GSP: an acronym for a man (Georges St-Pierre) with a list of achievements so impressive that he is all but guaranteed an induction to the UFC Hall of Fame.
He’s a pound-for-pound great, with six consecutive welterweight title defenses and victories over some of the best fighters the sport has ever known: such as Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields.
If all of that is not enough, he is a PPV sensation and easily one of the top three draws for the UFC; so much so that with his rise has come millions of fans—many from his home country of Canada.
The UFC plans to hold three shows in Canada in 2012, and a great deal of this is thanks to GSP and his legions of devoted followers.
But as befitting any superstar, he has legions of detractors who all seem to claim but a single thing.
That is, that GSP is no longer the fighter he once was, and that this man who wears the belt is nothing but a faded shadow of his former self—a pretender who fights not to win, but not to lose.
In short, they claim he is a fraud.
Of course, that is a dramatic way of putting it, and even his staunchest critics would be hesitant to be so blunt.
When GSP made his way up the ranks, you would have been hard pressed to find another fighter in the welterweight division who was so explosive and dynamic. He went out hard, and it seemed that openings appeared for him almost magically.
And he took advantage of those openings, and the results were stoppages usually so one-sided that it almost looked as if his opponents did not belong in the cage with him.
Then, after finally claiming that coveted belt (and let’s be honest, all fighters covet the belt), it looked like no one possessed the tools to beat him.
All that changed after Matt Serra, playing the huge underdog, knocked GSP from pillar to post, raining down punches on his head and face until the fight was called.
Of course, we all know he bounced back, but no one will debate he was a different man, and thus a different fighter.
A knockout loss is psychologically devastating for many fighters. In MMA, tapping out due to a submission is one thing, but being knocked out is quite another.
A submission is a testimony to the mental aspect of the game, much like chess. There is really no shame to be found by losing this way, because it is not so much about the man who lost as it is about the man who won.
It is the winner's achievement, not the losers mistake, that is raised high. Frank Mir will forever be remembered as the man who broke Nogueira’s arm, but no one will ever think less of Nogueira or what he accomplished.
Being knocked out seems to be the exact opposite.
A bad knockout loss seems to forever be attached to a fighters name, because a knockout is forced upon someone. It speaks to the most brutal aspects of the fight game.
You didn’t lose, you got knocked out.
Since he regained his title, GSP has employed a kind of defense-first style that relies on his incredible grappling game, stifling his opponents and maintaining as much control as he can in what is an uncontrollable situation.
The cost has been great: He has not finished a fight since he defeated BJ Penn at UFC 94.
We all know GSP has the ability to finish fights. He has power in his strikes, a highly underrated submission game and the rare ability to control where the fight ends up.
But none of those things are an end unto themselves. He must make the conscious decision to go about the business of ending fights and taking the risks that come with it.
Until he does, he and his fans (of which I am one, to be sure) must be ready for the backlash that comes with fighting conservatively.
Perhaps GSP would be better served by simply acknowledging the fact that he is taking a great risk every time he steps into the cage. By playing it safe, he only gives his opponents more time to end his reign.
It’s a lesson he should know well by now. It took Matt Serra less then 90 seconds to finish their fight once that first punch had been landed; giving an opponent 25 minutes to accomplish the same aim is a gift.
In the theater, epic dramas and long, drawn-out sagas of daring and danger are a benchmark of both writers and actors.
But in the UFC, where the drama is found in the danger and the blood is so very real, GSP might want to revisit an old classic: that of a young fighter who was quick to tear through the competition with a passion that was in stark contrast to his kind nature and amiable smile.
His name was Georges St-Pierre, and he was no actor nor fraud.
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