Georges St. Pierre remains one of the UFC’s top draws at the box office. | Photo: Brian Townsend/Sherdog.com
The Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday will play host to another major Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view. This will be the third time that MMA’s most famous Canadian, Georges St. Pierre, will fight at the venue with UFC gold on the line, as the 31-year-old headlines UFC 154 in a five-round unification bout with interim champion Carlos Condit.
How We Got Here: Like every other 2012 pay-per-view, injuries played a large role in how we arrived at UFC 154. Condit defeated Nick Diaz at UFC 143 in February, winning a shiny, gold I-get-GSP-next interim belt. The usually durable St. Pierre spent the last year rehabbing a torn knee ligament that required reconstructive surgery ... Martin Kampmann went on a series of comeback victories, putting him back in the spotlight in the co-main event. Johny Hendricks is on a four-fight winning streak, including back-to-back wins over the American Kickboxing Academy’s best welterweights, Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: If St. Pierre pulls out a win, it must be recognized as a serious accomplishment. The Tristar Gym product has consistently delivered, making the extraordinary look ordinary in the eyes of many fans. The Canadian faces a 19-month layoff coming off knee reconstruction surgery against a fighter that has won 13 of his last 14 bouts, with 11 stoppages against some of the best fighters in the division. St. Pierre is still a -350 favorite. What other fighter can face these kinds of obstacles and still have Las Vegas assume he is going to steamroll whoever is in front of him?
Say What: With St. Pierre returning from major surgery and an extended layoff, a Condit victory might be brushed aside by the masses. They could elect to point to the circumstances surrounding the champion’s first appearance since a unanimous decision over Jake Shields in April 2011. Condit recognizes the possibility. “It depends on the manner in which I win,” he told the SiriusXM Fight Club. “If Georges comes out and he doesn’t look like himself -- he’s slow, he’s sluggish, he’s not bringing the same athleticism -- then I think that might be the talk afterwards. But I highly doubt that is going to be the case. From all accounts, Georges is back [at] 100 percent. There [are] always going to be people that talk. Basically, I’m just focused on winning. Either way, I have to win this fight.”
Useless Facts: St. Pierre is undefeated in his home country, going a perfect 9-0 in the Great White North. Condit works great when using a passport, posting a 6-1 mark in other countries. Someone find out what airline he chooses.
Watchful Eye: One fighter watching the main event and co-main event closely is Tristar Gym standout Rory MacDonald. The surging welterweight has already been crowned as the future of the division by many pundits. He has consistently said he will not fight a teammate and friend in St. Pierre, but his stance has slowly altered over the course of the last year. A win over B.J. Penn at UFC on Fox 5 in December could lead to an all-Tristar Gym championship fight in the future. Like UFC President Dana White said, one gander at GSP’s bank account could change the tune of the most devoted teammate.
Take Two: The UFC would love to get a mulligan for 2012. Injury after injury has ravaged fight cards all year resulting in sagging pay-per-view numbers, lackluster fight nights and even the first cancellation of a UFC event during the Zuffa era. We are not even counting two Strikeforce shows getting the axe. This year was supposed to serve as the honeymoon phase for the UFC, Fox and their seven-year broadcasting deal. Instead, injuries and growing pains highlighted the last 11 months, as the UFC learned to drive the new Ferrari that is a network television deal. UFC 154 can help turn this around. St. Pierre is one of the UFC’s biggest draws, and his return may be the proverbial kick in the butt the promotion needs. December brings with it the best UFC on Fox card to date in Seattle, and UFC 155 may be the best event of the year. In 2013, Jose Aldo-Frankie Edgar and Dan Henderson-Lyoto Machida will go down on Super Bowl weekend, while “The Ultimate Fighter” moves away from its Friday night dead zone of a time slot and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones gets his chance to silence Chael Sonnen in April. There is a lot to look forward to for fight fans, provided no one gets injured. To that end, White should mandate that every fighter be wrapped in bubble paper until fight night.
On Deck: What is better than watching two of the best welterweights in the world battle it out for our entertainment and a shiny gold belt representing their status as king of the 170 pound mountain? Finding out who gets winner first, of course. Hendricks and his beard take on Kampmann in the co-main event, with the winner clearly emerging as the No. 1 contender in the division and all but guaranteed a title shot -- unless, other factors come into play.
Looming Figure: While Anderson Silva has made it clear he has no intention of moving up in weight to challenge Jones in a super fight, he has also made it clear that he would be more than happy to meet St. Pierre in a champion-versus-champion showdown. See, the man is flexible. White indicated that the Brazilian will be on location to challenge St. Pierre should he defeat Condit. GSP has largely dodged the idea of a super fight against Silva, but White wants to make the bout happen and seems willing to put his welterweight champion on the spot in order to do so. While we may get a non-committal response from St. Pierre if “The Spider” challenges him in person, one can only imagine the look on Silva’s face if St. Pierre were to respond with, “Yes, Anderson, I will fight you ... after you fight Jon Jones.”
What About Me: Condit could become a forgotten middle child should such hypotheticals begin to unfold. Talk may center on St. Pierre and where he goes next, but Condit is no slouch, and if he wins, the future will be equally bright. There would be a lot of exciting fights available to a victorious Condit, including the Kampmann-Hendricks winner and rematches with MacDonald and GSP. Plus, a host of top welterweights could be a fight or two away from contention.
Awards Watch: Watch Mark Hominick and Pablo Garza for “Fight of the Night” and possibly “Submission of the Night” or “Knockout of the Night.” Both fighters employ exciting styles and are coming off losses. They have to do something to make the boss happy ... Hendricks is more than capable of sending the stoutest of chins spinning around like Daffy Duck’s beak in a Warner Bros. cartoon, and, as he showed against Thiago Alves, Kampmann is more than capable of stealing a fight with a submission in the waning minutes.