Merry Christmas: The Truth About GSP, Silva, Hendricks and the Stockton Bad Boy

Matt Molgaard@MattmolgaardCorrespondent IIIDecember 24, 2012

Nov 17, 2012; Montreal, QC, Canada; Georges St-Pierre (on top) goes after Carlos Condit during their Welterweight title bout at UFC 154 at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Georges St-Pierre is afraid of Anderson Silva.

Before you leap to crucify me for that statement, understand a few things. First, there’s nothing wrong with fearing Anderson Silva. His constant, typically challenge free destruction of opponents should instill fear in potential foes.

Second, for all of Georges’ amazing strengths, he’s a fighter who prefers to hit and not be hit. GSP doesn’t have an ounce of “Forrest Griffin” in him. Meaning, he’s not a guy who finds it amusing or driving, to be punched in the face. Hit Forrest in the face flush a few times to start a fight, and he wakes up and realizes he’s supposed to be chucking leather. Punch St-Pierre a few times—flush—and he’s uncomfortable, really uncomfortable.

Third, and perhaps most relevant is the potential career damage that comes affixed with a fight against “The Spider.”

See it’s not all about legacies, win-streaks or reputation; it’s about physical and mental health. St-Pierre has never competed north of 170 pounds. The truth is, he has no idea what a jump in weight might produce, be it moving up to 178 pounds for a catchweight collision or up to 185 to contend as a certified middleweight.

Slipping out of his comfort zone, the welterweight division, could potentially lead to a slight forfeiture of speed. The size difference could negate the wrestling advantage he’s showcased time and again against men of similar size.

Anderson Silva isn’t of similar size.

Make no mistake about it, I’ve met both men, and there’s a tremendous size difference between the two. GSP is a bulky little fellow who looks fit to crush most men walking the planet. Silva is a looming figure, far wider than many suspect with a smirk of confidence that suggests he’s fit to crush a cyborg.

Remember UFC on FOX 5? You know the event that just happened a few weeks ago? Remember what it looked like to see B.J. Penn tangling with Rory MacDonald? It looked like a lightweight battling a middleweight.

That’s pretty close to what we’d witness if GSP and Silva ever set foot in the cage to determine the better man; it’s going to look a lot like a welterweight fighting a light heavyweight.

As much as I’d enjoy watching two of the top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet fighting for supremacy, it’s not necessarily the brightest maneuver for the Canadian to make. And I can hear the cries of the naysayers already. GSP needs to man up! He was willing to fight a much smaller B.J. Penn! Silva’s already traveled from the middleweight division to the light heavyweight division on multiple occasions!      

Wanting to see this fight as bad as I do, I understand those kinds of complaints, but I’ve also got some valid counters to those arguments.

GSP has manned up, fighting every top flight welterweight alive sans recently emerging studs like Johny Hendricks (who we’ll get to in a few).

Yes, B.J. Penn had the moxy to fight GSP outside of his natural weight class, but look at the current state of B.J.’s fighting career and the toll the weight fluctuations have had had on the Hawaiian. At 34 years old, Penn’s had 27 professional fights, winning 16 of them, and dropping the vast majority of encounters (Machida, GSP, Hughes, MacDonald, Diaz) that occurred in weight-classes higher than the 155 pound division.

St-Pierre in contrast, is 31 years old, has opted to fight where comfortable 25 times, and only come up short as a professional on two occasions. He’s optioned an intelligent approach to his career from day one, and you can see what it’s done for him.

As for Anderson Silva and his lack of apprehension of fighting 205 pounders, well, let’s look at the kind of opponents he’s faced in the light heavyweight division.

He tangled with unranked and consistently inconsistent James Irvin, a technically inferior former champion in Forrest Griffin, who had been knocked unconscious by Rashad Evans in his bout prior to his UFC 101 showdown with Silva, and he battered Stephan Bonnar, who accepted the fight on short notice (I know short notice fights can potentially be detrimental to both parties), and had been rumored to be eying retirement.

These are good, tough guys Anderson beat at light heavyweight.

But they’re not top flight foes. Anderson Silva didn’t migrate to 205 to meet Lyoto Machida when he had the title, and he hasn’t pounced on the chance to challenge the beastly Jon Jones. It’s important to respect the courage displayed by Anderson, but it’s also important to note the caution he’s exercised when straying from middleweight.

