UFC 158 Preview: The Highs and Lows of Georges St-Pierre's MMA Career

Matt Molgaard@MattmolgaardCorrespondent IIIMarch 5, 2013

Nov 17, 2012; Montreal, QC, Canada;  Georges St-Pierre poses for a photo with his parents Pauline and Roland after winning the Welterweight Championship bout against Carlos Condit at UFC 154 at the Bell Centre.  St-Pierre defeated Condit by unanimous decision.  Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has enjoyed a storied career. Surging contender, seemingly invincible, denied his initial title bid. Another ensuing streak, redemption, and a massive career stumble. The resurgence.

These are the chapters of St-Pierre’s tell all biography. Well they would be, if GSP were planning to craft a work of such nature.

The man has seen and done it all within the welterweight division. He climbed the ranks, fell, got back up and reached the top of the mountain, where he still sits today.

Although mild-mannered, GSP has the experience of a hardened warrior who’s set foot on the battlefield 100 times over. Life’s experiences have produced a humble champion with a lengthy list of accomplishments in GSP, and the world owes thanks.

For all the good times, and all the bad. They’ve made GSP the admirable character he is today, who still pummels foes relentless, all for the love of competition.

Toppling Legends, Redeeming Mistakes, Abusing the Competition

When George St-Pierre met B.J. Penn for the first time at UFC 58 in 2006, there was an electricity in the air. GSP was a rising star who looked poised to be the division’s next champion. B.J. Penn had proven his worth at lightweight as well as welterweight, and he held a propensity for dog fights and vicious finishes.

The tension was thick as St-Pierre faced the toughest test of his career.

GSP ran into major problems in the first round, as he was met with a steady flow of crisp jabs from Penn. GSP, a bloody mess and down on the cards changed the momentum of the fight in round two.

The future champion used a persistent take-down attack to thwart Penn and secure a split decision win on the judges cards.

The win over Penn afforded Georges St. Pierre a second crack at Matt Hughes (who defeated him via armbar at UFC 50) and a welterweight title.

He capitalized, in a major way.

St-Pierre kept the fight vertical and systematically broke the champion down. The end came at 1:25 of round two when GSP floored Hughes with a high kick before leaping in for the finish. Redemption claimed, gold obtained.

St-Pierre didn’t hold the title long, but we’re going to come back to that in a few short minutes.

Let’s leap forward in time to GSP’s second bout with Matt Serra.

Serra shocked the world (again, we’ll come back to this) by upsetting the champion at UFC 69. But GSP rebounded nicely, and one of his victims along the way happened to be the same man to dethrone him

St-Pierre versus Serra 2 was akin to a schoolyard beat-down. Serra spent the majority of the fight in defensive mode, as GSP utilized take-downs and ground and pound to wear out the champion. In the second round the Canadian unleashed a barrage of knees to the body that left “The Terror” completely immobilized, turtled up and doing nothing to escape the onslaught. Referee Yves Lavigne called halt at 4:45 of the second frame. 

GSP followed the Serra bout with a vintage throttling of Jon Fitch.

Fitch, who at the time was the unquestionable number two ranked fighter in the division took a startling beating, as St-Pierre pounded on the Team AKA representative.

Fitch was never in the fight and GSP was an offensive machine, happy to turn Fitch’s face into hamburger. The fight remains one of the most impressive we’ve seen from the current champion.

After plenty of criticism (something else we’ll cover briefly) and a lengthy hiatus due to injury, GSP met top-ranked Carlos Condit at UFC 154.

Condit’s versatile offense and sound defense was expected to give the champion problems. They did.

GSP took control of the fight early, but ate a big high kick from fellow Team Jackson frequenter midway through the five round tilt. GSP went crashing to the canvas and Condit swarmed.

St-Pierre answered a lot of questions in this moment, as he could have easily been finished by Condit’s menacing barrage. But he didn’t fold, he fought through it, and immediately regained the upper hand.

It was a fun, competitive bout that proved GSP still has a will to finish foes. More importantly, it proved St-Pierre can take a huge shot, regain his bearings and resume control over a legitimately dangerous challenger. 

Underestimating Opponents, Disregarding Technique and an Inability to Finish

St-Pierre hasn’t always been as profoundly dominating as most would have you believe. He’s an absolute beast—don’t get me wrong—but he’s run into a few career rough patches over the years.

His first major folly came as he entered the octagon at UFC 69, set to defend his title for the first time against The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback winner, Matt Serra.

It ddn’t look as though GSP expected, or trained for much of a fight. Relatively complacent when compared to previous performances, St-Pierre looked uninspired.

Serra obviously saw the same thing. He swarmed the champion, clipping him behind the ear, sending him colliding with the mat violently. Serra jumped in to close the show, and where Condit would fail in the future, he would succeed in the moment.

Serra picked every shot he threw as he loomed over the fallen St-Pierre. A healthy handful of unanswered and miserably defended punches brought the bout to a halt in an unbelievable 3:25.

After claiming redemption at UFC 83, GSP went on a significant tear. He’s still on that tear!

St-Pierre hasn’t lost a fight since the first Serra encounter, and he’s 7-0 since avenging the loss. But that run hasn’t come without some controversy and a bit of ire from the blood thirsty.

St-Pierre hasn’t finished a fight since January 31 of 2009. His last five bouts have gone the full 25-minute distance.

Fans love finishers and GSP has had some difficulty in making that happen for quite some time now. Many label him a point fighter, many brand him a “safe” fighter unwilling to take chances.

Whether you agree with those sentiments or not, the champion’s lack of finishes over the last few years does indeed leave a bit to be desired.

Especially when competing against the likes of Dan Hardy and Jake Shields. I mean no insult by that, as both are very talented fighters who deserve to be where they are today, but let’s be completely honest, they’re both a tad one-dimensional.

If Hardy can’t land a fight finishing punch from the vertical position. If Shields can’t submit or smother you, he’s in trouble.

However GSP looked uncharacteristic in exhibiting some questionable technique during his battle with Hardy at UFC 111. The majority of the fight took place on the mat, and Hardy survived while taking little abuse. St-Pierre secured a few locks that appeared to be potential finishers, but awkward angles enabled the outspoken Brit to survive.

That was a fight Georges St-Pierre should have, in all likelihood, finished, in impressive fashion.

The same can be said of GSP’s duel with Shields, a man known for his stifling top control and slick submissions. A man known to have somewhat questionable striking.

Where did the fight take place? From the vertical stance, where Shields delivered a competitive fight and appeared to edge the champion for a round or so. The fight wasn’t particularly amazing
and GSP’s uncharacteristic lack of fluent mobility seemed odd.

That’s a fight that likely should have ended inside of three rounds.

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