The Double Leg Breakdown: 04.26.08: George St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva - Who is the Better Fighter?
Posted by Don Nguyen on 04.26.2008
With St. Pierre back on top of the Welterweight division, the debate commences. Who is a better fighter: Newly crowned undisputed UFC Welterweight Champion George "Rush" St. Pierre or current undisputed UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson "the Spider" Silva?
Welcome back to the Double Leg Breakdown. It was another great UFC card last weekend (short of one miserable fight that I hope never to think about again; I'm looking at you Starnes). I was really happy to see Michael Bisping in good form, but man, did he look skinny! I thought the bar where I watched the fight ordered it in 16:9 format but projected it in 4:3 format. Nice to see that he cut the weight right with diet and not just cutting waterweight.
It was also great to see order restored in the universe with GSP vindicating his KO loss to Serra. Up is up again... Black is black. He left nothing to chance this time and showed without a doubt in anyone's mind that while their first fight was not a fluke, it was definitely an isolated incident.
GSP's dominant performance on Saturday cemented his place as the best Welterweight in the world, which leads me to my next question...
GEORGES ST. PIERRE or ANDERSON SILVA: WHO IS THE BETTER FIGHTER?
Let me begin by saying that this is my own personal belief and has no relationship to 411mania's pound for pound ranking. Most P4P rankings will rightfully have Silva at the top. This makes complete sense given Silva's string of decisive wins against formidable opponents and GSP's loss to Serra.
My personal approach to comparing fighters of different weight classes is not the standard approach. In addition to looking at past wins and fight finishes, I like to look at a fighter's skillset and its relationship to MMA. What I look for in a fighter is how he would be able to handle himself in any and all situations and how his skills would allow him to effectively adapt. Ultimately, this is what I find to be most interesting about MMA: a fighter's ability to neutralize an opponent's skill advantage in one area by adapting and taking said fighter out of his element with another skill.
Anderson Silva has looked staggeringly impressive since his debut in the UFC with string of decisive stoppages over some big names in MMA. With few challengers left in the UFC Middleweight division, one must wonder if Silva is in fact the baddest man on the planet.
To me, the definition of the baddest man on the planet is a man would can handle himself in any situation; who will have an answer for any challenge he may face. On my April 12th column, I asserted that Silva would not be able to handle himself against a better striker with good takedown defense and I stand by that. While there are few right now in the UFC who can capitalize on this, I think this is potentially a gaping hole in his game.
St. Pierre has possibly the most well rounded skillset in all of MMA. He has outwrestled the best in Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes. We all forget about St. Pierre's Kyokushin Karate background and how great his striking is since he has not featured this in his most recent bouts. He has also sharpened up his boxing and footwork. His jiu-jitsu? We've only seen half of this since he has not spent much time working off his back in his most recent UFC fights, so this is a questionmark in my mind, but given the excellent submission skills he's shown from the top, his athleticism and how quickly he learns new skills, I have an inkling that he has a very good to excellent guard. With his unbelievable takedown defense, we may never know. What we do know about his jiu-jitsu is that he is fierce in top position. Once he gets the takedown on a fighter, he is constantly pressuring his opponent with strikes and submission attempts until they give. This was the case in his bouts Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, and most recently, Matt Serra.
I think GSP's most ignored but possibly most valuable asset though is his game planning. Leading up to the GSP-Koscheck fight, I just couldn't write Koscheck off because of his impressive resume in wrestling which he has adapted well to MMA. I was sure Koscheck would control the pace of the fight and where it took place and gave him a good chance of winning a decision. As we know, this did not happen. GSP later revealed that he decided early on that his key to winning the fight would be to initiate the takedown himself and put Koscheck on his back explaining Koscheck would likely not be practiced or comfortable here expecting himself to be the one in top position. Brilliant... In the weeks leading up to the bout, the thought hadn't even crossed my mind but he was absolutely right.
So who is the better fighter between the two? It is very close, but in my opinion, the edge goes to St. Pierre. He is truly excellent at all facets of the game, but he does not rely solely on his skills. He studies his opponents and carefully plans his attack accordingly. With his skills and his excellent planning, he can find an answer to any challenge he may face in a fighter. Ultimately I cannot say the same about Silva from what I have seen of him.
With potential matchups in their respective divisions dwindling, I hear more and more chatter about the possibility of a GSP-Silva fight. What a dynamite fight that would be, and not only does it appear to be a possibility, it's looking more and more like a probability. Friends, it's a great time to be an MMA fan.