It wasn't supposed to happen like that.
On paper, it seemed to be the biggest mismatch ever. George St. Pierre was supposed to cast off Matt Serra easily and begin focusing on more serious threats at 170-pounds. He was supposed to start writing his legacy.
Instead, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 4 winner Matt Serra grabbed hold of the pen and wrote a chapter no one was expecting to read.
Road to Toronto is a special series leading up to UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields."
We'll take a look at some of the most important moments in the careers of the champion (Georges St. Pierre) and his challenger (Jake Shields), including the ups and the downs and the highs and the lows. We'll examine the instances in time that have helped shape the men that headline this Saturday's (April 30, 2011) card, the biggest in UFC history.
Today's installment will be about GSP's rematch with Serra and his shot at redemption. The first time they fought ended with "Rush" on his back and "The Terror" doing cartwheels.
Could Serra catch lightning in a bottle twice?
After his loss to Serra, GSP had a lot to think about.
How could the man pegged as the future of the welterweight division lose -- and lose the way he did -- to a blown up lightweight whose biggest win was Yves Edwards?
Knowing full well that some would scoff and dismiss it as quackery, "Rush" sought out the help of a sports psychiatrist. He wanted to be as strong mentally as he was physically.
The drubbing he took at the hands of "The Terror" didn't warrant an immediate rematch, no matter how big of an upset the result was. GSP had to earn a title shot for the third time in his career.
He was booked against Josh Koscheck at UFC 74: "Respect." The basic feeling was that St. Pierre should keep the fight standing and not try to grapple with the former NCAA wrestling champ but GSP bucked convention by out-wrestling the wrestler and winning a unanimous decision.
Now the number one contender for the title, "Rush" simply had to wait for Serra and Matt Hughes to finish their stints at TUF coaches to cash in his shot. The two were set to meet at UFC 79: "Nemesis" ... until fate intervened.
"The Terror" suffered a training injury and was forced to pull out of the bout with only one month's notice. St. Pierre immediately stepped in.
He said he felt that something like this might happen and trained as if he actually had a fight planned. Maybe GSP will set up shop as a fortune teller after his fighting days are over because the amount of clairvoyance he displayed is unbelievable.
The rubber match between him and Hughes was almost a repeat of their second match. St. Pierre proved once that he had surpassed the American as a fighter and had no issues doing it again.
A second round armbar sealed the deal and made GSP an interim champ. He didn't care to put that on his resume, however; he knew that the real champ was Serra.
And to be the man, you've gotta beat the man.
It's strange to think about because it now seems the UFC has always been up there but UFC 83: "Serra vs. St. Pierre 2" was the company's first event in the Great White North.
The arena was packed with GSP's fellow countrymen and they were eager to see him rise back to the top of the 170-pound mountain.
Let's check out how he did it.
The fight starts and "Rush" immediately shoots in. He obviously doesn't want to tempt fate and have a repeat of their last fight. From there, he slides into half-guard but the Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt slips him back into full guard.
Serra landing elbows from the bottom and throwing his legs up, perhaps looking for a triangle. Every time he tries to create some distance to explode onto his feet, GSP is there to shove him back down. St. Pierre lands some nice punches from up top that leave Serra with a mouse under his eye.
Midway through the first and "Rush" lands a big elbow that smacks Serra across the jaw. "The Terror" gives up his back and the interim champ begins to open up with punches to the side of the head.
With less than a minute remaining, Serra gets back to his feet and the effects of having one of the best fighters in the world wearing him down for nearly five minutes are becoming visible. His breathing is heavy, his shoulders sagging.
He halfheartedly throws a combination that GSP easily ducks over and the French-Canadian, to the delight of the crowd, scoops his opponent down to the mat.
Their first bout didn't give Serra a good barometer of what it was really like to fight Georges St. Pierre.
The second one sure as hell did.
The champion opens up round two with a low kick that is caught and countered with a straight that snaps Serra's head back. Still latched onto his opponent's leg, GSP drags him down onto the mat. He jams "The Terror" up against the cage and begins to land short elbows.
The champ is able to get back to his feet but fares no better there. St. Pierre begins to open up on the shorter fighter, making good use of his reach advantage. "Rush" makes another takedown look ridiculously easy.
GSP buries a knee into Serra's side and the champ is forced onto his back. A swarm of punches meets him there and it seems "The Terror" has nowhere to go. He gets back on all fours and St. Pierre launches knee after knee into his opponent's ribcage.
Finally, the referee has seen enough. He stops the fight at 4:45 of the second round..
St. Pierre was the undisputed welterweight champion of the world ... once again.
Tomorrow: B.J. Penn returns from the lightweight division with some unfinished business.