Georges St-Pierre was faced with his toughest opponent in recent memory on Saturday night as he took on Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks, but GSP's dominance over the welterweight division continued as he won his 12th straight fight and retained the UFC Welterweight title via split decision.
From Round 1 it was obvious why Hendricks was considered to be one of GSP's toughest tests to date. Despite an early takedown from the champion, the challenger was able to get back to his feet and rock St-Pierre in the early going with his power.
Round 2 saw both fighters pick up the pace as both fighters landed their fair share of blows in the stand up department. St-Pierre started to gain some momentum with his jab, while Hendricks still landed a few power punches that appeared to daze the champion.
St-Pierre would continue to figure out Hendricks in the stand up department in the third round, outstriking him 31-15 in the frame, according to FightMetric, before Hendricks scored a surprising takedown toward the end of the round.
The defending champion once again found himself on the mat in the fourth round after he slipped and Hendricks followed him to the ground. Although GSP would eventually work his way back to the feet it was yet another round that proved Hendricks was prepared to take the belt home with him.
St-Pierre remained determined to defend his belt in the fifth and final round, though. After securing a few takedowns in the final frame, the judges felt he had done enough to retain the belt.
St-Pierre entered MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas as a fairly substantial favorite, and he ultimately proved the oddsmakers right. The 32-year-old Canadian is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in UFC, and it has now been well over six years since his last lost.
Saturday marked GSP's ninth straight successful title defense, and with his win over Hendricks he has essentially mowed down all of his closest competitors. St-Pierre has been beaten twice before at 25-2, but it remains to be seen if he'll ever taste defeat again.
The 30-year-old Hendricks wasn't as highly touted as St-Pierre ahead of Saturday's bout, but there is no question that he deserved to be in that position. With wins over contenders such as Carlos Condit and Josh Koscheck, Hendricks worked his way up the ladder, but now he has to move to the back of the line.
Now that St-Pierre has taken care of Hendricks, UFC fans naturally want to know who his next opponent could potentially be. The likes of Robbie Lawler, Jake Ellenberger, Demian Maia and Martin Kampmann could all pose a challenge at the very least, but GSP cast doubt on his future after the fight (via SportsCenter):
With his future seemingly up in the air, it's hard to tell where GSP's career will go from here.
Although Jon "Bones" Jones is still the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, GSP is gaining ground. St-Pierre's showing against Hendricks was certainly impressive, and after Jones struggled to get past Alexander Gustafsson, there are clearly some chinks in the armor.
Regardless of his overall standing, though, St-Pierre is clearly one of UFC's biggest draws. His previous four fights prior to Saturday night took place in his home country of Canada where he is an absolute hero. His reception in Vegas wasn't quite at that level, but he proved that he has drawing power no matter where he fights.
A win over GSP obviously would have been huge for Hendricks' career as it would have instantly made him the fastest-rising star in the sport, but it wasn't meant to be. Even so, Hendricks acquitted himself well, and he won't have a particularly difficult time finding quality fights moving forward.
It can be argued that Hendricks was the final big obstacle standing in St-Pierre's way, but there are no guarantees in mixed martial arts. Anything can happen on any given night, but GSP proved yet again on Saturday that he is one of the best in the business.
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