MONTREAL– There are many variables surrounding the UFC 154 main event between welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and interim champion Carlos Condit.
Will GSP suffer from ring rust? Does Condit have what it takes to shock the world?
Despite the unknowns, one thing is for sure: Condit will bring out the best in St-Pierre or else the Canadian runs the risk of losing the title he has successfully defended six consecutive times.
St-Pierre has repeatedly said he feels better than he did before he had his ACL surgically repaired and the buzz in Montreal this week from many of the guys from the Tristar gym is Georges truly is GSP 2.0.
And if this GSP 2.0 does show up against Condit, we could see the type of complete performance from GSP we haven’t in several years.
Arguably, GSP’s most complete performance in his UFC career was his UFC 87 win over Jon Fitch. The reason for that was a combination of GSP’s unadulterated talent and the way Fitch approached the fight.
Fitch –although outmatched by St-Pierre in all facets of MMA — attacked on the feet, knew what he was doing on the ground, and showed a will and determination that helped him last five full rounds despite taking worlds of punishment.
St-Pierre hasn’t been tested like that in the Octagon since, despite consistently going up against world-class competition. He will be tested to the fullest against Condit, however.
In his last two fights before his long layoff, GSP chose to outpoint Jake Shields and Josh Koscheck, two fighters with excellent grappling, on the feet. Before that, strikers like Thiago Alves and Dan Hardy were no match for GSP on the ground. The champion kept those fights where he felt most comfortable. His task at UFC 154 will be much more difficult.
The difference with Condit is he has the ability, and the resume, to threaten GSP no matter where the fight goes; 26 of Condit’s 28 career wins have been by stoppage. He will bring the same type of attitude that Fitch brought except he has a more dangerous skill set. His striking is powerful and precise, but one notable difference between Condit and GSP’s recent opponents is the fact he is extremely active off his back.
“I’ve had a year to really work on things in my game, work on skills I’m going to need to compete with and beat Georges,” Condit said that Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference.
“Georges’ top game is one of the best in the business. A lot of the fighters he’s fought in the past want to be on top. There not so much about attacking off the bottom and trying to submit off the bottom and I think that’s where I differ from some of them.”
And St-Pierre realizes what a tough task fighting Condit is going to be.
“(Condit is) more improved, more fluid in his movements, more intelligent, more powerful, more unorthodox,” St-Pierre said. “That’s why he’s best version of himself than ever.”
The last time GSP was really forced to work while he was in his opponent’s guard was his UFC 94 win over BJ Penn in January 2009, which just happens to be the last time St-Pierre finished anyone — it was a fourth-round TKO due to a corner stoppage.
Penn is a natural lightweight and Condit is more aggressive off his back. He is much bigger as well; in fact he is bigger than GSP.
Now, whether the fight goes to the ground at all is yet to be seen, but regardless of where the action takes place it should be fan friendly fight, even though some don’t see it that way.
Heading into UFC 143, nearly everyone believed that Condit and Nick Diaz would both go after it like we had been so accustomed to seeing. That turned out not to be the case, as Condit methodically picked Diaz apart for a large part of the 25-minute interim title bout.
Some think that since GSP has only been able to finish one of his last six opponents, coupled with the fact that Condit is coming off a not-so-exciting performance, Saturday’s main event might be a dull, strategic affair.
That won’t happen.
Condit’s style lends itself too well to St-Pierre’s skill. If Condit has his way he won’t give GSP any time to think or any space to move, which will lead to GSP’s raw talent shining through.
Condit’s style, which has led to so much success in his career, could ironically be his downfall at UFC 154 because it could unleash the best GSP we’ve ever seen.