Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE
Jason Probst argues that three important factors -- branding, style and biology -- are among the three most important factors that should prevent the much-ballyhooed potential super fight between champions Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre in the wake of UFC 154.
Discussing whether or not Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) should make the Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva fight is a lot like you discussing whether or not you're going to date Kim Kardashian. It's an interesting discussion with a lot of curvy and juicy angles to it, except for one glaring fact -- she probably isn't gonna go for it. In fact, chances are, she doesn't even know who the hell you are.
St. Pierre, however, knows exactly who Silva is and what he'll bring to their potential date inside the Octagon, which is all the more reason for him not to take the fight. He knows this. What's fascinating is how everyone, from the UFC brass to commentators to writers postulating about the possibilities of this fight, seem to completely overlook the fact that everything in St. Pierre's body language and non-verbal cues completely indicate how little he wants to fight "The Spider."
Which is exactly what everyone seems to be overlooking.
It's pretty obvious, in the answers he's given in the various ways the question's been asked, that St. Pierre doesn't want to fight Silva, at least anywhere north of 180 pounds, and probably not even at a catchweight of 178, which is the latest variant floating around in the ever-buzzing world of mixed martial arts (MMA) rumorsphere.
Dana White wants it. Anderson Silva certainly wants it. But Georges St. Pierre doesn't. And the crappy thing about it is he's stuck in a box when people ask him, because the fighter's code doesn't allow him to flat-out say, "No."
There are reasons aplenty why a GSP-Silva fight makes sense, at least on paper. It would generate huge money, and, hopefully, both guys would get an appropriate boost in purse. It would also generate an illusory "pound-for-pound" showdown to determine who the best fighter in the game is, but for my money, the true "pound for pound" match is Silva against Jon Jones.
It would also available Silva for the kind of "super fight" he sorely lacks at 185, where he has basically cleaned out the division and has little more than 10-1 longshots, recycled challengers, or (gasp!) the inevitable Michael Bisping title shot, provided "The Count" gets past Vitor Belfort (memo to Bisping -- just make it past the first round. That almost guarantees you beat "The Phenom" ... at least in the UFC).
But, there's also a lot of bad things that could happen with a GSP-Silva showdown, almost all of which seem highly likely to materialize. Given the short-term burst it'd give the game, and both guys' pocketbooks, it also could quite likely cause considerable fallout, such as:
- GSP takes a terrible beating, devaluing his brand.
Let's face it: The only way St. Pierre is going to beat Silva is by pitching a perfect game over five rounds. Silva, equipped with one of the best chins in the history of MMA, is not going to be knocked out. And he's certainly not going to be submitted. The only legit submission attempt anyone's even gotten off on him was Travis Lutter's fleeting attempt at an armbar. Silva's takedown defense, size and wily strength would make him a helluva handful for GSP to lay and pray on for five rounds; and if GSP couldn't come close to finishing Carlos Condit, he's nowhere near where he'll need to be to bother Silva, even if Anderson's on his back.
And in the standing department -- which is where rounds start, in case you forgot -- Silva remains the most accurate, diverse and devastating one-shot striker in the sport. He's also a brutal finisher. St. Pierre's ability to dominate the stand up against welterweights is influenced greatly by opponents' fear of letting strikes go. Silva, at 6'2" and incredibly rangy, would have no such fear, because St. Pierre simply wouldn't be able to take him down and grind him out.
If GSP and Silva fought 10 times, I can honestly say that I'd give Anderson eight or nine wins, seven or eight of which would be brutal and eminently one-sided. That kind of beating takes its toll, especially for a guy who is in the middle of a brilliant run as St. Pierre is, and at the physical and technical peak of his career. With a Silva fight, you are basically handing a great fighter, on a platter, to a much bigger great fighter, throwing him a terrible beating, and then asking him to return to the welterweight division once he has his head returned to him via UPS.
- GSP's style is based on a perfect synthesis of size and proportional strength
Many people say that if people can agitate for a Jones-Silva match, it's perfect fair to insist on GSP-Silva. The equation, however, is not the same. Silva has already had three brilliant showings at 205 pounds, where it's obvious that his game translates nicely to the heavier weight. Based on speed, accuracy and timing, Silva won't be out of his element if thrown on his back against the bigger light heavies, based on his incredible record of durability and incredible calm in the roughest situations.
St. Pierre, however, spends virtually 95 percent of his time on the mat in top position; his game is a perfect blend of packing well-conditioned wrestling, speed and proportional power into a prototypical welterweight's frame. He walks around at about 190 pounds, yet condenses down to 170 where he can maintain a perfect balance of overpowering strength while retaining five-round conditioning. And his style goes a long way toward maintaining that edge; it's a helluva lot easier to run people out of gas when you can score the initial takedown and work them over for several minutes. Try grappling sometime and you'll see what I mean.
At 185, a lot of that advantage dissipates. And at 5'10, he's going to get hit a lot more too, which is fairly short for a middle. For Silva, he doesn't lose a lot moving up in weight. GSP does, particularly as most middles walk around well north of 210 pounds.
- Biology cannot be undone
St. Pierre is correct to cite Roy Jones, Jr. when explaining his aversion to developing into a full-fledged 185-pounder. Jones, a brilliant amateur at 156 pounds, turned pro at 160 pounds, matured into a 168 and later a 175-pounder. But he needed to put on 20+ pounds to compete in his sole Heavyweight bout, where he outhustled the clumsy John Ruiz to win the WBA belt in a history-making performance. But, after going back down to 175, Jones was never really the same.
Taking the weight off was exceptionally taxing, and St. Pierre is right to not want to do that to his body. He's just about perfect right now.
Fixing what isn't broke, and gaining the weight he would need to compete against Silva in a potentially one-time deal is a pretty crappy decision should he lose. And honestly, as impressive as he was tonight, can you see St. Pierre merely overpowering some of the better middles, such as Chris Weidman or Belfort? It would be an interesting experiment, but no more sensible than sending Jose Aldo in against a tough lightweight just for the hell of it. Once St. Pierre adds the weight, it's extremely tough to take off, especially now that he is in his 30s and he has maintained a set point of poundage for several years in order to diet precisely down to the 170-pound limit.
Whatever happens, St. Pierre is a great champion and his return to the game tonight was inspiring. Carlos Condit delivered a game performance, and the thrilling back-and-forth was a reminder that with the likes of Nick Diaz and Johny Hendricks lingering, along with Rory MacDonald and plenty of other tough welters, GSP has a respectable cupboard of challengers to choose from.
With seven defenses under his belt, he's proven he's back near the top of his form. It would be a damn shame to sweep that all away and fix what isn't broke and send him off in a fight with very little upside and a lot of potential fallout. He seems to know that better than everyone else. Which is precisely why this fight should never happen. And probably won't, no matter how much Dana White and everyone else talks about it, overlooking what St. Pierre wants to say but cannot.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.