By Jason Kelly www.twitter.com/jaykaymma
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre can beat opponents on his feet, he can take them down at will, he employs conditioning that enables him to fight hard for 25 minutes and not lose a step. He basically can do what he wants, when he want to do it.
Except, there is one thing St-Pierre does not do, and that is finish fights.
This is a constant criticism St-Pierre receives, and though he continuously affirms that he will finish his opponent leading up to the fight, he infrequently does such a thing. The French Canadian’s ability to stop his counterpart is within him, but St-Pierre appears to feel complacent fighting with an effective, yet safe and risk-free style. While it’s intelligent, it hinders his willingness to capitalize on an injured opponent and finish fights.
St-Pierre is not totally to blame for this. The fighters he competes against are the best welterweights in the world, and therefore finishing them is a tough task for anyone, but GSP has barely been threatened at any point of his six title defenses. The welterweight kingpin needs an opponent that will take the fight to him and has the skills to threaten St. Pierre, that challenge is Nick Diaz.
Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz is a fighter who is always dangerous no matter what he’s put through. He keeps trying to end the fight. Diaz’s boxing is arguably the best out of all the top welterweights in the world, and toying with the Stockton, Calif. native on the ground is no treat, either. Diaz’s conditioning, which is attributed to competing in triathlons, is impeccable, he can take a punch– just ask Paul Daley — and if anyone can get inside their opponent’s head, it is Diaz.
St-Pierre claims he likes to beat people at their own game, yet he does the exact opposite. When GSP fought Josh Koscheck, he kept the fight standing, where he was safe and could still do enough damage to win. Mind you, he crushed Koscheck’s eye socket, literally, yet St-Pierre would not advance and try to go for the finish. When “Rush” fought Dan Hardy, primarily a kickboxer, GSP put Hardy on his back seconds into each round and held the fight there for the majority of the 25-minute bout.
When St-Pierre defeated Jake Shields at UFC 129, GSP played it safe on his feet because of Shields’ submission abilities. But Shields was still able do damage to the champ with punches.
Where Shields is considered to be a less-than-average striker with phenomenal wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, his teammate at Cesar Gracie’s gym, Diaz, is considered to more well-rounded as an elite striker with great BJJ. St-Pierre would take a lot of punishment if he chose to stand with Diaz, and if GSP composed a game plan in which he planned to spend 25 minutes on the ground with Diaz, it would put him at significant risk of yielding an appendage having a submission applied. St-Pierre’s best plan would be to go aggressively for a finish.
When St-Pierre finished Matt Hughes (twice), Matt Serra and B.J. Penn, any one would have capitalized if he held back. GSP mixed striking with takedowns and ferociously beat all three of them because he felt the threat of fighting legends such as Hughes and Penn, as well as the threat of losing to the man who took his belt, Serra. With Diaz, GSP would be forced to finish him simply because there is now safe way to play with him for 25 minutes.
(photo courtesy of Sherdog.com)
Diaz showed his mettle in his stand-up war against Daley during the Strikeforce main event on April 9. Think about this: according to Fightmetric.com, Shields landed more shots that St-Pierre in their fight. Stats like that could make believers in Diaz’s ability to beat St-Pierre in the striking realm. On the other hand, “Rush” has demonstrated that he can hurt people with his punches and kicks, but hesitates to follow up for a knockout or submission after he injures his opponent. If St-Pierre missed with he beloved left jab, Diaz would counter with a flurry of head and body shots. In such scenarios, the UFC champ would have to capitalize immediately if he injured Diaz, and not be as cautious.
Because the permutations are endless, this is one of the few practical superfights. The hurdle of mismatched weight classes and cross-promotion does not exist on every plane.
Both defending champions that need a new top-level competitor and a worthy opponent. The Diaz-St-Pierre rumors swirled prior to GSP receiving the UFC welterweight belt around his waist at UFC 129 and only will continue to grow. Diaz could take flack for being elevated without defeating the likes Jon Fitch, Koscheck or Thiago Alves to get a UFC welterweight title shot. But then again, Shields showed his worth outside of the UFC before Strikeforce’s Zuffa days and few had a problem with him being there Saturday.
GSP fans want to see their favorite champion finish a fight, they want to see him take charge and exploit some of these guys he is scrapping in the cage, and that will not happen until he fights someone who is just as threatening as he is.
Today, that person appears to be Diaz. If the fight comes to fruition, the common criticisms for St-Pierre will cease — win or lose — because he will have fought to finish the fight.