Georges St-Pierre has tangled with and trounced numerous top-flight wrestlers and KO artists, but the UFC's most decorated welterweight champ can't deny that Johny Hendricks represents his most trying challenge.
Hendricks, GSP's main event opponent at UFC 167, will bring a distinguished collegiate wrestling resume, a left hand from hell and the heart of a lion to next Saturday's fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
But even with his greatest challenge lurking, the 170-pound linchpin was spot-on in assuming that he'll outshine the hard-hitting southpaw in every facet of the game during a UFC 167 pre-fight promo.
"I'm the best in the world (and) I believe it, and I'm going to prove it again to everybody. I'm very excited fighting Johny Hendricks. He's the No. 1 guy right now (and) a lot of people believe he has the style to beat me (but) I'm better than him everywhere (and) I believe that."
St-Pierre has disposed of several Division I wrestlers in his career—the likes of Frank Trigg, Matt Hughes (twice), Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck (twice).
In those six fights, GSP landed 19 takedowns and surrendered just four (two each to Koscheck and Hughes).
Of the four Division 1 wrestlers he's tangled with, though, only the right-handed Koscheck can claim to possess similar knockout power to "Bigg Rigg."
A four-time All-American wrestler who placed fourth, second, first and third in the NCAA championships (1999-2002), Koscheck looked downright one-dimensional in his two scraps with GSP.
In their first meeting at UFC 74, St-Pierre outstruck Koscheck 118-14, including 38-4 in the significant strikes category. St-Pierre also hit both of his takedown attempts, stuffed Koscheck on three of four shots, and attempted five submissions en route to a unanimous decision.
GSP again dominated Koscheck at UFC 124, scoring four takedowns and outstriking the former Edinboro University stalwart 136-30 to notch another unanimous decision, this time in a title fight.
Like Hendricks will probably do, Koscheck entered his fights with St-Pierre assuming that either his wrestling pedigree or his one-punch knockout power would carry him past the more cerebral GSP.
Koscheck, however, failed to formulate a game plan geared either toward relentlessly attempting to outwrestle St-Pierre or perpetually trying to bait him into making a fight-ending error on his feet.
Instead, the Pennsylvania native and his former coaches from the American Kickboxing Academy fell into several intricate traps set by St-Pierre and diabolical trainer Firas Zahabi. GSP controlled Koscheck's wrestling and jabbed him into an oblivion.
To avoid a similar scenario for the former two-time NCAA wrestling champ, trainer Marc Laimon must do what no coach since Ray Longo has done and implement a scheme that will deceive the always prepared GSP.
But even with Laimon on his side, bookmakers still don't foresee Bigg Rigg defying the odds against St-Pierre.
Aggregate betting website Bodog.net has deemed the 32-year-old Canadian a 2.25-1 (-2.25) favorite to topple Hendricks (+175).
Like most fans and pundits, the oddsmakers believe a decision or a submission win would be unlikely and that Hendricks must score a KO to get past St-Pierre.
However, considering the champ's uncanny ability to recover, and since it seems unlikely that Laimon will outwit Zahabi, wagering that GSP will defend his belt for the ninth straight time seems like a wise bet.
All stats gathered via Fightmetric.com