Longtime Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre will attempt to unify the division titles against Interim straphanger Carlos Condit this Saturday night (Nov. 17, 2012) in the main event of UFC 154 from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
St. Pierre has held the belt since 2008.
During that time, he has utterly dominated seven world-class mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters. Despite this, "Rush" has faced a lot of criticism. His last three opponents were outclassed, yet Georges failed to step up his aggression and finish them.
Shortly thereafter, the champ blew out his knee and has spent the last 18 months getting surgically repaired and undergoing rehab. "Rush" claims the time off was the best thing for him and that he will come back better than ever, and finally finish a fight.
Does he have the skills (or aggression) to put away Condit?
Let's take a closer look.
The most important element of St. Pierre's striking is clearly his jab. He uses his jab to keep himself out of harm's way while disrupting his opponent's striking and doing damage. Georges sets up his jabs very well, using a lot of feints, and never relents once he finds his range.
He also likes to throws a leaping "Superman" jab.
The clearest example of how deadly his jab is stems from his fight against NCAA champion Josh Koscheck, who loves to whip his powerful right hand at opponents -- except GSP had the perfect game plan. He crushed Kosheck with jabs. Every time his opponent moved forward, he was greeted with a jab. By the end of the fifth round, "Kos" had suffered a broken orbital bone and has had problems with it ever since.
Georges backs up his jab with a powerful straight right hand but doesn't throw a lot of hooks, mostly sticking to his effective 1-2 combination. He did, however, land a few quality left hooks on Koscheck and Jake Shields at UFC 129.
In addition to his boxing, GSP has a black belt in Shidokan and Kyokushin Kaikin. His karate background is mostly evident in his kicks. Although Georges doesn't throw as many kicks as he used to, he throws a high volume of inside leg kicks to complement his jab. This is one of the few areas in his game where he will get a little fancy, throwing spinning back kicks and ax kicks.
One of the most unique aspects of St. Pierre's offense is his ability to explode into his strikes. His opponents are terrified of being taken down, so strikes like the Superman punch are readily available and land with consistency. Georges is so adept at keeping his opponents guessing and on the defensive that he can land risky strikes without consequence.
GSP's striking defense is also quite sound. Since losing to Matt Serra in 2007, Georges has done a lot of work on his defense. His hands now rarely leave his chin, and his jab keeps power punchers at bay. Perhaps the best defensive aspect of his striking isn't striking at all; it's the constant threat of the take down.
Although Georges never wrestled scholastically, he has become perhaps the best wrestler in MMA. At one point, he was even being considered for the Canadian Olympic wrestling squad.
Georges is an extremely explosive athlete. When he gets in on a double leg, he blasts through it like few others can. He is so quick that his opponents don't have time to defend, or are on their backs before they can remember how to. "Rush" has been able to take down phenomenal wrestlers like Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, and Jake Shields.
In addition to his blast doubles, Georges has excellent clinch take downs. Again, he's so quick that he has finished his take down before his opponent knows they are being floored. The best fight to look at for GSP's clinch take downs would be his third and final fight against Matt Hughes.
Georges hit the exact same single leg take down twice from the clinch. From the over-under, he would lower his level and grab a leg while driving forward. He also landed a beautiful judo toss after Hughes got back to his feet near the end of the fight.
Once GSP brings the fight to the mat, he unleashes some of the most brutal ground and pound in the sport. His posture in guard is excellent, and he loves to stand above his opponents and rain down nasty punches. After he gets free of any over hooks, Georges will stand up in guard and then dive forward with a punch, doing his very best to knock out his opponent. St. Pierre's ground and pound played key roles in his victories over champions Sean Sherk, Matt Serra, and B.J. Penn.
St. Pierre's take down defense is just as spectacular as his offense. According to UFC.com, he has defended 88% of the take downs attempted on him. This is especially impressive considering the welterweight class is full of incredible wrestlers and Georges has beaten the best of them.
Here is a look at one of his more impressive take down counters.
Koscheck is deep on a single leg and tries to transition to a double and power through. "Kos" is one of best wrestlers in MMA and his blast double is especially effective. Despite this, GSP easily countered by going hard on a whizzer while sprawling and ending up in Koscheck's guard.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Georges is a Gracie Barra black belt and has also trained with notable black belts like Renzo Gracie and John Danaher. He also has an excellent positional BJJ game, emphasizing position over submission.
The best aspect of St. Pierre's BJJ is his amazing guard passing. Georges will first get a good posture and attempt to break his opponents full guard. After he does this, he will hop one leg over to half guard. After he gets to half guard, he always gets an under hook on the far side.
Next, he will either use his instep to push his way out of the half guard, or he will slice through half guard by raising his knee high and then cutting through the guard. Regardless of which pass he chooses, he maintains constant top pressure and throws continuous ground and pound to distract his opponent.
When it comes to submissions, Georges isn't the most aggressive, but he will capitalize on any opportunities presented to him. A rather common mistake in MMA is the placement of one's arms when is side control. Too often, MMA fighters extend their arms instead of keeping them close to their chest, which opens up armbars and Kimuras. Georges successfully finished Matt Hughes because of these mistakes and nearly finished Dan Hardy as well.
Georges has shown a solid bottom game as well. On the rare occasion that he is on his back, he maintains a full guard and defends himself well. When Georges fought Jon Fitch, he ended up on his back with Fitch on top in his full guard.
From the open guard, he uses an arm drag to transition to a modified half guard sweep. He escapes out the back door and comes out on top, in Fitch's guard. This is impressive technique, even more so considering how well Fitch is known for his suffocating top control.
Georges hasn't been submitted since his first fight against Matt Hughes. That was in 2004, and he hasn't even looked to be in danger of a submission since then.
Georges is an incredible athlete. He explodes through every technique and makes his opponents look slow in comparison. His athleticism is what allowed him to quickly transform from a karate-based striker into one of the best wrestlers and boxers in MMA.
GSP's athleticism has allowed him to blend his attacks together. Georges sets his takedowns up better than anyone else in MMA. His leaping Superman jabs and crosses can easily be mistaken with his power double leg, allowing him to shoot from farther out than regular wrestlers, but still maintain his explosive drive.
Best chance for success
Georges needs to establish his jab early on. If he can land his jab consistently, something Condit has certainly been planning for, then his chances go up even more. After he gets his jab going, he should mix in body and leg kicks. This is a five round fight; wearing Condit out early will make it much easier to get a finish in the later rounds.
GSP is always in danger if he's standing with Condit and he should look for the take down at the first available opportunity, sticking to clinch takedowns. Carlos hasn't made a career of flying knee knockouts, but he is aggressive enough to try it if St. Pierre gets sloppy on a shot. Georges should be able to easily overpower "The Natural Born Killer" from the clinch, while staying safe.
Once GSP gets it to the ground, he should pass immediately. Condit is very aggressive from the bottom, and although a submission from his back is unlikely, side control will be a much safer position. After he gets to a dominant position, he should suffocate his opponent with top pressure. If he can tire him out, he can eventually get a submission.
Will St. Pierre have a successful return, or will Condit dethrone the welterweight kingpin?