Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre will return to 170-pound competition tomorrow night (Nov. 17, 2012) at UFC 154, which is scheduled to take place at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
And it will come against as tough a challenger he's ever faced, interim division champion, Carlos Condit.
After an 18-month layoff from an injured ACL, St. Pierre's mobility and explosiveness could be real question marks. Forget the hype you hear about a stronger, better St. Pierre -- nobody ever comes back from an ACL injury better than before they sustained it.
St. Pierre's gift during a dominant title run has been finding out what the other doesn't want to do, and then proceeding to do it. Over and over and over again. With four straight decision wins, he's stylistically a far cry from the wrecking machine who smashed his way back to his second title shot against Matt Hughes. The modern version of St. Pierre seems comfortable to take mitigated risks, and, in doing so, keep the belt safely around his waist.
Condit is the antithesis of that mixed martial arts (MMA) approach.
Always gunning for a fight-changing strike or submission, "The Natural Born Killer" showed his tactical smarts in carefully outpointing Nick Diaz in February to win the interim title. Condit's sole weakness -- takedown defense -- dovetails nicely into St. Pierre's ability to plant foes on the mat. The good part about it is that means St. Pierre eventually has to close the gap, where he could get caught.
And Condit is one of the best finishers in the sport.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 154 main event fight between Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit below:
The knee, obviously, is a wild card, particularly in how it influences what St. Pierre does inside the Octagon. It's not hard to see him clinically shooting out high-percentage jabs, the occasional thumping kick, and then transitioning into a takedown where he can work over Condit until he is able to escape.
But, for Condit's sake, he really does have to make a statement early. He's got to land something effective in the opening rounds, otherwise he'll be off on the demoralizing round of getting ridden and worked over to yet another St. Pierre decision.
There's also the wild card of how much confidence St. Pierre has in his ability to ride Condit and grind him down without getting in trouble. Condit's defensive guard is woefully overlooked, but it's an impressive weapon. Condit can also take a lot of punishment and always seems to have gas to close the show hard.
Given St. Pierre's inactivity, a fast pace and a real gut-check style brawl could tilt the scales Condit's way.
In addition, St. Pierre has been training and performing at a high level, and physically, he may simply be on the downslope. That sounds weird when you're talking about a champ with seven largely one-sided title defenses, but the mileage does add up.
If there was ever a time Condit was going to beat St. Pierre, it's tonight.
This one could play out several different ways. I wouldn't be surprised to see Condit score an early stoppage by nailing and taking out a stunned St. Pierre before he can get untracked. It also wouldn't be a shocker if St. Pierre used a round or two to feel the range out and get a sense of where he can work, while transitioning immediately into takedowns when it suits him, particularly near the end of the round to sway the judges' cards.
Condit has an amazing chin and a ton of durability, but at the end of the day he is going to have to take out St. Pierre early with a blitzkrieg-style flurry off a seized opening. Over five rounds, he's just not strong enough in his wrestling base to fend of St. Pierre's takedowns.
Look for some tense feeling-out moments in the first round before St. Pierre settles on a rhythm of circling, slipping, eating the occasional shot and then shutting out Condit with wrestling where he'll ride him at the end of every round.
The more exciting it is, the better Condit's chances, but St. Pierre should have enough to grind out a clear-cut decision win.
St. Pierre via decision
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 154 results of all the "St. Pierre vs. Condit" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 5:45 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst