The UFC welterweight title was on the line last night (Nov. 17, 2012) as champion Georges St. Pierre returned from a 19 month layoff to take on interim champion Carlos Condit in the main event of UFC 154.
There were tons of questions surrounding St. Pierre as he stepped into the Octagon after so much time away: Would he be a step slow? Would he be rusty? Could he handle Condit's striking on the feet? Could he handle Condit's ground game?
Those questions were answered and more as "Rush" didn't miss a beat.
Immediately following the start of the fight, St. Pierre took the cage center aggressively and pressed the action, keeping Condit constantly backing up while aggressively stepping forwards. His reflexes were sharp as he kept working his strikes and avoiding all of Condit's singular strikes.
But what really mattered was whether or not St. Pierre's wrestling was up to snuff and he proved it was just as good as ever two minutes into the action when he shot in and easily dragged "The Natural Born Killer" to the canvas.
On the ground, St. Pierre was a monster, attacking with punches and elbows while constantly passing to half guard. A massive right elbow sliced open Condit's forehead and turned the interim champ's face beet red with blood after just one frame.
The second round was more of the same as St. Pierre attacked with a nice jab, occasionally coming over the top with his right hand. After some pretty even back-and-forth on the feet, GSP perfectly timed a Condit kick and took the Albuquerque native down with ease, going right after the cut and opening his opponent up again with punches and elbows.
St. Pierre seemed to be in cruise control, but Condit gave him a huge reality check in the third round. After Condit stepped forward a bit wildly with a pair of punches, St. Pierre thought his combination was done, but "The Natural Born Killer" finished it off with a head kick that the champion never saw coming, which clipped him perfectly in the side of the head.
St. Pierre was hurt, dropping to his back, and Condit swarmed him with punches, but he couldn't land anything of true significant to follow up as the defending champion survived with good defensive instincts. Condit threw a few bit elbows and punches, bloodying up St. Pierre, but Rush forced a scramble and popped back to his feet, landing a huge right hand and then ragdolling Condit to the ground with a huge takedown, where he would stay for the rest of the round.
In rounds four and five, St. Pierre again dominated with his wrestling, taking Condit down after pressing forward on the feet and forcing him to cover up to defend against the strikes. GSP used this window to change levels and dump Condit on his back. Condit put up a valiant effort with a few submission attempts, but St. Pierre was simply too strong on the canvas and shut down every sweep and submission attempt he tried to cook up.
When it was all said and done, St. Pierre took a solid unanimous decision winning all five rounds on two cards and taking all but one round on the other.
For Carlos Condit, he can hold his head high knowing that he gave Georges St. Pierre the toughest fight of his current reign as champion. He put GSP in danger for the first time since losing the title to Matt Serra back in 2007. While he had significant trouble avoiding takedowns, that was to be expected. Condit's biggest strength in this fight was his striking. He used his length moderately well, but at times, he threw far too many singular strikes.
Every time he really hit St. Pierre, it was because he threw a combination and had the champ reacting to his initial attack. That's how he dropped "Rush" in the third round as St. Pierre thought his striking combination was over and he completely let his guard down. Despite the lopsided loss on the judges' scorecards, Condit showed a ton of heart, battling through a horrific first round cut which would have discouraged many other fighters. His inability to get off his back was what really hurt him in this fight more than anything.
There are a ton of potential fights for Condit on the horizon, most of them rematches. If the timing works out, he could rematch Nick Diaz following the Stockton native's return from suspension in 2013. Other potential match-ups include a rematch against Martin Kampmann, who lossed in devastating fashion in the co-main event. If the UFC is looking for a bout that is not a rematch, they could book Josh Koscheck or perhaps B.J. Penn if he loses to Rory MacDonald in a few weeks.
For Georges St. Pierre, other than that one instant where he got caught with the head kick, he fought nearly the perfect fight. He kept constant pressure on Condit when the fight was standing, throwing solid jabs and right hands and his timing for takedowns was just as good as ever. He repeatedly caught Condit off guard by changing levels at opportune moments. On the ground, his ground and pound was ferocious and he sliced Condit's face open with elbows like a surgeon. It looked like all the blood everywhere actually fired him up and made him work harder.
The best sign of all was actually when St. Pierre got hurt. He didn't fade and then tap out to strikes like so many people thought he might do after the Serra fight. He hung tough, survived the onslaught and after getting back to his feet, he actually looked pissed off, firing back with heavy shots in the stand-up before dumping Condit on his back and blasting with shots on the ground. This was a Georges St. Pierre with something to prove last night and he definitely proved it. He's back!
Next up for St. Pierre are two very interesting options. The first is a superfight with Anderson Silva that the UFC is really looking to cram down our throats. They had Silva cageside and showed him on camera throughout the fight to get his reaction to everything that was happening. The other option is Johny Hendricks, who has now defeated Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann in a row with two of those bouts ending via vicious first round knockout. It'll be interesting to see what GSP decides.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did St. Pierre vs. Condit live up to all the pre-fight hype, did it surpass it? Who do you think GSP will fight next: Anderson Silva or Johny Hendricks? Who do you want him to fight next?