UFC 158: Could We See An End To GSP’s Reign?

UFC-158 Less than a week from now, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will once again put his strap on the line, this time against  Nick Diaz in the main event of UFC 158, which takes place March 16th at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It will be St-Pierre’s eighth title defence since winning the undisputed welterweight championship from Matt Serra back at UFC 83, and Diaz could possibly represent the toughest test the long-time champ has faced to date. With his incredible boxing, superb Brazilian jiu-jitsu, extreme toughness, and warrior attitude, Diaz is a handful for anyone in the welterweight division. Still, most fans and observers of the sport are expecting St-Pierre to absolutely steamroll Diaz. Currently, St-Pierre is sitting as a -500 favorite on Several Bookmakers (bet $500 to win $100), while the comeback on Diaz is +400 (bet $100 to win $400), demonstrating that the public believes this fight is going to go GSP’s way. The general thought process is that St-Pierre will use his dominant wrestling to take Diaz down to the floor and work his ground and pound en route to a decision victory (the method six of his last seven wins have come by), or, possibly, a late TKO stoppage. But are we perhaps discounting the possibility of a Diaz upset too soon? Although it may seem like it, St-Pierre is most definitely not invincible. He may have a brilliant 23-2 record in MMA, but don’t ignore those two losses. The first loss of St-Pierre’s career came to Matt Hughes at UFC 50, a fight St-Pierre was winning until he made a mistake and the veteran Hughes capitalized by submitting him with a stunning, last-second armbar. St-Pierre later admitted he was an immature 20-something-year-old back then and wasn’t training as hard as he should have been for the fight, and he responded by finishing Hughes in the second and third legs of their trilogy at UFC 65 and UFC 79. I doubt that St-Pierre has been looking past Diaz, but if he is at all, he will lose, because Diaz is an incredibly dangerous fighter for the full 25 minutes of a championship bout and only needs to find one small opening to win. St-Pierre rarely leaves those openings in his game, but once in a while, like everyone, he does. St-Pierre’s second career loss came to Matt Serra at UFC 69 in a fight St-Pierre admits he looked past, as the French Canadian was TKO’d at the 3:25 minute mark of round one in perhaps the biggest upset in mixed martial arts history. Just like his first loss to Hughes, St-Pierre has said he didn’t train that hard for Serra and was just partying. He didn’t take his opponent seriously, and he paid the price for it, losing his title and not winning it back for another year. In MMA you just can’t look past your opponent at all, or you will lose. Look at Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. He didn’t take Emanuel Newton seriously in his recent Bellator light heavyweight semi-final, and as a result he got overconfident and left his hands down, only to get finished by a spinning back fist. Or look at the cocky Alistair Overeem, who says he never watched any tape on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The result? He got knocked out. I’m not saying St-Pierre is looking past Diaz — from all indications it seems as though he’s more focused and prepared for this fight than ever before — but any sort of slip-up could cost him. In St-Pierre’s fight against Carlos Condit at UFC 154, the champ was pretty much dominating the bout but got caught with a surprise head kick in the third round and nearly got finished. Of course, his heart and will — two of the biggest question marks surrounding his otherwise outstanding game — allowed him to stay in the fight and he ended up winning it, but MMA is a game of inches and St-Pierre was oh-so-close to losing his belt. Against Diaz, St-Pierre will be facing a fighter with underrated power. St-Pierre could come into the fight thinking that Diaz is a volume puncher and make the mistake of looking past the power he has shown in the past. Diaz can most definitely finish opponents with his strikes, as 13 of his 26 career victories have come by way of T/KO. Remember, he was the first man to legitimately knock Paul Daley out, and that’s really saying something considering the number of heavy-handed bombers the Brit has fought in his career. Same with Robbie Lawler; if you look at his resume and the list of men who he’s fought, it’s amazing that Diaz is the only one that has knocked him out. If Diaz can catch St-Pierre with a strike that he doesn’t see coming, he could definitely finish him. Beyond the KO threat, I haven’t even mentioned Diaz’ incredible ground game yet. If the fight mainly takes place on the ground, it’s possible Diaz — who is a high-level BJJ black belt — could catch St-Pierre in a submission and finish him that way, as he has done to eight other foes during the course of his MMA career. From reading this you may believe I am leaning towards Diaz to win. I am not, and I am indeed picking St-Pierre to retain his title. However, it would not shock me if Diaz pulled off the incredible upset and left Montreal next week with a shiny belt around his waist, so brace yourself, because if that did happen, the world of MMA would be turned upside down yet again. It wouldn’t be the first time, as St-Pierre himself knows first hand, and certainly wouldn’t be the last either.

Written by Adam Martin.

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