Georges St-Pierre's Legacy: Will Not Finishing Fights Define His Career?

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Georges St-Pierre's Legacy: Will Not Finishing Fights Define His Career?
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

No one seemed surprised at the way the UFC 158 main event between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz ended.

Heading into the fight, Diaz had talked the bout up to astronomical levels and it seemed on the surface that maybe, just maybe, he was the fighter to finally goad St-Pierre into a slugfest; especially after the last few weeks of verbal exchanges between the two fighters.

The real story however read much like the last five fights of St-Pierre's career with him dominating en route to a five round decision.  There were no flashy moments where it seemed like St-Pierre was almost ready to pounce and finish Diaz.  To the contrary, for all the control and domination he had, St-Pierre's suffocating and overwhelming style absolutely won him the fight, but didn't ever put Diaz in any serious trouble.

St-Pierre has time and time again answered questions about his inability to close fighters down and put them away.  He then says he's always looking for the knockout or the submission, but fighters are tough and some just can't be taken out so easily.

Regardless of style, St-Pierre's one-sided victories still cemented him as one of the two best fighters on the planet for years alongside UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, but his legacy is starting to slip away, as crazy as that might sound.

Make no mistake, St-Pierre is as good as advertised and may be the most well-rounded fighter in the entire sport.  His wrestling for MMA is better than virtually anyone in the world, and even Olympic-caliber grapplers can't match his takedown rate.  St-Pierre's jab is one of the deadliest weapons in his arsenal with the way he snaps it out at an opponent the way a cobra cuts down its prey.

But for as good as St-Pierre is on paper, his inability to finish fights now has him relegated to the third position in virtually every pound-for-pound list in the sport behind Silva and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

In comparison to Jon Jones, St-Pierre should trump him based on title defenses and wins alone.  The Canadian just retained his welterweight title for the eighth-straight time, and it also marked his 19th win overall inside the Octagon.

Jones, meanwhile, has four title defenses since wrangling the belt away from Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in 2011.  In his entire UFC career, Jones is 11-1 with the one defeat coming by way of disqualification due to illegal strikes against Matt Hamill.

What is the prevailing difference when looking at St-Pierre and Jones?  It's finishing rate, pure and simple.

Jones has decimated his opponents through 11 victories with eight finishes, and in his five title fights he's taken out four of them by submission or TKO with only one reaching the final horn in the fifth round. 

It was just a few years ago that all the MMA world could talk about when the word 'superfight' was echoed was Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre, but now that seems like an afterthought. Nowadays the only fight that seems to matter is Silva vs. Jones.

On Saturday night when the "typical" St-Pierre performance was brought up, UFC president Dana White even felt compelled to stand beside his champion's style of fighting.

"I'm not defending Georges here, it's not my job to defend him but I disagree.  I think that Georges St-Pierre fought a great fight tonight," said White at the UFC 158 post fight press conference.  "He stood up with him and got the better of the stand-up most of the time that he was up.  Nick Diaz has an awesome style with his hands. Nick Diaz, I don't know if you could hear it over on the media side, hit Georges St-Pierre with a body shot that you don't hear in fights and Georges took the shot.  Georges took him down and controlled him on the ground. I thought Georges fought a great fight tonight."

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

In theory, White is absolutely correct because St-Pierre controlled every facet of the game against Diaz at UFC 158. The reality, however, is a little different; in the fight game a finish counts for a lot more than a unanimous decision.

St-Pierre's safe and strategic approach to fights will continue to get him wins, but if he's not careful it may lose him a legacy. 

It's been more than four years since St-Pierre finished an opponent, and that win was still somewhat anti-climactic because his challenger at the time, B.J. Penn, retired between rounds.  Now, in terms of impressive, literally wearing an opponent down to a nub and exhausting them to the point where they can't continue is an extremely daunting task and St-Pierre did it in 20 minutes against one of the greats in MMA history.

Unfortunately, there was no highlight reel knockout.  There was no emphatic thud as Penn hit the ground after a St-Pierre kick.  There was just an image of Penn breathing heavy in the corner and his teammates throwing in the towel.

Reaching back even further, it was April 2008 when St-Pierre last beat an opponent with strikes to finish a fight.  That was his rematch against Matt Serra, who knocked out St-Pierre a year earlier in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

It's hard to criticize St-Pierre when in reality he's doing nothing wrong.  He's going out and winning in emphatic fashion against fighters in one of the deepest divisions in the sport. St-Pierre also happens to be the biggest draw in all of MMA despite the fact that he doesn't destroy opponents like Silva or Jones, and routinely draws huge numbers on pay-per-view.

The UFC 158 pay-per-view numbers are trending to the same tune as UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen 2 from last year, which was the UFC's biggest show in all of 2012. 

If the numbers hold up, St-Pierre probably shouldn't care what anyone says about his style or how he approaches fights, and until someone can stop him from executing that game plan it becomes a case of if it's not broken, why fix it?

Still, for all the popularity and pay-per-view buys, St-Pierre has always said he wants to go down as the greatest fighter of all time. If he can't start closing down the best fighters in the world and putting a few exclamation points on his performances, he may just have to settle for No. 3 behind Anderson Silva and Jon Jones.

Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.

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