Occupy The Throne 3.14.13: That Dark Place
Posted by Jeremy Lambert on 03.14.2013
Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz finally clash this weekend! From the pre-fight hype to the now legendary media call and of course, the actual fight, 411's Samer Kadi and Jeremy Lambert explore the bout from all angles!
St. Pierre vs. Diaz
Jeremy Lambert: It's a grudge match over a year in the making. It's the fight Nick Diaz wanted, had, and lost. It's the fight Georges St. Pierre wanted, lost, and now has.
The two were originally scheduled to fight in October 2011, but due to Diaz missing multiple media appearances, he was pulled from the fight and replaced by Carlos Condit. Prior to the event, Georges St. Pierre blew out his ACL, putting him out of action for a year. During that year, Diaz went on to "retire" BJ Penn before losing a close decision to Condit. Following the loss, the Stockton bad boy threw a fit in his post-fight interview and then failed his post-fight drug test for, what else, marijuana.
While Diaz sat on the sidelines due to suspension for a year, "Rush" returned to defeat Condit with a classic performance that reminded fans and fighters just why he's the greatest welterweight of all-time and one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport.
Following St. Pierre's victory, it looked like he was headed for a showdown with clear cut number one contender Johny Hendricks. GSP and the UFC had another idea though. After nearly two years of disparaging remarks, GSP wanted a chance to finally put a beating on Diaz and the UFC had no problem making the fight, because a grudge match between the two biggest stars in the division meant more money than St. Pierre vs. Hendricks.
This Saturday, the talk finally ends. St. Pierre gets his chance to shut up Diaz for the time being while Diaz gets his chance to end the "boring" welterweight run of St. Pierre.
Samer Kadi: It is easily one of the longest running sagas in recent memory. Officially, serious talk of a showdown between UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and the ever polarizing Nick Diaz detonated the moment Zuffa famously announced the acquisition of rival San Jose based promotion Strikeforce. A few months later, Diaz was a UFC fighter once more, and his status as Strikeforce welterweight champion earned him an immediate shot at the biggest star in MMA.
Diaz was seen as the perfect guy to break St-Pierre's outside the cage monotony. If there was ever an anti-hero to antagonize MMA's ultimate baby-face, Diaz was it. One-and-a-half year of never ending drama later, all of this holds true still. A loss to Carlos Condit, a year-long suspension, and the rise of a new deserving challenger may have put Diaz's legitimacy as a number one contender in question, but as we're slowly learning this year, merit takes a backseat to money on the criteria list.
And make no mistake about it, that is why Nick Diaz is in the position he is in. St-Pierre may have the ability to draw against a broomstick, but from both his and the UFC's perspective, why settle for that when he can draw against a whole cannabis field?
Naturally, the UFC is selling the idea that St-Pierre has demanded to fight Nick Diaz because he feels disrespected, but frankly, outside of a relatively tame callout after beating BJ Penn and a few "boring" labels, Diaz has done little that Josh Koscheck, BJ Penn or Matt Serra haven't done before him. St-Pierre is too smart to buy into Diaz's antics, and is not one to demand a fight based on emotion. Ultimately, the reason he initially asked for the fight following Diaz's win over Penn is the same reason he reiterated his desire to square off against the Stockton bad boy: he saw an opportunity to make money.
For those who know better, the "GSP is angry" myth, which has already reached hilarious levels of redundancy, is a disingenuous promotional attempt on the UFC's behalf to bolster PPV buys. In reality however, this doesn't matter. Casual fans will fall for it, and even those who don't will still order a fight pitting the sport's biggest draw against a recognizable name. With the bout taking place in Montreal, the "hero vs. villain" aspect provides the UFC with the perfect narrative for the hometown hero, making this an all-around big business fight for the UFC that will further build up their 2013 momentum.
Jeremy Lambert:Georges St. Pierre really hates Nick Diaz. Don't believe me? Watch the UFC 158 TV ads where GSP hates Diaz so much that he can't even talk. Dana White has to do all his talking for him. That's an extra level of hate right there.
Sure Diaz has been disrespectful towards the champion, but when isn't Diaz disrespectful? He always portrays the villain before the fight, and when the bout is over, as long as he's won, he always raises his opponent's hand and says nice things about him. It's not that Nick is fake, he just doesn't get a lot of credit for knowing how to play "the game" because his attitude rarely changes.
