matched fight. I think this could be one of those ones where the first one to score a takedown wins.
GLV: In another twist we also have (Josh) Koschek fighting (Tyron) Woodley.
JP: A little bit about Woodley is he’s actually another high level wrestler, too. The theme on Saturday night is going to be wrestling. The thing about Koschek, I think he’s the better wrestler of the two when it comes to MMA. We saw Woodley in his last fight against Jake Shields just get really controlled on the mat. Koschek is capable of doing that. I think Koschek is the bigger, taller guy. It’s just going to depend on whether or not he’s going to be able to control Woodley on the ground.
GLV: And Woodley has been controlled. Did he lose to Shields?
JP: Yes he did. He wound up losing by unanimous decision.
GLV: Something that surprised me is that Cowboy (Donald) Cerrone is in the prelims. Since when? He’s ranked # 10, so why is he relegated to prelims do you think?
JP: It’s a two part thing so to speak. Number one, he lost last fight to Rafael dos Anjos, so that might have bumped him down a little bit. Number 2, I think that this is such a stacked card. You know you got the star power with Chael Sonnen (and) Rashad Evans. You got the young gun; the guy that everybody thinks is going to be the future at 170 pounds in Rory McDonald taking on the old lion Robbie Lawler. I just think (Cerrone) is the victim of being on a ridiculously stacked card.
The nice thing about undercard fights, some fights end early… Cerrone is such a crowd favorite, there’s an above average chance that you’re going to see Donald …highlights.
GLV: So we also have (Rick) Story fighting. He’s the last guy to beat Hendricks in 2010. Do you think sometime in the future we’ll see a rematch between these two?
JP: It’s hard to say. Ever since that fight, it’s been the case where one career goes up and the other hits the skids. After that fight, Story also beat Thiago Alves immediately after. Rick Story’s stock was the highest it’s ever been. Then he had that nice stretch, where he beat Hendricks, he beat Alves, he’s sort of been, dare I say, a 500 fight. That’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. Right now, I just think Hendricks is on a different level. That’s one of those fights where the loser actually improved, and the winner may have just peaked off. I’m not so sure we’re going to see a rematch between Story and Hendricks. At this point they’re on two different levels in their careers.
GLV: There was a rumor flying around a few days ago that there were two fighters that were using HGH, human growth hormone, and they were going to fight each other. And the winner of that fight was to fight Anderson Silva. Can you give us any information about that?
JP: I think we’re talking about the Vitor Belfort-Dan Henderson fight that just took place earlier this week. I can confirm Vitor is approved for GRT and so is Henderson. I know Vitor…It was basically stated he was going to get the Anderson Silva- Chris Weidman winner if he wins. Vitor won by knockout, so he does seem to be next in line. I can confirm that is 100% accurate Vitor is slated… to face the Silva v Weidman winner. Obviously MMA is a funny game to where a lot can change between now and then, but as of right now, that is 100% accurate that Vitor, by virtue of winning his fight, is in line to get a middle weight title shot.
GLV: The most recent recording I could find for your (online show) Pull No Punches was five months old. Have you been doing it since then?
JP: Yes. I actually moved from online to actually doing it on public radio. I’m now at NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 in Phoenix. I’m also doing another show on AM 1340 in Tampa FL with Colton Smith who won The Ultimate Fighter Season 16. I’m still online. You can check me out at www.cantalk1340.com or …mmafightradio.com
GLV: I saw on your Facebook page that you were approached by Tito Ortiz for a collaboration. Have you heard anything else about that?
JP: Oh yeah, we’re actually trying to set up a time and date to start it out. It’s going to be either once or twice a month show because Tito’s got a lot on his plate. . We’re going to basically work with some of his up & coming fighters, give them some interview time. Do some stuff for the gym in Huntington Beach when I get the chance to go out there. Really just give a plug to Tito, who is one of the true living legends of the sport. Just trying to continue his illustrious MMA career. And I’m just overjoyed to be part of it.
When asked just how un-pulled his punches are on his radio show:
JP: I’ll put it this way. The 2 shows I currently host on public radio…. I get pretty extreme…When I got hired by both they said, “Look we love your enthusiasm, but you gotta watch the F-bombs.”
We were thrilled to have a chance to discuss UFC: 167 with Pagliaro and we look forward to spending more time with him in the future. Please accept our deepest thanks, Jay for taking time out for us this week, and have fun at Buffalo Wild Wings!
UFC 167 will air on Pay-per-View on Saturday Nov. 16 at 10 pm EST/7 pm PST from Las Vegas, Nevada’s MGM Grand Garden Arena. Preliminary fights featuring Donald Cerrone and Rick Story will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 starting at 5pm EST/ 8pm PST.
*Pagliaro photo used with permission*
By Brandi Tasby