I've never written one of these before, but the recent furore surrounding GSP has really touched a nerve with me. I'll admit, as a Canadian, I am biased towards Geroges. I suspect though, that I'd be a GSP fan no matter what country I called home. He's a great fighter and a fantastic human being as well. Additionally, I'm an MMA fan first. I'm willing to put my feelings aside and look at this rationally.
Like most fans, I've been disappointed by GSP's recent performances - he always leaves you with the feeling that he is capable of so much more. Sometimes I'm screaming at him, "put the hooks in" or "throw a power punch!". Then I think, what the hell do I know? Who am I to question the skills and tactics of one of the greatest combat athletes to ever walk the earth?
I want to address 2 points. The first is the issue of scoring in the GSP/Hendricks bout. Everyone needs to stop talking about damage and body language and all of that other crap. This isn't PRIDE FC. I love PRIDE as much as the next fan-boy, but the UFC employs a 10-point must system. Period. If this was a fight in Japan, then Johnny would have likely walked away the winner. As we know though, in the UFC, there are rules that have to be adhered to. As much as I hate the Nevada judges, they really didn't do anything wrong here.
Let's look at this objectively and without the influence of Joe Rogan's mind-numbing hyperbole. The 1st round is close; both men have their moments in the striking and the wresting. GSP briefly threatens with a choke while Johnny lands some hard elbows and a couple of solid leg kicks. A close round, but a case could be made for either fighter.
The 2nd round clearly belongs to "Big Rigg". He hurt Georges with that beastly left-hand and pressed the action. So, so far we have a possible 2-0 Hendricks, 1-0 Hendricks (if the 1st round was a draw) or 1-1.
Much of the controversy seems to surround the 3rd round. I feel that St Pierre clearly won it. He controlled the distance and peppered Hendricks with the jab and a few counter hooks. Nothing damaging landed, but that is unfortunately GSP's MO these days. Hendricks had a brief take down with some ground and pound, but not enough to steal the round in my opinion. Possible scores after 3 rounds are are: 2-1 Hendricks, 1-1 (if the 1st round was a draw) , 2-1 GSP.
The 4th round I give to Hendricks. He landed some Ground and Pound and the more significant shots on the feet. Possible scores: 3-1 Hendricks, 2-1 Hendricks (if the 1st round was a draw), 2-2.
The final round quite clearly belonged to St Pierre. He had a takedown and landed more shots on the feet. After 5 rounds of action we are left with the following possibilities: 3-2 Hendricks, 2-2 (if the 1st round was a draw), 3-2 GSP.
Does that constitute a blowout now a days?
Some might argue that GSP obviously lost both the 1st and 3rd round. Can anyone show me compelling evidence that Hendricks won them? I've been an MMA fan for many years, and I know how to assess a fight (as I'm sure do many of you. If you're reading this blog-post you're obviously a hard-core). Nowhere in the 1st or 3rd round do I see anything definitive for Johnny.
People pointing to damage done are ignoring the fact that GSP has been in this game for far longer than Hendricks. Georges has built up scar-tissue on his face because he`s fought a murderer's row (and Dan Hardy) of opponents. His face is always going to show more damage than guys who are relatively young in the sport. Of course Johnny hits harder - there's no disputing that. That being said, GSP was only really wobbled in that 2nd round. For all his vaunted punching power, Johnny landed cleanly on Georges and didn't drop him. The fact that that's surprising is a testament to the UFC Marketing Machine and GSP's underrated resilience and strength of will.
What I'm getting at is what I alluded to earlier. These fights are scored round by round - we don't judge on intangibles like a marked up face. If we're going to start awarding rounds to guys because they're the bigger puncher, then we're sending a message saying that technique is less important. Sure, if the power puncher drops his opponent in every round, then, in most cases, he deserves to win the rounds. But Johnny didn't drop Georges. In fact, GSP landed more significant strikes (http://blog.fightmetric.com/2013/11/st-pierre-vs-hendricks-official-ufc.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter). Johnny, of course, landed with greater impact. Was GSP hurt in that fight? Absolutely. Was Johnny hurt? He says no, but he did eat over 100 significant strikes from a professional fighter, so draw your own conclusion.
So it all comes back to the 5 rounds - each judged individually. As I demonstrated above, if we judge this fight using the "10-point must system", it's not the blow-out that Dana, the fans and the media are making it out to be. This is a sport - Dana and the fans should remember that. Both of these guys are tremendous fighters. They're evenly matched, despite Johnny's obvious advantage in physicality. Strength and power only make you a better fighter when you use them to overwhelm your opponent. Johnny did not consistently overwhelm Georges.
The second point I want to address is what is really bothering me. To Dana and everyone else saying that Georges "owes the fans/UFC", I say you're ridiculous. He owes no one anything. He's been the consummate company man for the UFC. He's fought whoever they've asked him to and fulfilled all of his obligations as a champion. GSP has made some very rich men a lot richer. The only debt he owes now is to himself. As fans, we know how much these athletes sacrifice for their craft. Georges has been in the game a long time and he's put in all the hard yards. He's not old in years, but he's old in the sport. If he is having personal problems, no one has the right to tell him that his issues are not important. They're important if Georges thinks they're important. If that means that he retires from the sport or takes a break, then so be it. Let him vacate the belt and Johnny will beat whoever they put in front of him and become the Welterweight champ. If Johnny is upset that he can't get a rematch with GSP, then too bad. Georges decides when he retires. Not Johnny. Not the president of the company. And certainly not the whiny fans. Saying he's obligated to come back and fight "Big Rigg" is completely asinine.
In my eyes, he was the first truly "mixed" martial artist. Well-rounded, athletic, competitive and motivated. There is nothing left for him to prove in this sport. He's exhibited some worrying signs of head-trauma recently, and, as a fan, I'd like to see him take care of his health and start a family. He's worked hard, now he should enjoy the fruits of his labour. The media is reactive. Dana "fucking" White is reactive. Joe Rogan reacts even before something happens ("It's tight...that's it!! Oh no nevermind he slipped out...") As intelligent fans we should step back sometimes and make our own decisions.
We're all united by our passion for this beautiful sport. We need to look out for the fighters and not jump on the media bandwagon. Fighters like GSP have given us so many awesome memories. Why do we shit on him the moment he decides to start looking out for himself? We should be supporting him. We should stand-up and say, "Georges, you've been a great champion. We want you healthy and happy. Go and sort yourself out. If you decide to come back, we'll be waiting for you."