Despite marking up rather easily in fights and possibly lacking self-confidence in the cage, GSP has pretty thick skin. I'm pretty sure that St. Pierre views Diaz as a child. Except usually when a child throws a fit, you just ignore him/her. In this case, GSP is rewarding Diaz with a likely beat down and a lot of money between the two of them. The welterweight champion isn't offended by Diaz, he's happy that someone as outspoken as Diaz has come along because it makes his job easier when it comes to selling the fight and he knows that people have an opinion and care about Diaz because of his antics, meaning more people are likely to pay to watch him fight.
Is Georges upset that Diaz is able to get away with certain things and still be rewarded? Possibly, but he's partially to blame for that. He didn't have to give Nick a title shot following a loss and drug suspension, even if the UFC was pushing for the fight, but he did. And he came up with some assbackwards logic to explain why he did. He also had to expect that Diaz would continue to blow off media appearances, which is the reason he was pulled from the UFC 137 fight, while he did his usual above and beyond media rounds to promote the fight.
Georges St. Pierre might dislike Nick Diaz and how he represents the sport, but he doesn't hate him. Hell, he may even feel bad for him.
Samer Kadi: The incessant talk of St-Pierre's "dark place" has been just that, and funnily enough, the closest we've come to witnessing it came during a frustrated rant about his media duties – a far cry from a room wrapped up with plastic bags, creepy photos, knives, a chainsaw, and a table. The Canadian brings up a good point about the one-sided nature of said duties, but given Diaz's predictable refusal to play ball, this was always going to be the case. One must wonder just what exactly St-Pierre and the UFC expected, as Diaz has never been the most cooperative or reliable person. Losing a previous title shot for that very reason was hardly going to change matters either, as learning from mistakes isn't exactly Diaz's forte.
To both fighters' credit, they delivered a rather memorable conference call that made up for the forced narratives the UFC tried to feed its audience. Diaz was his usual incoherent rambling self, but his rants absolutely served their purpose. If nothing else, Diaz seems to mean what he says, which is a refreshing trait in a sport with increasingly inauthentic personalities. Of course, very little of what he says actually makes sense, and taking offense to an opponent claiming he deserves to be "beat down" seems odd in a sport where beat-downs are part of the job description, but such reactions are exactly why Diaz is in this spot.
For his part, St-Pierre was uncharacteristically animated, and actually got the better of the back-and-forth between the two. If the UFC were looking for a GSP fight that goes beyond proving who the better fighter is, last week's conference call may have succeeded in selling that idea, however inaccurate it may be.
Jeremy Lambert: Last week's conference should've been eye opening to the UFC. Instead of having fighters do any media, they should just save everything up until the conference call and press conference, because Diaz had some gems come out of his mouth that probably wouldn't have been as special had they been heard 100 times before.
Joking aside, last week's media call furthers my point of "GSP finds Diaz disrespectful." Aside from his weak and forced, "I was not impressed by your performance" following Matt Hughes' victory over BJ Penn (which he apologized for literally 5 seconds later), St. Pierre has always been respectful towards his opponents and the sport. During the media call, you could hear GSP's frustration with Diaz when he was interrupting him, talking about being pampered, and mentioning that soccer moms hate him. For all the talk of "Diaz is under Georges' skin," it was actually GSP who got under the skin of Diaz when he brought up his poor English skills.
The conference call helped fuel the fire between the two, and I'm sure the press conference and weigh-in staredown will add more intensity, but while some will claim that St. Pierre is emotional and not following his usual "MMA code" by allowing his dark passenger to get the better of him, we all know that isn't the case. Once the cage door closes on Saturday, the unflappable champion won't break from his usual "riddum," despite the best pre-fight, and in all likelihood mid-fight, antics from the challenger. St. Pierre won't take any unnecessary risks in the cage. He may fight with more intensity (ala the second BJ Penn fight), but that doesn't mean he'll put himself in any danger against a well-rounded and well-conditioned opponent. In fact, if St. Pierre replicates his UFC 94 performance, would that necessarily be a bad thing?
Samer Kadi: Stylistically, if there was ever an opponent for St-Pierre to follow his blueprint game plan against, it's Nick Diaz. Despite Diaz's reach, he's never been one to fight on the outside for any significant stretch. Diaz is at his vintage best when he puts his opponent on the back foot, cuts off the cage, and tees off with combinations from that mid-to-close distance. He will look to move forward, chances are you'll hear the term "peppering shots," and throw plenty of combinations. He overwhelms opponents with sheer volume and works the body better than just about anyone in the division. He sets up his trademark left to the body with a lead right hook, with the former being his best shot at a stoppage. Diaz's iron chin means his defensive deficiencies, highlighted by a flat-footed stance and a lack of head movement are often masked by his ability to absorb a punch in order to dish out many of his own.
