Photo by Esther Lin via SBNation.com
It's become a familiar sight.
A fighter stands next to a referee, not only battered and bruised, but mentally broken as well. He had just gone through the closest facsimile to hell any Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title contender could experience. For 25 minutes, he was run through the proverbial grinder as fists, elbows, knees and shins slammed into their body. For five rounds, they had their gameplan shattered and their will broken by one of the greatest fighters the sport has mixed martial arts (MMA) has ever seen.
On the other side of the referee stands Georges St. Pierre, beaming and elated as his name is once again -- preceded by "and still UFC welterweight champion of the world" -- called out by Bruce Buffer. Dana White wraps the French-Canadian's belt around the champ's waist and around the Internet, headlines with words like "dominant" begin to pop up.
"Rush" lost to Matt Hughes in his third UFC fight, back when losing to Hughes wasn't an anomaly but the standard. Matt Serra ran through St. Pierre but was thoroughly trounced himself in their rematch. Those two missteps aside, "GSP" has ruled the 170-pound division for nearly a decade now. He's now set to take on Carlos Condit who, by winning last night's (Feb. 4) UFC 143 main event, has become the interim title holder while St. Pierre recovers from a knee injury.
But considering just how good St. Pierre is, does it matter?
Both men in last night's headlining bout have their strengths and flaws. Had Nick Diaz been able to come out on top, we very well could have seen a takedown clinic in November -- or whenever it is St. Pierre returns -- that puts the Stockton native on his back for 25 minutes. Historically, the gameplan has been a tried and true method to win out against Diaz.
Condit's biggest asset is his heart. On paper, he doesn't excel at any one thing. No one speaks of Condit and mentions a world-class guard or K-1 level kickboxing. But once he steps inside the Octagon, he's a tough nut -- perhaps the toughest -- to crack. He hasn't been finished in over five years and when he's come close in the UFC -- the first round of his bout with Jake Ellenberger springs to mind -- he's managed to gut through and survive.
The problem with Condit -- and to extent Diaz -- is there's just about no avenue towards success in a fight with St. Pierre. Although to be fair, the same could be said for any welterweight. Diaz's boxing is sharp but his takedown defense is a liability and as evidenced last night, he still refuses to check leg kicks, preferring to take them flush.
Condit, on the other hand, isn't better than "Rush" at anything. How can the "Natural Born KIller" expect to win and how can we, as fans, expect to get excited for what will likely be another 25 minute shellacking followed by a unanimous decision?
From a promotion standpoint, the UFC must be fuming that Diaz wasn't able to pull out the victory. While a loss to St. Pierre would be almost assured, the former Strikeforce champion would have at least made the road to a bout with "Rush" interesting and compelling. Condit doesn't curse into cameras or flip off audiences. He's almost blue-collar in the sense he quietly walks into the cage, does his job and leaves. An admirable trait for sure but when everyone expects him to loss to St. Pierre, a little flair and drama wouldn't hurt.
I just can't get excited for a "GSP"/Condit showdown. Of course, the newly crowned interim champion could very well defend his title first against the winner of this month's Diego Sanchez and Ellenberger bout and while the "Natural Born Killer" taking on Sanchez or rematching Ellenberger would be great, my interest in either of those two taking on "Rush" is equally low.
It's hard to look at these men as contenders rather than victims.