The last time Georges St. Pierre tangled in the Octagon with B.J. Penn, he came out victorious ... but the win cost him a beating.
While the French-Canadian was on a rollercoaster ride in the welterweight division since their fight, Penn dropped back down to 155-pounds and convincingly beat every opponent the UFC put in front of him.
Seemingly without a challenge in the lightweight division, fans began to clamor for the two champions to clash once again.
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.
Just one more day until the big event, folks. Today's piece will cover GSP's rematch with Penn, a fight whose controversy made the judging debate from their first bout look like a playground argument.
Having exorcised all demons from his loss to Matt Serra, St. Pierre was ready to put the past where it belonged. Up first on "Rush's" plate was grinder Jon Fitch, a man with an 8-0 UFC record who hadn't tasted defeat in over five years.
Over the course of 25 minutes, GSP made the Purdue University wrestler look like he had been hit by a truck. The beating was so severe that to this day, the idea of a rematch between the two seems like a superfluous exercise in obligated title shots.
Since UFC 58: "USA vs. Canada," Penn was keeping busy in the division that made him famous. He coached The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5 opposite Jens Pulver, beating his former rival at The Finale. After Sean Sherk was stripped of the title following a positive drug test, the Hawaiin faced off against Joe Stevenson for the now-vacant strap.
It was almost the 155-pound equivalent of St. Pierre's beatdown of Fitch. "The Prodigy" left Stevenson an absolute bloody mess who appeared to have walked out of a horror movie, not a title fight. Sherk was the next to topple as Penn easily beat the former champion in three rounds.
Then the rumors began to swirl.
A champion versus champion super-fight at 170-pounds between two top five pound-for-pound fighters. That sentence should really be a fantasy but we actually got to see it.
At UFC 94: "St. Pierre vs. Penn 2," GSP, Penn, and millions of MMA fans around the world got their wish for a rematch of a razor-thin fight almost three years prior.
Let's dive in.
The two almost immediately clinch and exchange knees before GSP overpowers Penn, shoving him against the cage. "The Prodigy" avoids a single-leg takedown before getting pressed up against the Octagon again. Again, the Hawaiian hops around on one leg to defend against the takedown, all the while throwing punches that smack against his opponent's head.
Penn is able to separate but once again finds himself against the cage, defending the takedown. A minute and a half remaining and the two once again separate. In the exchanges, "Rush" lands an overhand right and follows with a jab that lights up the crowd.
The second open opens up and Penn lunges forward and tags his opponent with a hook. St. Pierre once again forces "The Prodigy" against the cage and grabs a leg.
Unlike his attempts in the first round, however, "Rush" is able to follow through and dumps Penn onto the mat.
From there, GSP drops fists, forearms, and elbows while passing the grappling expert's guard almost effortlessly. A huge elbow is buried into Penn's jaw and the crowd cheers. The Hawaiian forces the French-Canadian back into full guard and the crowd cheers.
The rest of the round is spent with St. Pierre continuing his unmerciful ground and pound assault. The first round was relatively even but the second belonged to the welterweight champion, without question.
GSP begins the third stanza by working his jab and busting out a Superman punch and forces blood from Penn's nose. A takedown follows soon after and the visibly tired Hawaiian is once again forced to deal with St. Pierre's ground and pound attack.
Two minutes left in the round and the lightweight champ is able to get back to his feet and grinds towards a takedown of his own. "Rush" is pressed against the cage in a reversal of fortune from the first round but quickly turns his opponent around and dumps him on his back.
Two rounds have now ended with St. Pierre on top of Penn, battering him continuously on the mat.
Penn looks like a defeated man to start off what would end up being the final round. His punches are sluggish and have lost all snap. He doesn't look like the crisp boxer that pounded out Stevenson and Sherk. "Rush" is able to duck under one such lazy strike and takes his opponent down again.
Landing in half-guard and almost immediately transition to side mount, St. Pierre begins to slam elbows down onto "The Prodigy's" head. GSP traps his opponent's left arm and begins to grind his forearm against the lightweight champion's face before raining down punches.
For a moment, "Rush" attains a crucifix and furiously begins to drop down strikes until Penn is able to free his arms. St. Pierre spends most of the round in side mount, delivering unanswered blow after unanswered blow. With 30 seconds remaining, he really begins to pour it on and the crowd cheers enthusiastically until the horn sounds.
The welterweight champion stands up and punches the cage; he is pumped. Penn stands up and drapes his hands over the top of the Octagon and slumps over; he is exhausted. His corner man asks him, "Do you want this?"
He repeats the question. "Do you want this?"
Again, Penn doesn't respond.
His corner, with Penn unwilling to commit to a fifth round, have no choice but to put an end to the fight. They inform the referee of the decision and he, in turn, informs St. Pierre and the audience with a wave of his arms.
What followed the fight were accusations, finger-pointing, investigations, and the repeated analysis of certain animated .gifs on MMA websites ad nauseum.
After the first round, Phil Nurse, a corner man of GSP's, was applying Vaseline to the champion's face, a common practice. What he did next was the matter of controversy. He then began to rub the fighter's chest and shoulder, an action that Penn felt caused "Rush" to become slippery, thus negating any grappling advantage the Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt might have had.
An investigation by the Nevada State Athletic Commission gave Penn -- and his mother -- the opportunity to stamp their feet and shake their fists but it did nothing to change the result.
Penn went back down to 155-pounds and St Pierre looked ahead towards the challengers that began to emerge.
Tomorrow: Dominance, thy name is Georges St. Pierre.
Photo via UFC.com