Against someone like St-Pierre, none of this sounds too viable. The Canadian's title reign has been nothing but tactically astute performances where he exposes his opponents' weaknesses like no other, and at times takes them on at their own strengths. On the feet, Diaz's style could well be negated by St-Pierre's footwork, great sense of distancing highlighted by a brilliant jab, and the threat of the takedown.
To Diaz's credit, the fear of being taken down is almost non-existent in his approach, and he rarely holds back on the feet. This is facilitated by his complete comfort in fighting off of his back, which is highlighted by an extremely active guard. That however, could exactly be Diaz's undoing. That very same fearless approach only makes the inevitable St-Pierre double leg all the more easy, as Diaz's lack of urgency to regain his feet and reliance on submission attempts mean the Stockton native will likely be spending a frustrating night on his back.
St-Pierre's grappling game is designed to stifle active guards, and he is far too imposing on top for Diaz to get much going. With the kind of top game the welterweight champion possesses, creating scrambles and more importantly, coming out on top in said scrambles will be a tall order. Conversely, unless Diaz gets too trigger happy with lost cause triangle attempts from the bottom that "Rush" could just shrug off and improve his position off of, St-Pierre won't be having an easy time passing the challenger's guard. However, he should be more than comfortable staying in full guard and rain down short elbows while looking to cut Diaz up given his history of marking up and showing battle damage. Moreover, St-Pierre would be wise to stand up in guard and drop punches over the top, similar to his fight with BJ Penn, or Ben Henderson's recent victorious effort over the other half of the Diaz brothers.
Diaz's chances are not exactly inexistent, as he possesses the sort of dynamism to end the fight with a flurry against the cage, a well-placed left to the liver, or a submission from the bottom. Likewise, it is not inconceivable for him to tap out St-Pierre should he take his back after rocking him on the feet. However, in the case of a submission from the bottom, St-Pierre would have to commit an uncharacteristically catastrophic error. Meanwhile, on the feet, Diaz would have to overwhelm him with a combination without getting taken down in the process, as he lacks the sort of one punch power that will end the champion's night then and there.
Ultimately, for all the talk of anger, dark places, and disrespect, St-Pierre is too smart to risk a legendary title reign against an opponent he has little chance of finishing (outside of a potential cut stoppage) to begin with. Diaz's chin, durability, and grappling acumen cannot be overlooked, and it will be fruitless for St-Pierre to be any more aggressive than he normally is. He isn't one to throw any combinations beyond doubling up on his jab or following it with a right cross, and great as his top game is, it likely won't be sufficient to dust off Diaz.
The challenger may have his moments, and his cardio means he won't completely shut down in the tail end of the fight, but from a stylistic perspective, all the required elements for the usual St-Pierre 50-45 cruise are present. Look for the greatest welterweight of all-time to notch another win over an elite fighter, and with it, another wave of criticism for failure to finish.
Jeremy Lambert: If I had to design a perfect opponent to end St. Pierre's reign, it would not be Nick Diaz. Even though Diaz's striking style can give a lot of fighters trouble, most of those fighters don't understand distance and movement the way St. Pierre does. Carlos Condit, a fighter known for standing in front of guys and trading strikes, was able to baffle Diaz with his movement, so just imagine how many F-bombs will come out of Nick's mouth as St. Pierre works circles around him.
Unlike Condit though, St. Pierre has his wrestling game to fall back on, and when it comes to wrestling in MMA, there are none better than the welterweight champion. Whether it's correctly timing the takedown as Diaz stalks forward, using his strikes and then changing levels, or just exploding forward, if GSP wants to plant Diaz on his back, he will. And while Diaz is extremely active off his back, St. Pierre's posture and striking activity, along with his knowledge of defense, make him nearly impossible to submit.
This fight has a lot of hype going in because of the two personalities involved, and the UFC can sell "GSP's Dark Place" all they want, but we're looking at a vintage title defense from the champion, further cementing himself as one of the greatest of all-time.
UFC 158 PREVIEW
411's Samer Kadi joins the Man Cave to preview UFC 158: St. Pierre vs. Diaz. As with any GSP fight, you can expect top-notch analysis and a lot of man love for his fellow Canadian, and this podcast is no exception. We'll talk about the fight in detail and I'll almost make a bold prediction before backing off. Then we'll discuss the rest of the card, which isn't very good besides the co-main event. You can check out the show at this link, or via the player below…