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This Saturday night (April 30, 2011) at UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields," the most prominent man in MMA, Georges St. Pierre (GSP), will put his welterweight title on the line against American contender, Jake Shields.
If you haven't heard already, GSP is taking this fight seriously.
No one respects his opponent like Georges St. Pierre. He knows how dangerous Jake Shields is and the Canadian champion has not let any of the talk about moving up to 185 and fighting Anderson Silva get in the way of his preparation for his title bout on Saturday night.
In fact, GSP believes those who made him a 4-1 betting favorite for his title defense are "idiots."
His opponent, Shields, seems to relish the role of underdog. He's heard it all before. His old promotion, Strikeforce, didn't even market him when he was defending his title against Dan Henderson. Jake proved the doubters wrong then and he's ready to do it again.
Instead of promoting the dominance of its champion, the UFC has done everything in its power to build Jake Shields up as a legitimate threat to take the title. Every promo, the entire "Primetime" series and even Dana White's interviews have been building Shields up. The marketing team had its work cut out for them after Jake's inauspicious debut against Martin Kampmann this past October at UFC 121.
Has the UFC marketing blitz finally solidified Shields as a credible contender in the eyes of the casual MMA fan? Can Jake Shields' American jiu-jitsu work its wonders against the champ? Will Georges St. Pierre fire back at his critics and finish a fight for the first time in over two years?
Check out our complete fight preview after the jump:
Georges St. Pierre
Record: 21-2 overall, 15-2 in the UFC
Key Losses: Matt Serra (UFC 69), Matt Hughes (UFC 50)
How he got here: What more can be said about Georges St. Pierre that hasn't already been said about Jesus? The man has risen up from both of his career losses and avenged them in devastating fashion.
"Rush" started out his career as a flashy kickboxer with a karate background, but he has evolved into something much, much more. He has turned his original weaknesses into his biggest strengths and despite never wrestling in college, the welterweight champ now possesses what is likely the best MMA wrestling on the planet.
The Canadian wunderkind has stepped up and competed against the best men in the stacked welterweight division night in and night out. No one possesses the résumé that GSP has, no one is even close. The man has stepped up and put down every challenger to his path dominantly and will enter the Octagon on Saturday night with an inconceivable streak of not having lost his last 30 rounds. Even the formerly un-hittable Lyoto Machida couldn't pull that off.
How he gets it done: Georges St. Pierre gets criticized for fighting "safe" but that's just playing it smart in my eyes. He carefully studies every aspect of the fight, finds a gameplan that puts himself in the least hazardous position, and then executes it perfectly.
GSP is well-rounded enough to capitalize on every fighter's weakness. He tired out B.J. Penn's arms, he battered Jon Fitch standing, he put Dan Hardy on his back and he kept Josh Koscheck at the end of his jab for five consecutive rounds.
Jake Shields' biggest weakness is his striking so the champ will be almost guaranteed to keep the fight standing and pound on the challenger's face until he goes down. In the Primetime series, "Rush" appeared to be putting in extra time with committing to his strikes, adding power to his technique. Look for him to follow up after his left jab with a strong straight right if he feels he can do it safely.
Don't get me wrong, St. Pierre trains with one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) minds out there, John Danaher, as well as Renzo Gracie. If "Rush" has mapped out a way to put Jake on his back and not get submitted, he'll do that too.
Record: 26-4-1 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Jake Shields is a tireless worker and the UFC has done right by presenting him as a potential usurper to St. Pierre's throne. Since his last loss in 2004, yes, 2004, the American has gone on an unprecedented 15 fight win streak against some of the best welterweights (and middleweights) in the world.
As you've already heard countless times, Jake defeated former WEC champ Carlos Condit and current UFC middleweight title challenger Yushin Okami on the same night at the Rumble on the Rock 9 in Hawaii.
The Cesar Gracie product blitzed through EliteXC, taking out future UFC fighters Paul Daley and Mike Pyle en route to winning the promotion's title. If that wasn't enough of a challenge, he proceeded to move up in weight, thoroughly drubbing Robbie Lawler, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Dan Henderson to win and retain the Strikeforce middleweight belt.
Shields eventually signed with the UFC and after cutting to welterweight for the first time in two years, he gassed badly but was still able to out-grapple the very tough Martin Kampmann to earn his date with destiny on Saturday night against GSP.
How he gets it done: No one believes Jake Shields can beat Georges St. Pierre more than Jake Shields does. His firm belief in himself is an advantage that I'm not sure any other challenger has had before when they stepped in the cage with the Quebec native. Shields will not be denied until the final horn sounds in the fifth round.
The Cesar Gracie black belt has a unique blend of freestyle wrestling and world class BJJ that can definitely present problems to the champion if he were to put St. Pierre on his back.
Time, though, is his enemy. Jake Shields is an extremely patient jiu-jitsu fighter, preferring to remain on top and wait for his opponent to make a mistake. I have a feeling that five-minute rounds simply aren't enough time to find an opening, capitalize on it and submit his way to the title.
If Shields is going to win, he hopefully has put enough time in on his striking to make the champion wary of his punches and kicks. The second GSP lets his guard down, Jake needs to shoot, grab a leg like his life depended on it and push forward, twisting and turning until he's put the Canadian on his back.
Rinse and repeat.
If he can somehow do it for three rounds, the belt is his for the taking.
Fight "X Factor:" I used to get bored with GSP interviews, continuously saying he's "The Best Georges St. Pierre he's ever been," but then I realized that he actually means it.
Georges St. Pierre revolutionizes his game before every fight, every title defense. He works with some of the best trainers on the planet and he's always seeking new weapons to add to his already dangerous arsenal. Look at his last fight against Josh Koscheck. He whipped out a brand new jab and proceeded to pummel "Kos" with it until his eye was so swollen, he looked like he was about to fall over from the weight disparity.
We all know that GSP has added some gymnastics training in his preparation for this title fight. What secret weapon will he unveil on Saturday night that will totally blow Jake Shields' mind? The "X Factor" for this bout is St. Pierre's quest to become the perfect fighter and I'm certain he'll debut something that fans and analysts alike will be raving about on Sunday morning.
Bottom Line: Jake Shields trains with some of the best unheralded champions in MMA. Day in and day out, he's putting in the sparring sessions with guys like Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. It takes one hell of a special fighter to go on the streak he's been riding for the past six-plus years. In my opinion, until St. Pierre slows down due to age, Jake Shields is the last welterweight on the planet that even has a chance to defeat him.
No matter what the odds say, this will not be an easy fight for Georges St. Pierre. Tune in on Saturday night to see if I'm right.
Who will come out on top at UFC 129? Let us know in the comment section below!