by Christopher Buell
Recently I was unable to see UFC 129 live, as I was working. The main event featured UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (21-2 MMA, 15-2 UFC) defend his title against Jake Shields (26-4-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC). This fight was very significant, as a win for GSP would have him clean out the welterweight division and potentially set up a super fight with the UFC Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva (28-4 MMA, 13-0 UFC).
The next day when I had the opportunity to read about the big fight, I came across headline after headline like this: UFC 129 RESULTS: Georges St. Pierre defeats Jake Shields in less-than-exciting fight in Toronto, MMA Torch May, 1 or this from The Underground: St. Pierre wins mostly lackluster decision over Shields to defend title.
Over the course of the next few days I would scan my favorite MMA news sites only to learn how this was GSP’s worst performance, how his “risk adverse style” was threatening not only his dominance, but also his title. A narrative was being established that after this fight; that clearly Anderson Silva is pound for pound the best, and some even had dropped GSP to #3 P4P, behind Jose Aldo, the UFC Featherweight champ, who put on a gutsy performance against Canadian Mark Hominick. The bottom line was that GSP does not try to put fighters away, while Anderson Silva finishes in devastating fashion.
Finally when I got a chance to watch the fight, I was amazed at what I saw. The fight was unbelievably action packed, filled with GSP attempting to finish the fight with risky techniques, like the “reverse roundhouse kick.” This kick requires you to build centrifugal force by momentarily exposing your back to your opponent while balanced on one leg. For those who think this is not a fight finishing move, here is the video where GSP first learned it from UFC commentator Joe Rogan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3N5Rnx37O0. Everybody in the room is agreeing how this would be a fight finishing blow if it could be successfully landed.
Articles that were favorable to GSP had headlines like “GSP uses jab to retain title.” Yes GSP used the jab, along with big looping overhand rights that looked like he was throwing a baseball, kick slapping the face of Shields, numerous “Superman” punches including a rarely if ever seen Superman jab, where one literally leaps through the air with a flying punch. Even the jabs were freakish power jabs, that were brilliantly timed to catch Shields as he was moving in; one even put Shields down.
GPS did sustain in injury late in the 3rd that left him blind in one eye. Even with the blindness GSP was digging for the win. The flip side to this is, who is Jake Shields? He’s the Strike force Middle Weight Champ, who is riding one of the longest winning streaks in MMA with 15 wins straight, but more relevant to this is the fact that he just fought one of the heaviest hitters in the sport, Dan Henderson. Henderson dropped several flush bombs square on Shields. Shields was able to absorb the blows and grind out the victory. If Henderson, who is known for knock out power couldn’t put away Shields, why would anyone expect GSP, who’s not known for being a heavy hitter, to be expected to put Shields away?
Looking at the other P4P number one contender is Anderson Silva. When he’s controlling the distance, he makes fighting look effortless. His body is like a fine tuned instrument. Long lean powerful limbs, behind explosive strikes, feints, or anything else he wants. He is by far the most naturally gifted fighter ever. Comparisons to greats like “the Babe Ruth of MMA” do not fully articulate the talent of Silva. He’s the Michelangelo of MMA. Having said that, if one looks at one of his less-than-exciting wins or a lackluster decision on his watch, what you will find is a spoiled brat who would make a Pro Wrestler blush.
For example when Silva fought Demian Maia at UFC 112, it was essentially like watching a walking heavy bag compete in the Olympics. Damian is a world class grappler who had literally Zero in terms of offense to offer Silva. The talent gulf between the two could not be more pronounced, yet instead of finishing Maia, Silva was show boating, running, taunting, limbs were flaying, it was a clinic on antics and buffoonery. If a casual viewer were to tune in for the first time to see the great legend of Anderson Silva fight, he would be forced to come to the conclusion that he was on drugs.
I think an argument can be made that Anderson Silva is the most exciting fighter ever and obviously is worthy of P4P greatness, but the #1 P4P champ, I don’t think so. There are many variables that come into play. Who can impose their will and execute the game plan that was put into motion during training?
Coming into GSP vs. Shields fight, GSP had won 30 straight rounds in a row, meanwhile Silva has been on the receiving end of numerous maulings, yet has always found a way to come back. Who has fought the better competition? If one were to only look at the combined record of the last eight fighters each has competed against, GSP’s rivals had pooled a collective 161-34-2 vs. Silva’s opponents 131-39-1.
But that doesn’t really tell the story either, GSP has beaten B.J. Penn twice, while B.J. was completely dominating the lightweight division. Who is the comparable fighter that Silva fought? John Fitch has dominated everyone that he fought in the middleweight division, except for his recent draw against B.J. there again. GSP dominated him too, and I have to ask who is the John Fitch that Silva fought? Meanwhile Anderson Silva was fed fighters like James Irvin and Patrick Cote, and unbelievable many people thought Patrick was winning that fight too, until a freak accident collapsed his knee.
The next time some fan goes on about how Silva is the P4P champ, the only question one needs to ask is “Why does consistently being good at beating the better competition make one less qualified?”