When the names of pound-for-pound greats are thrown around, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans salivate over the potential super fights these fictional rankings could provide. For years and years, the fight sitting at the top of that wish list has been Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva, the respective welterweight and middleweight Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions.
And for the longest time, St. Pierre has been given next to no chance by fight fans if that fight was ever to happen. Now, with this super fight seeming as close as it may ever be, I feel the need to dispel this widespread inaccuracy.
St. Pierre has every tool he needs to defeat Silva, and should the two ever fight, I would feel more comfortable in picking the welterweight champion as opposed to his larger adversary. Though not to discredit Silva, a truly elite fighter in his own right, St. Pierre embodies what MMA is at its peak. He is above average in just about every aspect you can think of, and it is his complete game that creates one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters we've ever seen.
As you may expect, striking is an area I believe Silva holds an advantage in over St. Pierre. Anderson Silva's striking is at a point where it is so unbelievably good, that he can afford to take a ton of risks and still receive minimal damage, while dealing significant damage to his opponent.
This includes greatly exaggerated head movement, superfluous striking techniques, and even allowing his opponent to swing at him while standing with his back against the cage. Not only are these techniques somehow effective for this lanky striking ace, but they also subject opponents to disheartening attacks of their own, to a point where they will fold under intimidation alone.
Because of St. Pierre's apparent fear before and during fights, the intimidation of Silva's striking may prove a tough challenge to overcome. In addition, St. Pierre will be unable to use his go-to strike, the jab, at such high effectiveness, because of the range and head movement of his opponent.
Despite the shortcomings St. Pierre may confront when at striking range with Silva, he still has a hope. For starters, he is levels and levels beyond the inept striking of Chael Sonnen, a man who gave Anderson occasional fits in their first encounter even with his less-than-spectacular striking approach. St. Pierre's ability to find range, his agility, and his opponent-specific approaches may be what keeps him alive when standing with "The Spider."
Though Silva may have distinct advantages over "Rush" in pure striking, it is not to be forgotten that this is MMA, and that as mentioned earlier, St. Pierre represents the "mixed" part of the sport in as good a form as we've seen.
Striking isn't just punching and kicking when you're facing St. Pierre. It is a fast paced competition, worrying about what angle you may present to him, and how he may capitalize on it. A specific example of this is the French-Canadian's fight with Thiago Alves, a bout in which St. Pierre overcame a striking deficiency by utilizing his wrestling. In the end, St. Pierre soundly outstruck a man regarded as a purely better striker, not for some significant striking improvement, but because of the threat of the takedown.
St. Pierre's MMA wrestling is otherworldly. If you don't believe that, you don't follow MMA. He may have no wrestling credentials prior to his MMA career, he has become one of, if not the best MMA wrestler ever in the sport. When push comes to shove, Sonnen may have better wrestling when he's actually in contact with his opponent. But the way St. Pierre sets up his shots, and the way he moves, confuses, and traps opponents is a trait unique to him alone.
Against Silva -- a man who has shown multiple times to have serious wrestling deficiencies -- St. Pierre will see opportunity after countless opportunity to bring him down. And when St. Pierre gets a takedown on you, it is very unlikely that you'll find yourself defending it to any level of effectiveness. When comparing to Silva, St. Pierre's wrestling advantage is drastically greater than the Brazilian's striking advantage.
When the fight hits the mat, GSP comes alive. Instead of the busy work of a Jon Fitch or a Sonnen, St. Pierre will cut through guard, obtain threatening positions, and flat-out school opponents on the mat. His guard passes are routine in his fights, regardless of the level of his opposition.
The threat St. Pierre poses from top position is tremendous, again in contrast to Sonnen, the man who took five rounds from Silva. His strikes aren't meant to cause superficial damage, they are heavy shots with the intent of rattling opponents and keeping them submissive on bottom. He will threaten with submissions as well, including his trademark kimura and armbar attempts. All of these offensive attributes are things that Silva will have to confront, and St. Pierre is the best man at enforcing them in all of MMA.
When considering the possible threat of Silva from bottom position, it will be nothing new for St. Pierre. In his most recent showing, St. Pierre thwarted any and all submission attempts of Carlos Condit, a man who easily possesses a more threatening guard than Silva does. Not only could Condit not successfully attack from bottom, he was unable to stop GSP's repeated guard passes, something few men could ever do to such an advanced guard player.
To put it simply, there is little reason to believe that Silva poses any more of a threat to St. Pierre than Condit did this past weekend.
In consideration of their respective attributes, it is easy to believe that Silva may be favored over St. Pierre for certain reasons. Despite that, St. Pierre possesses far more challenges for Silva, some of which he has never faced all at once. Where Silva may have a significant advantage in a pure striking battle, GSP has such a complete game that that point may be moot.
In a potential super fight, I expect St. Pierre to ruin Silva's night with superior wrestling and grappling, all while overcoming a striking disadvantage with his multi-faceted attack. St. Pierre can stand with Silva for periods of time based solely on the threat of a takedown, and he can easily cut through the guard of "The Spider" whenever he so pleases.
Be it a five round decision, a late submission or technical knockout, or some other fate, I would fully expect St. Pierre to defeat Silva should they fight one day. His multi-faceted approach would overcome his striking disadvantage, and his grappling advantage would not be mitigated due to a slight size difference.
If and when these two men fight, Georges St. Pierre deserves to be a favorite, and it's time he gets that recognition.