"Rush" has been criticized for failing to finish out-matched opponents and being too cautious with his attacks. After a difficult knee injury and the resulting surgery, St. Pierre claims to have heard his critics and agrees, promising to finish former team mate Carlos Condit at UFC 154 this weekend (Sat., Nov. 17, 2012) at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
In this edition of Ultimate Submissions, we'll look back to the third and final fight between St. Pierre and UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. While not his most recent finish (a fourth round corner stoppage of B.J. Penn in 2009), the impressive submission proved that "GSP" was miles ahead of the old guard.
UFC 79, which took place on Dec. 29, 2007, and appropriately named "Nemesis," was originally supposed to feature a main event between Welterweight champion Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes, who both coach opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 6. Throughout the season of TUF 6, Hughes and Serra constantly antagonized each other, creating plenty of drama and a much anticipated fight.
Unfortunately, the fight would be postponed when the Renzo Gracie-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt pulled out because of injury.
After his stunning upset loss to Serra, St. Pierre won a decision over Josh Koscheck and was ready for a chance to get his belt back. Although he had lost to Hughes in his first title shot, he knocked out the long time champion in their second match. With Serra out of the picture, there was only one option: A rubber match between the two for an interim title.
Sometimes, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva's job does itself.
Fast forward one month and it's fight time. St. Pierre looks especially intense at the stare down, even angry, and Hughes looks just as determined. The crowd roars in approval.
The fighters touch gloves, and Hughes bounces around, feinting takedowns. Hughes leaps in with a left hook, but stumbles into a weak takedown attempt. St. Pierre returns fire with a high kick, showing a fluidity and speed that his opponent lacks. Hughes again shoots a half hearted takedown attempt.
"He has got to set that up," remarks ringside announcer Mike Goldberg.
One minute passes with no significant strikes landing. St. Pierre comes in with a super man punch, but Hughes attempts to counter with a double leg takedown. St. Pierre easily stuffs it, but they end up in clinch and Hughes grabs an over-under body lock.
Then St. Pierre does something very few people have ever done, taking down the All-American wrestler.
He counters Hughes' body lock by dropping levels, grabbing a leg, and diving forward. St. Pierre continously feeds Hughes a bevy of right hands while Hughes tries to get his back to the fence and wall walk. At the 1:40 mark, St. Pierre passes to half guard. And less than one minute later, St. Pierre passes to full mount.
Hughes maintains double under hooks, desperately clinging to the Canadian. His grip is so tight that St. Pierre cannot land damaging punches, and is repeatedly warned for back of the head shots. Undeterred, St. Pierre lifts Hughes and slams his head onto the mat repeatedly. Hughes refuses to release his grip until the last 10 seconds, when he gives up his back. With just seconds remaining in the round, St. Pierre slides off his back for an armbar, foreshadowing the eventual finish that will come in just a few minutes.
After the round ends, Hughes stays on his knees and looks overwhelmed. His longtime teammate and corner man, Jeremy Horn, advises him to commit to his striking and get lower on his single legs. As he says this, Hughes mumbles his words and already looks defeated.
Horn tries to encourage Hughes by saying, "You're all right man" and Hughes replies, "I know"
Neither man seems convinced.
The camera switches to St. Pierre's corner, where he is listening to his trainer, Greg Jackson. St. Pierre looks relaxed and attentive. It is quite clear which corner has the momentum.
Round two begins and after a few kicks miss, they meet back up in the clinch. St. Pierre effortlessly hits a single leg into Hughes' full guard in just a few seconds. After two minutes of failed guard passes and minor ground and pound, St. Pierre passes to mount. Before St. Pierre can settle, however, Hughes spins and gives up his back. When he tries to spin into St. Pierre's guard, the Canadian sprawls out on him and shoves him back against the fence.
While his back is against the fence, Hughes uses an under hook to cause a scramble. He shoots for a takedown against the fence in what would be his last positive moment. St. Pierre defends the single, gets back to the clinch, and tosses Hughes through the air with a judo throw directly into side control.
Almost immediately, St. Pierre isolates Hughess right arm. He then steps over Hughes' head and left arm for a triangle. Instead of trying to finish the triangle, St. Pierre grabs the right arm in a kimura grip and tries to bend it behind his back. Hughes bridges as hard as he can, which knocks off St. Pierre's balance.
Unfortunately for Hughes, he extends his arm and this lets St. Pierre fall directly into the armbar. Not ready to give up just yet, Hughes tries to get to his knees, but St. Pierre puts his foot in front of Hughes' face and leans backward.
After a few grip adjustments, Hughes has no choice but to verbally submit with just six seconds remaining.
St. Pierre is next facing an opponent, Condit, who is known for his toughness. In fact, "The Natural Born Killer" has never been finished by strikes, even managing to survive brutal haymakers from powerhouse Jake Ellenberger. If St. Pierre wants to stay true to his word and finish his opponent, his best chance is to somehow submit Condit.
And if St. Pierre has truly changed his mindset, we may finally get to see some more of the aggressive, fight-ending jiu-jitsu that he used to dominate and finish one of the greatest fighters ever.
We'll all be watching and waiting with anticipation.