The UFC returned to the Great White North to host UFC 154 from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on Saturday, Nov. 17.

The night’s top billing featured the return of the promotion’s welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who was competing for the first time in 18 months following surgery to repair a torn ACL. In his way was interim champion Carlos Condit, as the pair met to unify the 170-pound belts.

Also on the night’s main card was pivotal match-up between rising welterweight contenders Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann, each looking for a title shot with a victory.

The event featured a total of 12 bouts with the main card airing live on pay-per-view and the preliminary card split between an FX broadcast and a YouTube stream.

St-Pierre outworks Condit, retains welterweight title

Despite being out of action for more than 18 months, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was able to overcome his toughest challenge in years and take a decision over interim title holder Carlos Condit.

The opening round saw St-Pierre score with one of his signature takedowns. Condit looked to attack from his back, but the top control of GSP kept him firmly planted on the mat. Late in the frame an elbow from the Canadian opened a massive cut over the right eye of Condit.

Condit opened more aggressively in the second stanza, but St-Pierre used his jab to keep him at bay. The champion again scored with a takedown and immediately went to work on Condit’s cut with ground and pound. Blood covered Condit’s face and the mat as the round closed.

The most exciting moment of the entire fight came in the third round. Condit attacked with a combination that ended with left head kick and sent St-Pierre crashing to the mat, clearly hurt. Condit smelled blood and pounced, but GSP was able to survive the onslaught. The pair returned to the feet briefly, but St-Pierre scored yet another takedown to close the round strong.

In the fourth, GSP opened with a takedown. Condit worked hard for a kneebar and then transitioned for a triangle, but the blood and the sweat prevented him from finishing either of the submission attempts. The challenger rained strikes from the bottom, causing swelling on St-Pierre’s face, but it was yet another round for the champion.

Knowing he was down on the scorecards, Condit again pressed forward to start the final round, but St-Pierre put him on his back. Condit worked hard to get back to his feet, but GSP took him down again. In desperation, Condit briefly gave up his back, but regained his guard only to run out of time.

Two of the judges at cageside gave St-Pierre all five rounds, while one gave Condit the third frame, but regardless, St-Pierre walked out of the cage with the belt.

“He is the toughest fight I have ever had,” a victorious St-Pierre said of his opponent.

Hendricks destroys Kampmann

If there was any doubt about where Johny Hendricks ranks in the welterweight division, his 46-second knockout of Martin Kampmann should have erased it.

The pair wasted little time looking for big shots, but it was a right hook, left straight combination from Hendricks that sent Kampmann’s unconscious body to the canvas.

Afterwards, Hendricks pleaded for a title shot against the St-Pierre and Condit winner. It remains to be seen what the UFC will do with the now, clear-cut No. 1 contender.

Carmont slides past Lawlor

In a grueling middleweight affair, Frenchman Franics Carmont walked away with a controversial split decision win over Tom Lawlor.

The first round saw Lawlor work hard for a takedown along the cage, but Carmont answered with knees to the body. The fight stayed upright until the waning seconds as Lawlor pulled guard for a guillotine attempt, but Carmont survived to the bell.

Lawlor opened the second with more pressure, scoring with back-to-back takedowns. Carmont fired back with numerous kicks to the body. Lawlor again looked for a guillotine, but Carmont once again escaped.

Carmont’s reach advantage was the difference in the final stanza as he kept Lawlor at distance more than the first and second rounds. Neither fighter truly found their rhythm as Lawlor struggled for takedowns and Carmont could not put together combinations.

When the scorecards were read, it appeared that Lawlor’s pressure and submission attempts would be enough, but two of the judges gave the fight to Carmont.

Dos Anjos outclasses Bocek

In a pivotal lightweight bout, Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos put on a clinic in takedown defense against Canada’s Mark Bocek.

From the opening bell, Bocek was desperate for a takedown, but dos Anjos stuffed shot after shot. Dos Anjos answered the takedown attempts with a mixtures of uppercuts and clinch knees that took their toll as the fight progressed.

The second round saw Bocek slow down and dos Anjos really pour it on with his hands. Dos Anjos’ striking efforts opened a cut under Bocek’s left eye that only got worse with each punch that landed. Late in the round, dos Anjos attacked with a kimura to prevent Bocek from scoring a takedown.

