It was just a week ago today that George St-Pierre defended his UFC Welterweight championship for the 8th time; the 170 pounder destroying the ungracious Nick Diaz in five straight rounds (50-45, 50-45, 50-45). Every time a challenger has attempted to unseat the Canadian he has repelled them with his domineering combination of striking, wrestling and ground & pound. In his most recent outing GSP defeated Diaz exchanging standing strikes - a fighter normally distinguished for his destructive boxing technique - and his excellent takedown ability allowed him to control the fight throughout. With this victory GSP defeated yet another #1 contender for his belt and once again demonstrated the stranglehold he has over the weight division - in 1 months time he will have held the championship for 5 years. This dominance of a weight class is not limited to the Welterweight division however. Anderson Silva has reigned supreme as the Middleweight champion for over 2000 days and even the 25 year old youngster Jon Jones has been Light Heavyweight champion for 2 years. Therefore, the 3 central weight divisions of the UFC (ranging from 170 to 205lbs) are being utterly domineered by 3 men. Even within the Heavyweight division Cain Velasquez is 1/6 favorite to win his next fight against Bigfoot Silva. Everyone had expected this fight to feature former pro-kick boxer Alistair Overeem but he threw away his title shot due to his underestimation of Bigfoot having dominating rounds 1 and 2 before being knocked out in the 3rd owing to his refusal to guard his chin:
At this moment in time all 3 of these men seem in no threat of losing their titles. As a solution to this stagnation, the UFC's president Dana White has proposed a series of catch-weight fights; first GSP vs Anderson Silva followed by Slva vs Jon Jones. Clearly these so called Super Fights offer a lot to be excited about. Watching the wrestling prowess of GSP go against Silva's masterful strikes from the clinch would be captivating. HOWEVER while (if they go ahead) these fights will be ridiculously entertaining for every and any fan of the sport, they still do not offer a solution to the stagnation of competition within the Welterweight, Middleweight and Light Heavyweight classes.
Jon Jones' potent versatility of strikes combined with his youth will surely see him retain his title.
Next to consider is Anderson Silva; certainly the most dominant champion in UFC history and considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Despite his illustrious career he is not far off being 40 and so fans have to start contemplating the fact that his dominance as Middleweight champion will not last forever. However, has Silva started to show his age? The folks at AP say hell no. Silva has - since 2010 - categorically defeated his challengers in the first 2 rounds. Moreover the variety of ways in which he has finished his fights certifies just how dangerous the Brazilian is, capable of winning by submission, TKOs and KOs alike (my favorite description of a Silva win is against TUF winner Travis Lutter - 'Submission (triangle choke with elbows to the head)'). Silva's laser-guided striking, Muay Thai skills and mastery of Jiu-Jitsu will - in AP's opinion - keep his title for the time being and see him past next challenger Chris Weidman. Indeed despite his unbeaten record Weidman has never fought anyone close to Silva's calibre this fight will surely only end with Silva's hand raised high.
The Spider very much still has it. The best highlight reel in MMA.
Last to consider is the fighter who inspired this post - GSP. Despite his dominant performance over Diaz being the fight which inspired all this, it seems clear to the Amateur Prophet that of the 'big 3' he will be the first to lose his belt. It's almost sad thinking about GSP's fall from the top because he is such a nice guy and very much a credit to his sport - despite all the trash Diaz had talked about the Canadian, after the fight GSP still went over and raised his rival's hand. For his last 6 fights GSP has failed to put his opponents away, leaving his fate in the hands of the judges. For one this strategy is ill-advised as UFC judges are notorious for their controversial and at times outright stupid decisions. One of Dana's catchphrases to up-and-coming fighter is 'don't leave it in the hands of the judges' - clearly the welterweight does not heed this advice. Also, despite his superb cardio and conditioning, as GSP gets older this tendency towards going 5 rounds when defending his title will become increasingly difficult with his deteriorating speed and fitness, especially given his strategy of smothering his opponents with relentless pressure. Although he made short work of Diaz I feel like GSP's next opponent Johny Hendricks will present a great challenge to him. Not only will Hendricks' college level NCAA wrestling help counteract GSP's relentless takedowns but his heavy hands give him the ability to end the fight at any moment, much like when Matt Serra ended GSP'S first (far shorter) title reign .
To anticipate GSP losing his belt isn't taking anything away from him at all. He is one of the most complete, well-rounded fighters to enter the octagon and - despite what I've said here - I would love to see him beat Hendricks.
Think GSP will destroy Hendricks?! Think Anderson Silva will be first to lose his belt?! Who would win in the hypothetical Super Fights? Let me know in a comment!