At the end of the day, I believe GSP fears potential long-term career damage, and he fears the strengths of “The Spider.” Georges is not the kind of guy who likes to eat power punches, especially not from a sniper like Silva, and that’s really all there is to it. I don’t fault him for fearing the most frightening man on the planet, and I haven’t lost an ounce of respect for him. You shouldn’t either.

Now, let’s talk a bit about Johny Hendricks and Nick Diaz.

The MMA world is up in arms over the UFC’s decision to bypass clear No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks in favor of a showdown between St-Pierre and rival Nick Diaz.

I can sympathize with fan frustration, and I think Hendricks’ own displeasure with the situation is warranted. There’s only one man in the division not holding a title who’s riding a five fight unbeaten streak with three top-10 victims (two of which suffered brutal knockout defeats) among those five wins. That’s Johny Hendricks.

He’s put a stamp on the division, and that stamp declares him a worthy challenger to GSP’s strap. That said, one more fight might actually benefit Hendricks and help to further prepare him for his inevitable shot at welterweight gold.

Hendricks will meet yet another top-10 welterweight with a well-rounded skill set on March 16th, when he toes the line with heavy handed, capable wrestler, Jake Ellenberger.

Jake’s an extremely dangerous fighter with one punch power in each fist and a strong offensive wrestling attack. He will pose a genuine threat to Hendricks, as his style mirrors Johny’s. That said, I favor the beard (double entendre anyone) of Hendricks over that of Ellenberger. “The Juggernaut” falls to the big power punch before “Bigg Rigg.”

Also adding to the intrigue of the Hendricks/Ellenberger fight is the fact that St-Pierre will be headlining the same event, in his home country. He’ll meet the Stockton bad boy in the evening’s headliner.

If GSP exits the octagon still in possession of the championship belt, and Hendricks does indeed topple Ellenberger, the stars will be perfectly aligned. Hendricks will have not only disposed of a sizable chunk of the division’s best, but he’ll have the perfect platform to light a fire under the tale of St-Pierre.

Just imagine the tirade that will likely flow from Hendricks’ mouth during the post-fight interview. It should work to rile GSP as well as the Canadian crowd, which is a win-win situation for the UFC; build another rivalry, get one of the biggest markets highly interested.

Now, it’s time to justify the GSP versus Diaz match. I’ll openly admit this: Nick Diaz doesn’t deserve to fight Georges St-Pierre at this time. I’m itching to see this match, as I’ve been on the Diaz bandwagon for more than half a decade, but I know the facts, and the facts of the matter are simple: Diaz is being gifted a title shot here.

The reason my feathers aren’t horribly ruffled by this match is the personal animosity these two share (neither has been mum on the topic) for one another. That, companied by the fact that Diaz’s bout with Carlos Condit (which I personally scored in favor of Condit, three rounds to two) is viewed as controversial by a large chunk of MMA followers, leaves Diaz in a unique position: the case can be made that he hasn’t fallen in the ranks. Every fan who scored the Condit fight in Nick’s favor still considers Diaz to be the number one contender.   

In my mind, he’s not.

Carlos Condit outworked Nick Diaz at UFC 143, and sadly, Diaz’s corner completely failed to inform him that the fight was too close to coast. Some different advice between rounds (there are transcriptions of Diaz’s corner advice floating about the net that you can track down with relative ease) could have produced a different fight.

But that’s irrelevant.

What’s done is done: Condit earned the nod from the judges, challenged GSP at UFC 154, came up short, and now Diaz will be handed his own chance at dethroning the champion at UFC 158.

To bring this drawn out viewpoint to conclusion I’ll leave you with these words: GSP will not likely battle Anderson Silva. Not one fight from now, not three fights from now, not 10 fights from now. That’s just my personal prediction.

I see a proposed fight that he’s not hungry for, and that may just echo his intelligence. He also has the right to fight Nick Diaz. Not, as I’ve noted, because Diaz is the legitimate number one contender, but because he’s run roughshod on the entire division for years on end. The guy has taken on all welterweight comers at this point, and he’s earned the right to make a special request.

Nick and Georges do not like each other, and Georges is anxious to try and dish out some punishment on the rugged Californian. “Rush” has paid his dues: granting a rare request from the champion isn’t outlandish, it’s what I’d call respectful business from one employer to one employee who’s been a company man through and through for nearly eight years.

Johny Hendricks is likely going to knock Jake Ellenberger much farther down the pecking order on March 16th, and GSP is likely going to abuse (but not silence) Nick Diaz that same evening.

That opens a door for another challenge by Hendricks, who will still run a parallel schedule to the champion and will have a public stage perfectly suited to stir interest.


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