It was cruise control in the final frame for dos Anjos as he continued to batter Bocek’s face with strikes as Bocek struggled with failed takedown attempts.

When the final horn sounded, there was no doubt that dos Anjos had won, as the judges gave him every round.

Garza batters Hominick

The first fight of the main card did not disappoint as featherweight Pablo Garza handed Canadian Mark Hominick his fourth straight defeat with a dominating performance.

Hominick’s precision striking was on display early in the fight as he backed Garza against the fence on multiple occasions. He dropped the towering Garza with a body shot and looked to finish, but Garza quickly recovered and fired back. The onslaught from Garza cut Hominick badly over the left eye before the round came to a close.

The second round was all Garza as he quickly scored with a takedown and battered his Canadian foe from the top position. Hominick desperately looked for an omoplata off his back, but he only gave Garza openings to land strikes. Elbow after elbow from Garza had Hominick bleeding from at least three different cuts.

In the final frame, it was more of the same as Garza again landed a takedown and worked his ground and pound. The constant pressure from Garza was simply too much for Hominick to overcome.

All of the judges rewarded Garza for his efforts, with two scoring the middle stanza 10-8 for the “Scarecrow.”

Preliminary Card Summary

In the final bout of the undercard, middleweights Alessio Sakara and Patrick Cote engaged in a brutal back-and-forth exchange where both fighters had the other hurt. However, it was Sakara who appeared to finish the fight after dropping Cote with an elbow from the clinch and following up with a series of hammerfists as Cote desperately looked for a takedown. Upon review, referee Dan Miragliotta ruled that Sakara’s blows were to the back of Cote’s head and disqualified Sakara.

Light heavyweight striking specialist Cyrille Diabate showcased an evolving fight game in a dominant performance against former Strikeforce fighter Chad Griggs. Diabate connected with a left hand early in the fight that dropped Griggs and bloodied his nose. Diabate followed him to the mat, eventually taking his back, and forcing Griggs to tap to a rear-naked choke.

In a battle of Canadian lightweights, Quebec’s John Makdessi bested Ontario’s Sam Stout to take home a unanimous decision win. Makdessi used his jab throughout, snapping Stout’s head backwards every time he moved forward. The more Stout pressured, the more shots he ate as Makdessi cruised to the scorecards.

A match-up of featherweight Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts turned into a kickboxing war when Antonio Carvalho locked horns with Rodrigo Damm. Carvalho opted to attack Damm’s lead leg with both inside and outside kicks from the opening bell, slowing the Brazilian’s advance. Damm fought back with a stiff jab, but the damage inflicted by Carvalho’s kicks was too much as he captured the split decision verdict.

Winning pretty wasn’t in the cards in a welterweight clash between Matt Riddle and John Maguire. Both fighters fought tentative throughout, as Riddle’s reach neutralized Maguire and Riddle wanted no part of Maguire on the ground. In the end, it was Riddle who did enough to take home a decision win.

Veteran bantamweight Ivan Menjivar gave UFC newcomer Azamat Gashimov a rude welcome with a vicious, first-round armbar. Gashimov took Menjivar to the ground early, but it was Menjivar who attacked from his back, locking in a belly-down armbar that forced the Russian to tap out in visible agony.

Featherweight Darren Elkins picked up his fourth straight UFC win with a lopsided performance against Ultimate Fighter alum Steven Siler. Elkins repeatedly scored with takedowns and used his control to prevent Siler from mounting any offense over the course of their three-round affair.

Georges St-Pierre def. Carlos Condit by unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-45) (for welterweight title)
Johny Hendricks def. Martin Kampmann by KO (punch). Round 1, 0:46
Francis Carmont def. Tom Lawlor by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Rafael dos Anjos def. Mark Bocek by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Pablo Garza def. Mark Hominick by unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 29-28)
Patrick Cote def. Alessio Sakara by disqualification (illegal strikes to the back of the head). Round 1, 1:26
Cyrille Diabate def. Chad Griggs by submission (rear-naked choke). Round 1, 2:24
John Makdessi def. Sam Stout by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
Antonio Carvalho def. Rodrigo Damm by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Matt Riddle def. John Maguire by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Ivan Menjivar def. Azamat Gashimov by submission (armbar). Round 1, 2:44
Darren Elkins def. Steven Siler by unanimous decision (30-27 x3)

Photo: Georges St-Pierre (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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