Going into UFC 154, I made the argument that Georges St-Pierre’s fight against Carlos Condit could play out in one of three ways. I acknowledged the possibility that St-Pierre would come back the same as before, and dominate in the fight. I also acknowledged the possibility that St-Pierre would be a “shot” fighter, so athletically diminished that his offense would be largely ineffective and that Condit would pick him apart en route to a shocking victory. But I argued what was most likely to happen was that St-Pierre would win the fight by enough of a margin that there wouldn’t be any controversy about it, but he would struggle more than usual, perhaps lose a round, and something would look “not right.”
I must have been hallucinating on Saturday night, because apparently I saw a different fight take place than everybody else did. If you were to just read the various blogs out there, you would think St-Pierre ran through Condit like a hot knife through butter. I’ve seen the word “dominated” thrown around as much as I ever have, and that’s coming from somebody who thinks that word is badly overused to describe MMA fights. Maybe I was asleep, and just dreamed the fight in my mind? Because I missed this supposed fight where St-Pierre did whatever he wanted, dominated in all phases of the game, won all five rounds, and neutralized almost everything Condit tried to do. Sure, there was that one kick in the third round, but it was no big deal, right?
Don’t get me wrong – St-Pierre won the fight I saw too. He won four of the five rounds, his takedowns were just as quick and explosive as ever, he dictated the striking with very good jabs, and displayed a strong top control game on the ground. He won the fight. But just as I predicted, he didn’t look quite right. St-Pierre took more strikes from Condit than usual, and that’s without mentioning that head kick. His top control game was good, but he had a lot more difficulty passing the guard and taking dominant positions than usual. And while St-Pierre was never seriously threatened by a submission attempt, it seemed that he spent a lot of his time focusing on defending what Condit was trying to do.
Then there’s that head kick. Of course the various MMA blogs and writers have acknowledged this, but I get the impression that it gets in the way of the narrative they want to promote. I’ve been reading a lot of things along the lines of “yeah, that kick was a scary moment, but GSP recovered well… and then dominated the rest of the fight!” In case you missed the fight, let me tell you what happened. Condit hit St-Pierre with a head kick to the temple early in the third round. Condit then jumped on the downed St-Pierre, landing a flurry of punches and elbows. It wasn’t just one kick, it was a series of strikes afterwards that threatened to end the fight and award Condit a TKO victory. St-Pierre managed to hold on and recover, but he was seriously close to being finished. It would be hilarious that two judges gave the round to St-Pierre if it wasn’t so depressing.
Overall, St-Pierre had a good performance, but “dominant” is not a word that should be used to describe it. To illustrate this, let’s look at how Fight Metric scored it. I know, I know, Fight Metric is hardly a definitive judge of how fights played out, but it should serve to back up my argument here. Overall, Fight Metric gave St-Pierre 407 points, to 272 for Condit. Of all the Georges St-Pierre fights scored by Fight Metric, only two were scored more closely: St-Pierre’s first fight against Josh Koscheck (154-47) and his first fight against B.J. Penn (233-234).
Perhaps the fight was more competitive than usual because of “ring rust.” After all, St-Pierre did come off of multiple injuries and an 18-month inactive period, so he’s earned a little bit of slack. And perhaps his last fight was more competitive than usual because he got poked in the eyes. All I will say is this: if St-Pierre’s next fight is really going to be against Anderson Silva, I’m picking Silva to win and not thinking twice about it. And that’s coming from somebody who used to give St-Pierre a great chance of winning that fight. That’s because I think the eye pokes, the injuries, and the ring rust are just masking the true reason St-Pierre’s fights are suddenly more competitive (and why he’s getting injured more in the first place): because he’s in decline as a fighter and his best days are behind him.
Of course, Carlos Condit deserves a truckload of credit for fighting to win, staying aggressive, and doing everything he could to beat Georges St-Pierre. I don’t want to dismiss Condit’s role at all here. And again, St-Pierre did win the fight, and did put together a good performance. But those arguing that St-Pierre dominated the fight and fought like his old self are deluding themselves. St-Pierre’s fights are slowly but surely becoming more competitive, and it’s now only a matter of time before the welterweight division catches up to him.