Georges St. Pierre has not yet warmed to the idea of a super fight with Anderson Silva (above). | Josh Hedges/Zuffa/Getty
Yes, Georges St. Pierre, we were impressed with your performance.
Impressed enough to want to see you finally square off with Anderson Silva in an epic pay-per-view blockbuster? Well, maybe not so much, at least if you take the time to really think about it.
After 567 days away from the Octagon, the reigning welterweight king performed as if he had never left. In earning a unanimous decision victory over Carlos Condit at UFC 154, St. Pierre struck for takedowns in each round and opened a cut above the challenger’s eye within the opening five minutes. He landed effective combinations on the feet and survived a harrowing third round in which Condit floored him with a head kick and aggressively pounced for the finish.
Through it all, St. Pierre showed no lingering effects from the torn knee ligament that kept him on the sidelines while a new generation of talented welterweights emerged, eager to challenge one of the sport’s all-time greats upon his return. By reclaiming his place atop the 170-pound division, St. Pierre also kept the torch burning for a long-awaited showdown with the middleweight king, his chief rival when it comes to pound-for-pound accolades.
“It’s the No. 1 best pound-for-pound fighter in the world against the No. 2 best pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” UFC President Dana White told Fox Sports after the bout. “It’s a big fight. We think people want to see it, and we think the guys want to do it, so we’ll do it. They will fight, and it will probably be in May or around May.”
St. Pierre-Silva is the dream matchup that most everyone wants to see. What other bout could just as easily fill a football stadium in the United States as it could a soccer stadium in Brazil? Certainly not a St. Pierre-Johny Hendricks pairing, which would seem to be the next logical step should “Rush” elect to remain at 170 pounds.
Silva-St. Pierre is sexy and alluring; St. Pierre-Hendricks is plain and practical. “The Spider” was a high-profile guest at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday, and the pay-per-view broadcast conveniently included a special Silva cam so fans could simultaneously follow St. Pierre’s actions in the Octagon and the middleweight champion’s reactions outside of it. A post-fight confrontation in the cage between the two icons would have been a perfect way to cap off the night -- had St. Pierre allowed it.
“I know Anderson is here right now,” St-Pierre said during a post-fight interview. “I was focusing on Carlos Condit 100 percent. I need to take some vacation and think about it to see where I put my career. I want to make the best decision for myself and the fans.”
Considering the circumstances, it is hard to blame St. Pierre for having only a lukewarm response to what could turn out to be the biggest fight in promotion history. After five rounds with Condit, St. Pierre looked like he had just emerged from a car accident. Motivation to face arguably the greatest striker in the UFC is understandably difficult to come by after going through such a grueling battle.
When St. Pierre does decide he is ready to fight again, he will be faced with overwhelming pressure to make a super fight with Silva his next endeavor. That is the bout that will draw the most interest and make the most money. Only Silva versus Jon Jones comes close to duplicating that hype, and the Brazilian is much less amenable to the idea of a bout with the light heavyweight champion.
Fighting Silva is clearly the best decision for everyone else, but is it the best choice for St. Pierre? The Tristar Gym representative has said repeatedly that he needs to add more muscle to his frame before he would feel comfortable moving up to face Silva, even at a catchweight. Even then, St. Pierre would struggle to implement his MMA-tailored wrestling against “The Spider.” While the Canadian has technical and accurate standup, he would not be nearly as efficient with his striking against Silva. As great as St. Pierre is -- and he continued to prove it on Saturday -- a fight with Silva does not promise to be especially competitive.
A matchup with Hendricks, who knocked out Martin Kampmann in just 46 seconds in the UFC 154 co-main event, figures to be much more intriguing. A two-time NCAA national champion wrestler at Oklahoma State University, Hendricks has the pedigree necessary to keep St. Pierre from imposing his will. Couple that with the otherworldly power he has in his left hand, and suddenly St. Pierre has someone his own size to pick on.
“It feels great,” Hendricks said after starching Kampmann. “I had to prove I was No. 1 contender. Please, please give me a shot at the belt.”
Scary power and solid wrestling aside, Hendricks may find himself in Chris Weidman territory for the time being. As much as “Bigg Rigg” looks to be a legitimate No. 1 contender, his name does not yet carry the weight necessary to shift the focus away from Silva-St. Pierre.
However, professional sports is not always about big names and star power; sometimes, good old-fashioned competition will suffice, and St. Pierre appears to have plenty of that in his own weight class. Although the scorecards might say otherwise, Condit gave St. Pierre a significant struggle at UFC 154. A pair of 50-45 tallies from the cageside judges would seem to suggest that St. Pierre cruised to victory, but his demeanor, along with his battered countenance, told a different story.
The Condit head kick that had everyone thinking upset for a few fleeting moments? St. Pierre might not get a mulligan if he gives Silva a similar opportunity. Judging by his overall lack of enthusiasm for the bout at the post-fight press conference, perhaps St. Pierre himself recognizes as much.
“[St. Pierre] is lumped up. He’s sore. He feels like he just got hit by a bus, I’m sure. He hasn’t fought in 18 months. I’ll make this [Silva] fight,” said White. “We’re going to sit down with Anderson, probably in the next two weeks, and I’m sure we’re going to sit down and talk to St. Pierre and his team, too. Who knows? Maybe we go into this thing and St. Pierre says, ‘Absolutely not,’ but I just don’t see that happening.”
While the UFC boss hopes to get both parties to come to terms by the spring, he also acknowledged that St. Pierre could fight again before a showdown with the Brazilian. If that is the case, it makes sense for Hendricks to be next in line. If St. Pierre does tell White no on Silva, then Hendricks is that guy anyway.
Maybe we already know how this story will end: St. Pierre jabs the decorated wrestler to death, plants him on his back a few times and cruises to another unanimous decision. Or maybe Hendricks shows a better mix of boxing, wrestling and stamina than his predecessors at 170 pounds and pulls the upset. From here, Hendricks appears talented enough to make it happen.
In the last hyped, cross-divisional pairing, St. Pierre overwhelmed B.J. Penn at UFC 94 in January 2009. He is well aware of how a significant size advantage -- especially when paired with the skill set of someone like himself or Silva -- can alter the course of a fight. If St. Pierre packs on the added weight necessary to face Silva and promptly suffers a traumatic knockout loss, who says he returns to 170 pounds the same fighter he once was?
Somehow, some way, it seems like St. Pierre and Silva will eventually happen. St. Pierre is simply too much of a company man to keeping telling White no, especially when he realizes what kind of effect the fight will have on his bank account. Be careful what you wish for, fight fans. In the case of Silva-St. Pierre, the chase is where the suspense ends.