Long time UFC welterweight king Georges St. Pierre is coming off of his sixth successful title defense against Jake Shields. He is one of only two men to defend their title more than five times in a row, the other of course being middleweight Anderson Silva, and has been widely regarded as the #2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, again behind Silva, meaning not many are daring enough to dispute that opinion.
However, GSP’s biggest problem in terms of marketing himself as a top P4P fighter is that he hasn’t finished a fight since winning the title back in April of 2008 against Matt Serra. And no, I’m not counting the corner stoppage over BJ Penn at UFC 94 since ”˜Greasegate’ had one too many controversial moments for me. Since then, to paraphrase the French-Canadian’s run as champ, “I’m not impressed by your performance.”
GSP is now scheduled to face controversial ex-Strikeforce welterweight title-holder Nick Diaz as a result of Diaz beating down Penn this past weekend. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I see Diaz as the biggest threat GSP has ever faced. Diaz left the ring after his fight at UFC 137, shouting about St. Pierre, then coming out and accusing “Rush” of being scared to face him while adding his belief that he’s faking an injury to dodge fights.
If we look over GSP’s fights since he won the title, every fighter he has faced has had a big downfall. Starting with his first defense against Jon Fitch, the Purdue Boilermaker has an undeniably good ground game made up of excellent wrestling and good submission skills. As such, GSP was able to beat him largely by keeping the fight standing where Fitch has far fewer skills. Moving on to Penn, who I’d argue was the only fighter he has faced since winning the title who matched up with him well in pretty much every sense except for size, I’d say it’s pretty much a wash based on the controversy surrounding the result. Next up was hard-hitting BJJ blackbelt Thiago Alves in the one fight that I thought GSP had looked truly impressive. He managed to nullify Alves’ striking by using his hefty six-inch reach advantage to great effect, mixing up his striking and wrestling to dominate Alves the entire fight.
After that we had Dan Hardy, whom I like but who are we kidding? How many people saw it going the way it did? That’d be EVERYONE. You’re talking about an excellent wrestler with solid stand-up against a contender with equally good stand-up and zero ground game. What happens next? Complete domination is the answer. Clearly you don’t have to be a champion to dominate Hardy on the ground”¦hell, in all honesty, someone who had just gone on a weeklong wrestling crash-course might even be able to give him a good run for his money. Then St. Pierre more or less used the same game-plan two fights in a row, against Josh Koscheck and Shields, where he again had a significant reach advantage over both of them.
So, how does GSP beat people? He seems to employ one of two different game plans. Either the ”˜take him down or keep him there’ plan or the ”˜stay standing and jab him to death’ plan. So, will either of these plans work against Diaz?
Well, Diaz comes out of the famous and infamous Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu camp where they’re known as much for their Jiu-Jitsu as they are for their big mouths and close knit family. Diaz has a terrific Jiu-Jitsu game (especially off of his back) leading to numerous submission. But the biggest wrench that Diaz can throw into GSP’s plan is his size. GSP has enjoyed a sizeable reach advantage over most of his opponents, but against Diaz this will not be the case. Diaz also has some of the best boxing in MMA, proven by his picking apart of Penn which is no small feat.
In my humble opinion, Diaz will beat GSP standing though whether or not he will he beat GSP on the ground I don’t know. What I do know is that Diaz will be the biggest test of GSP’s skills in his career. This fight may well show exactly how good GSP actually is because he will need to bring with him a whole new game plan if he wants to win this fight, scheduled to take place Super Bowl Weekend in February of next year.
Your move Greg Jackson.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC