Thoughts From Across The Pond 03.16.13: Where You At, Georges?!
Posted by Alex Watt on 03.16.2013
After almost two years of waiting, Georges St. Pierre will defend the Welterweight title against Nick Diaz at UFC 158! 411's Alex Watt takes a closer look in his in-depth preview! Plus thoughts on Curt Warburton's BAMMA 12 win and more!
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Where You At, Georges?!
Tonight at UFC 158 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada the UFC Welterweight Championship will be up for grabs, in a fight almost two years in the making.
Astoundingly, it has been fifteen months since Nick Diaz infamously screamed, "where you at Georges? Where you at, you motherf***er?" down the camera lens at UFC 137. Following his comprehensive battering of the legendary BJ Penn, Diaz took to the mic to proclaim that, "I don't think Georges is hurt. I think he's scared," as Georges St. Pierre, nursing a knee injury, looked on from Octagon-side.
Since that evening, a convoluted sequence of events has unfolded. GSP vs. Diaz was booked, then cancelled due to St. Pierre aggravating his knee injury and tearing his ACL. Instead, Diaz faced - and lost to - Carlos Condit at UFC 143 in February 2012. Some felt that the judging decision in that fight was a controversial one, but it mattered little when Diaz was discovered to have failed his post-fight drug test for marijuana metabolites. A year-long suspension followed for Diaz, during which time St. Pierre returned and comprehensively defeated Condit. After that win, many wondered if GSP would accept the much discussed super-fight against pound for pound king Anderson Silva, but instead he opted to face Diaz, a man with whom he has unfinished business.
The build up to this weekend's main event has been memorable; discussions of GSP's "darkplace", Diaz declaring himself "the superhero of anti-bulls***", a legendary conference call and a pre-fight press conference which was only marginally less entertaining, Dana White's tale of how Diaz chased St. Pierre around a Vegas hotel post-UFC 137, and a whole lot more. However, if you'll allow the cliché, on Saturday night both men will have to do their talking inside the Octagon.
Georges St. Pierre (23-2) enters this fight as the undisputed favourite, and rightly so. Not only will he once again be fighting with the hometown advantage, he also stands as the best welterweight fighter in MMA history. Were it not for the peerless Anderson Silva, GSP would surely be considered the finest Mixed Martial Artist to ever compete in the sport. The Canadian hero will be aiming to make his eighth defence of the 170lbs title he wrested back from Matt Serra in 2008.
During his 2007-2011 period outside of the UFC, Nick Diaz (26-8, 1NC) racked up an impressive record of 11-1, 1NC. Evolving into one of the most talented fighters competing outside of the Octagon, Diaz became a mainstay of pound for pound lists and captured the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship in impressive fashion, defending the belt three times before vacating it when he re-signed with the UFC.
For years, fans and pundits clamoured for a dream fight between GSP and Diaz; two of the best welterweights in the sport. It may have come under strange circumstances – Diaz coming off a loss is far from ideal – but finally we will see the two 170lbs stars face off inside the Octagon in 2013.
Many will be anticipating a St. Pierre wrestling clinic this evening. In some ways, that seems like the best strategy to defeat Diaz. The controversial challenger has often struggled with wrestling savvy fighters in the past, offering little in the way of resistance to takedowns. Against the best wrestler in MMA, that doesn't bode well for him. Nonetheless, it should be noted that we haven't seen Diaz face a fighter with a true wrestling background in over six years. For all we know, he could have made significant strides in his sprawl.
In addition, Diaz's ground game has reached the point where he has to be considered one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the UFC. If and when St. Pierre does opt to take the fight to the ground, he will have to remain wary of Diaz's extremely active guard. We saw just how quickly Diaz can latch on a fight winning submission in his gogoplata win (later changed to a no contest after Diaz's first drug test failure for marijuana) over Takanori Gomi in PRIDE and his slick armbar finish against Evangelista Santos in Strikeforce.
Of course, it should go without saying that Gomi and Santos are nowhere near the level of Georges St. Pierre. "Rush" has never had a problem with an opponent's active guard because his top game is so controlling and imposing. St. Pierre is adept at stifling submission attacks, whilst constantly advancing his position and landing damage. He will have a tough time passing the talented guard of Diaz, however, and he will be careful not to advance position too rapidly in case Diaz sweeps him. More likely, GSP will be content to sit in Diaz's guard and land frequent punches and elbows on the challenger, who has a history of facial lacerations.
On the feet, this should be an equally compelling contest. Diaz's boxing skills are rightly considered to be amongst the best in Mixed Martial Arts and he will be keen to test the chin of St. Pierre, who looked vulnerable for the briefest of moments in his win over Condit in November, as a clever head kick sent the Canadian crashing to the canvas. It should not be forgotten, however, that "Rush" remains one of the most dynamic strikers in the UFC. GSP may not be as explosive as he was in his early UFC days, when his concussive head kicks found their mark on many a welterweight, but his fists still dropped Jon Fitch to the mat twice and broke Josh Koscheck's orbital bone in two of his most impressive title defences of recent years.
In the eyes of many, Carlos Condit created a fairly significant blueprint for how to defeat Nick Diaz on the feet, in his victory over the Californian at UFC 143. By employing clever footwork, a healthy dose of leg kicks and effective counter-striking, Condit was able to out-point the dangerous Diaz, who thrives in striking battles where he can convince his opponent to stand in the pocket and trade. It would not be a surprise to see the return of the GSP jab, which infamously mutilated Josh Koscheck's eye at UFC 124, as a way of keeping Diaz on the outside.
Nick Diaz, for his part, will not be afraid to eat St. Pierre's punches if it gives him the opportunity to move in close on the Canadian. The highly durable Diaz has an uncanny knack of cornering his opponents, especially impressive when you consider the layout of the Octagon, and landing his boxing combinations at will. St. Pierre will be wary of this and will look to keep his back away from the cage. It will be up to Diaz to force the champion into competing in this area, where he can land his rapid head and body punches at will. Diaz has time and again overwhelmed his opponents with a frightening volume of punches and the accuracy of his effective body punches, in particular, may offer Diaz his best shot at victory. Diaz will not be afraid to open up, he never is, but this could leave him vulnerable to a St. Pierre counter takedown.
Unlike many of St. Pierre's opponents who begin to fade in the fourth and fifth rounds due to the relentless pressure of the Canadian, Diaz will not tire. Even if GSP is able to take Diaz down consistently for five rounds and keep him there, the Stockton native will remain dangerous throughout, thanks to his incredible cardiovascular conditioning, honed by years of triathlon training.
For all the talk of how Diaz has gotten under St. Pierre's skin, it seems unlikely that it will have much effect on GSP's performance inside the Octagon. As he has noted in interviews since that conference call, in which he appeared to lose his temper with the vocal Californian, almost every fighter he has faced in the UFC has tried to rile him up by making derogatory comments. No matter what is said about or to the UFC's 170lbs champ, St. Pierre never gets rattled, nor deviates from his gameplan. He is one of the best in the sport at remaining composed and executing a strategy to a tee, come fight night.
Diaz will naturally do his best during the fight to knock GSP off his rhythm. You can expect a lot of in-fight trash talk from Diaz, as well as numerous middle finger salutes, but it is tough to foresee a scenario in which this riles St. Pierre up to the point where he makes a catastrophic, title losing error.
The Verdict: Anyone completely writing Nick Diaz off in this fight would be foolish. His boxing, in particular, has the potential to give St. Pierre some real trouble, as long as he is able to close the distance and doesn't allow the Canadian to dominate the contest with his jab. Unfortunately for Diaz, he relies heavily on landing his combinations and lacks the kind of one punch power which could seriously hurt and finish St. Pierre. There is little doubt that Diaz will land a significant amount of punches, but he will be unable to truly open up with his boxing as "Rush" will immediately counter with a takedown if he finds his back, quite literally, against the wall. Despite Diaz's active jiu-jitsu skills, GSP will be heavily favoured on the mat, thanks to his stifling wrestling skills and imposing top game. You also can't help but feel that the 13 month layoff will affect Diaz come fight night too. Diaz will make the fight compelling viewing, and will have moments of success along the way, but all signs seem to point towards this being another dominant 50-45 win for the defending champion, Georges St. Pierre.
UFC 158 Main Card Picks: St. Pierre, Condit, Ellenberger, Ring, Fletcher.
UFC 158 Bonus Predictions: KO: Daron Cruickshank. Submission: Rick Story. Fight: Cruickshank vs. Makdessi.
BAMMA: Warburton and Sinclair on a Collision Course
Photo courtesy of Duo Photo
"I hope to fight for the world title and unify the belts because I'm game for it. I'm back in the gym next week so whenever BAMMA want me, I will be ready." - Curt Warburton
Last Saturday I, alongside 411 MMA colleagues Jon Butterfield and Stewart Lange, had the pleasure of attending the highly entertaining BAMMA 12 event in Newcastle, England.
Jim Wallhead, Max Nunes, Ryan Scope and Leeroy Barnes all impressed in victory, but the biggest moment of the night was reserved for former UFC fighter Curt Warburton as he ripped the BAMMA Lonsdale British Lightweight Championship from the clutches of Steven Ray in front of a raucous hometown crowd.
The crowd noise in the Metro Arena was impressive throughout the evening – the sight of a particularly excited fan vaulting the crowd barrier and landing flat on his face as he cheered on Scott Askham springs to mind, for instance – and the noise peaked during the British title fight.
Warburton, from County Durham, was competing in the North East for the first time since 2009 and the Geordie fighter received a hero's welcome from the Newcastle crowd. Ray, as the outsider, was naturally booed and jeered vociferously and the atmosphere created in the arena was something to behold.
Warburton showed his experience by dominating the first round using his grappling skills, but he struggled in the second stanza against the ever-improving Ray. "The War" had his back taken for much of that round and was forced to gut through a couple of rear naked choke attempts from the defending champ.
With the scores level going into the final round, whoever got the first takedown would likely emerge the victor. Ray did his best to secure a double-leg, but Warburton defended and ultimately got a trip takedown of his own. From there, "The War" controlled "Braveheart", landing numerous punches and elbows from top position to deservedly secure a comprehensive unanimous decision of 29-28 scores across the board.
With no disrespect to the talented Steven Ray, who put forth a great performance in this losing effort, a Curt Warburton win was clearly what the BAMMA brass were hoping for. It sets up a potentially huge UK MMA, champion versus champion showdown between Warburton and BAMMA World Lightweight Champion Rob Sinclair.
"C4" defeated former UFC lightweight Andre Winner in the most recent defence of his BAMMA World title and a main event against another former UFC man in Warburton benefits him and the company.
You can expect the build up to that fight to be compelling too. The two men were meant to meet in the cage last Saturday, before Sinclair was forced to withdraw due to injury. Sinclair is a vocal competitor, and Warburton did not take too kindly to some harsh words said by Sinclair in the press. "C4" added fuel to the fire by allegedly visiting Warburton's dressing room just moments before Curt's British title challenge, something which Warburton is convinced was designed to psyche him out.
As a future BAMMA main event, this could be a classic, and would be a perfect fight to broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK, if the company gets the opportunity.
The only shame is that we'll have to wait until the end of the year, once Sinclair is fully healed up, to see it.
UK readers can still watch highlights from BAMMA 12 on 5 on Demand.
Pound for Pound Rankings
No. 2 pound for pound fighter Georges St. Pierre defends his UFC Welterweight title and status as one of the best in the sport against former top 15-er Nick Diaz this weekend. Also in action tomorrow night is No. 11 ranked Carlos Condit against top welterweight Johny Hendricks. How will these fights shake up the state of the rankings of the best fighters in the sport? Find out next week.
1. Anderson Silva (33-4)
2. Georges St. Pierre (23-2)
3. Jon Jones (17-1)
4. José Aldo (22-1)
5. Benson Henderson (18-2)
6. Cain Velasquez (11-1)
7. Ronda Rousey (7-0)
8. Demetrious Johnson (16-2-1)
9. Frankie Edgar (14-4-1)
10. Renan Barão (30-1, 1NC)
11. Carlos Condit (28-6)
12. Gilbert Melendez (21-2)
13. Lyoto Machida (19-3)
14. Junior Dos Santos (15-2)
15. Joseph Benavidez (17-3)
And that'll do it for another week.
I'll be back next week with my thoughts on UFC 158 and more.
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