If you were one of the 880,000 viewers glued to Spike TV Wednesday night, you were treated to the first of three installments of Primetime: St.-Pierre vs. Hardy—a peepshow into each fighters’ everyday preparation leading up to their welterweight collision for the gold-plated strap.
Throughout the episode, there were a few surprises capped off by a suspenseful conclusion.
St.-Pierre, the mild-mannered two-time Canadian athlete of the year, was uncharacteristically serious during the “confessional” interview segments and towards the end of the show, the heavy-handed British Bomber unveiled his secret weapon conveniently located a state away from the Prudential Center, the center stage for UFC 111.
In dramatic fashion, during the last sequence of the show, Hardy is showcasing his American driving skills while tinting towards his newly acquired training partner. “Someone who has a lot of experience in this particular field,” Hardy explained with a smirk.
Alas, “The Outlaw” pulls into the parking lot of a Serra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy to apparently be taught the sweet science of “terrorizing” one Georges St-Pierre into losing his title at UFC 111, similarly to how he lost it at UFC 69.
GSP entered the octagon that infamous night unprepared mentally to fend off the enormous amount of pressure that comes from fighting such an underdog as Matt “The Terror” Serra.
Serra winning the welterweight belt might go down as the biggest upset of that year, possibly the decade. Sure, there are maybe five guys in all of the sports betting world that made a fortune that night, but the conventional MMA constituents were blindsided, inflicted with a chronic case of the “holy shits.”
On the surface, revealing Serra as your ace in the hole would seem like an anti-climatic ending for an unlucky bachelor on the Dating Game—contestant one would be Arianny, contestant three would be Rachel Leah, and your date for the night, the Matt Serra portion of this example, would be Cyborg Santos. A scenario not exactly ideal for most men, but after given a second look, one might be able to appreciate the forest for the trees.
Adding Serra to Hardy’s camp has the dynamic of an orange in this situation, once the sour rind is peeled away, a juicy plot twist awaits. Don’t mimic the fighter as a whole; repeat his individual success against the man standing in your way of being the first British UFC titleholder.
At first glance, the plans seems to fail before it starts. The former welterweight champ from New York is clearly out of the current champ’s league, widely accepted knowledge after GSP’s destruction of Serra at UFC 83 during their rematch. In some respects, Serra might even be inferior to Hardy. So what type of advantage can Serra give the Brit?
Defending against St-Pierre’s outstanding takedowns will leave any opponent on their back—a reality Hardy has accepted in many interviews—defending the ground and pound while trying to utilize any kind of BJJ offense possible. Serra, the first American black belt under Renzo Gracie, is a source of extensive ground knowledge for Hardy, who has a purple belt in Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, but has very little in-cage experience submitting only four out of his 23 opponents he has beaten.
But against GSP, Serra has no experience in what it takes to defeat the Canadian from the ground. Scratch that possibility from the “why the hell is Hardy REALLY at Serra’s gym” list. So hold it Regis, we didn’t say A was our final answer—we still have some life-lines here.
Does Serra’s “expertise” in striking really add to Hardy’s already explosive arsenal? While having heavy hands like Hardy, Serra is much less proficient on his feet than his new teammate. Plus, teaching how to throw “hail marys” is not included in the Serra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu curriculum, which would really be of no interest to the already devastating striker that is Hardy.
At this point, spending time training with Matt Serra doesn’t seem to make much conventional sense for Hardy. There must be a missing variable in this equation—mental warfare. In this case, it will be waged by sharing strategies with the man who is GSP’s only loss in the last 13 fights.
After the Serra fight, St-Pierre divulged, in post-fight interviews, the mental burdens he brought into the octagon leading up to the bout. Since then, he has been accused of playing it safe during his title defenses and criticized for most of his victories coming from decisions.
Has Hardy provoked old mental instabilities in GSP’s game by joining forces with Matt Serra in front of nearly a million people on cable television? Will the new face of Gatorade second guess his confidence just long enough for Hardy to capitalize with a counter left-hook?
St-Pierre was quoted saying he was “tired of hearing the same old song from his opponents” during the Primetime special, just as Hardy was quoted during the program saying St.-Pierre “looked like Bambi after getting hit by Serra.”
The question will still stand after the series is over leading up to the fight: has the Canadian’s mental armor been penetrated by team Hardy/Serra?
Has the duo built a Trojan horse to infiltrate St.-Pierre’s Troy? The Sunday after March 27 will serve as a conclusive epilogue for both men—a monumental day for the Brit or another day at the office for the Canadian.