Georges St. Pierre fires his piston-like jab and transitions seamlessly into a powerfully executed leg kick. Both attempted strikes hit their mark.
B.J. Penn, arguably one of the best mixed martial artists of all-time. The seemingly effortless combination was foreshadowing how dominant GSP’s performance would be in the two combatants heavily anticipated rematch.
Marketed as the UFC’s biggest bout ever and quite possibly the most relevant fight in the short history of the sport, there was more than just the welterweight title up for grabs. Both champions were fighting to strengthen their legacy and continue their paths towards MMA’s pound-for-pound supremacy.
In what was supposed to be an epic , back and forth, tug-of-war battle, ended up being a one sided showcase of GSP’s skill and athleticism. After a four-round war that saw GSP completely overwhelm Penn with crisp striking, powerful wrestling, and brutal ground-and-pound, GSP may already have a legitimate claim as the world’s best fighter.
But, before the bout, both critics and Penn alike openly questioned GSP’s heart. Those questions were answered emphatically when GSP pounded the cage after a dominant and fight ending, fourth round, rubbing his toughness and sheer will in the faces of his former detractors. Criticisms regarding his striking were quelled with a plethora of landed jabs, straight rights, and arsenal of kicks.
Though there was never any doubt about his conditioning or motivation, the welterweight kingpin entered the octagon in phenomenal shape and kept a frantic pace for all four rounds, solidifying himself as well rounded a fighter as there is.
As a mixed martial artist, GSP is the culmination of a perfect fusion between mind-blowing athleticism and a variety of finely tuned fighting disciplines. Unlike so many failed athletes with the same potential, the Michael Vick’s and Kwame Brown’s who awed us with their potential, but wounded us with their disappointing failures, GSP has continually improved with each fight.
Wasted potential and failed expectations are never so glaring as seen with professional athletes. When you’re a once-in-a-life-time athlete, the expectations can’t get higher. Very few are able to meet those unreasonable levels of hype. But, the ones that do, they are the revolutionaries.
These are athletes that transcend sport and time; immortals, continuously living through the greatness of their accomplishments and the fond memories of their fans. With his career defining and legacy cementing performance, GSP has positioned himself as the first iconic figure in the sport of MMA.
While the climb to the top of the division was a challenging one, GSP will face further difficulties solidifying and maintaining his stranglehold on the sports top spot. In order to do that, it will be imperative for him to continue his marked improvement.
What does that mean?
It means he needs to develop a more effective finishing method. Though he managed to stop Penn, GSP’s propensity for allowing opponents to stick around is cause for major concern. The longer a challenger with knockout power or slick submissions is able to get comfortable, the bigger the chance for an upset becomes.
Against top contenders like Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, GSP simply could not finish them. If GSP allows fighters like Thiago Alves and Anderson Silva to find their range, it’s just a matter of time before he could get caught.
Clearly, being a well-rounded and technically proficient fighter is a huge advantage. But, if you have no viable finishing maneuver, it’s difficult to consistently grind out wins. Just ask light heavyweight Forrest Griffin; he was meticulously picking Rashad Evans apart but couldn’t find a way to stop him. Eventually, Evans found his rhythm and was able to TKO Griffin.
Still, GSP is a young and growing as a fighter. His past and most recent accomplishments cannot be ignored and he is methodically working his way up the pound-for-pound ladder. To reach that next rung though, GSP must learn to finish.