On Saturday (Nov. 16, 2013) night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Georges St-Pierre will enter the Octagon to put his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight title on the line in the main event of UFC 167 against Johny Hendricks.
St-Pierre hopes to defend the belt for a ninth time, a record in the welterweight division title fights.
Without question, St-Pierre has cemented status as the greatest welterweight of all time. But his "must-win" attitude has also affected his reputation with fans who see him as a "safe" fighter, instead of one willing to take risks to have an exciting fight.
And in some respects, those fans are correct. In his last 10 fights, dating back to 2007, St-Pierre has finished only two opponents. Of those 10 wins, the only times he's earned an "of the Night" bonus were fights against "blood & guts" opponents who have forced him into a fight.
But at some point, fans can't blame St-Pierre or his coaches Greg Jackson and Firas Zahabi for what really is an opponent's strategy or toughness. Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report had a chance to speak with the Champ about his reputation with fans and GSP refuses to take the full blame for some fights.
"Sometimes an opponent breaks mentally and he's not fighting to win anymore. He's fighting not to lose," St-Pierre told Bleacher Report. "He's not taking as many risks and he's only thinking about his well-being and not getting hurt. It's very hard to finish an opponent in these conditions."
He's correct in this statement.
Thales Leites was applauded for his ability to survive 25 minutes in the Octagon with the unbeatable Anderson Silva. That fight was one of the worst main events in the promotion's history because when it was clear there was absolutely zero chance of victory, Leites stopped trying to push the pace.
By lasting to the final bell, Leites became the first man in the UFC to not get finished by "the Spider." The fight went down as an "L" in the record books, but it was a "moral victory" for the underdog.
St-Pierre continued, explaining that there are in fact two types of finishes. The first is what goes down in the record books as a "TKO" or "submission." The other is an opponent who has been mentally broken, or the "quicksand" effect where no matter what they do, it's all feels hopeless.
"There are two kinds of finishes. Sometimes it happens spontaneously. Bang! It can be a submission. You see it-bang! You've got it. Jab. Cross. Boom! He falls down. It happens fast. You don't even see it coming," St-Pierre continued, with his voice rising to punctuate the bangs and the boom.
"There's another finish where you see your opponent breaking mentally. This happens more than the spontaneous finish. You see your opponent failing mentally. He starts to fight, not to win anymore but to survive."
I've always been an advocate of the "finished by decision" mentality. A fighter like Diego Sanchez will rarely win a fight by knockout, but he sets such an impossible pace that by the end of the last round, his opponents are sucking wind while he's pushing forward.
But for St-Pierre, I don't believe that he's actively looking to mentally break his opponents.
Watching a typical St-Pierre fight, it becomes painfully obvious what his game plan is. When the fight is on the feet, he's looking to control range with leg kicks and jabs, two techniques that don't necessarily damage opponents, but will definitely wear them out over five rounds.
And when the fight hits the mat, it's almost certain that St-Pierre will do just enough damage to ensure the fight remains grounded. And again, this isn't necessarily his fault. His game plans have proven to be successful, albeit a bit monotonous, and they've gotten results.
But mixed martial arts (MMA) is as much a sport as it is an entertainment business and the UFC's entire model is based on fans being willing to pony up to purchase monthly pay-per-view (PPV) offerings. And the second that a fighter fails to entertain fans, his successes become secondary.
And while fans and media can show concern about a hot button issue like fighter safety, at the end of the day, they pay to see the guys who are willing to leave everything in the cage.
That's why this weekend is so crucial for St-Pierre. Hendricks has become a bit of a media darling because of his ability to produce the "highlight reel knockout", a major traffic grabber for most news outlets. Should the bout fail to live up to expectations and turn out to be another St-Pierre decision, it may be impossible for "Rush" to bounce back with fans.
And while there have been rumblings from within Team GSP that the Champ is considering retirement, the absolute worst thing would be for him to end his career as the guy who stunk up the MGM Grand. Sometimes a resume isn't enough. Sometimes, it's the story behind the wins and losses.
And his story can best be summed up in one word: BORING.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 167 card this Saturday night (Nov. 16, 2013), starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
For more on UFC 167 be sure to check out our complete event archive right here. To see the entire "St-Pierre vs. Hendricks" fight card, which includes "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FOX Sports 1, click here.