UFC 111: Will GSP Learn From History...or Repeat It?
One in 560,000.
Those are the odds of lightning striking the same place twice. They are also, by general consensus, the odds Dan Hardy is looking at this coming Saturday night against GSP. They are long odds indeed.
But as Matt Serra proved four years ago, sometimes the odds don’t matter. His stunning victory over Georges St. Pierre remains the biggest upset in the sport’s history. It also, along with Cro Cop’s sprained ankle and Shogun’s breathing problem, reminded MMA fans of a simple, enduring fact: in combat sports, absolutely anything can happen.
The right combination of factors, a sudden turn of chance, one perfectly thrown punch - your only ever one punch away from Douglas standing over Tyson.
Or Serra standing over GSP.
On Saturday, Dan Hardy will try to shock the world for a second time and once again prove that when the cage door closes, anything is possible. And make no mistake, he has all the tools to win this fight.
To my mind, Hardy should be considered by fans and odds makers a far bigger threat to St. Pierre’s crown then Serra was at the time of their first fight. Remember, we didn’t know about Serra’s KO power back then - instead, he was viewed as a naturally small welterweight with good jiu-jitsu and not much else, a complete cakewalk for GSP. Oh, the hubris.
Hardy, on the other hand, brings size, strength, solid if not spectacular conditioning, great fundamental boxing skills, and power in either hand. He also has a solid chin and the heart and the will to go behind it. Sure, he’s probably going to get taken down, but I’m sure he’s been preparing for that as best he can. He’s undoubtedly a tough bastard, and if he connects just right on GSP, well, let’s just say it would be an embarassing moment for Canada.
In some ways, Hardy has already won big in this fight. With the phenomenal success of “Primetime” and the massive hype this fight has been getting, the British fighter has moved from unknown to superstar over the course of a few weeks. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Dan Hardy can sell a fight. The exposure he’s getting from this one event will write his ticket for the next five years.
Of course, all the trash talking could backfire on the mercurial Brit. After all, GSP has a penchant for making trash talkers eat their words.
See, the problem for Hardy isn’t the odds - Serra proved that. It’s the fact that no one is a bigger student of GSP’s history then GSP himself.
If the Serra loss was a reminder for the fan base at large, it was a wake up call for GSP never to sleep on an opponent again. Even more, it forced a fighter widely viewed as near-perfect to take an objective look at his strengths and weaknesses, and where he could improve.
As cliché as it is, the fight was a blessing in disguise for him, and the end result has been nothing short of phenomenal. He embarasses NCAA Division 1 champions. He makes world champions and future hall of famers look utterly foolish. His last 6 opponents were top 10 ranked welterweights. His last three were ranked in the Pound-for-Pound top 10 when he beat them.
Oh, and he also managed to redeem the whole Matt Serra thing in dominant fashion. In fact, he doesn’t have an unavenged defeat on his record. As resumes go, his is undoubtedly the sport’s most impressive - bar none.
Technically, Hardy’s right when he says his strategy is to hope for the lucky punch - what else is he going to do, take him down and look for the submission? - but I don’t see the mohawked Brit ever getting that opportunity. GSP has stood toe to toe with far more dangerous strikers like BJ Penn and Thiago Alves and more then held his own. He has elite level MMA striking, including the best jab at welterweight.
I’ll go so far as to say that I’d feel confident putting money on St. Pierre in a straight up kickboxing or K-1 bout against Hardy.
Of course, that’s all subjective. The good news is none of it is going to matter.
St. Pierre will hit the double leg on Hardy whenever he feels like it, and once he does, “The Outlaw” will be in deep quicksand. If BJ Penn, Sean Sherk, and Matt Hughes were helpless underneath St. Pierre, I don’t see Hardy having any more success, no matter how much he’s been training wrestling up there in England. St. Pierre’s top game is simply the best in the sport, and I don’t think it will take GSP long to wear down Hardy and force him to make a mistake. Once he does, I see GSP taking it by submission, most likely a Rear Naked Choke or Guillotine before the end of the 3rd round.
The only X factor hanging over this fight is St. Pierre’s recent weight gain. According to his trainers, “Rush” has put on 8-10 pounds of new muscle over the course of this training camp. While this will undoubtedly give him more power (not that he needed it) and help him better control the monsters of the division like Thiago Alves and Anthony Johnson, there’s no telling what effect it will have on his cardio and ability to make weight. In the past, GSP has been a complete pro when it comes to managing his weight cut, and I assume his trainers and handlers have calculated this new weight into the plans for the cut this time.
Still, we won’t know what the full effects of the cut were until fight night. Will it be the same, relentless cardio machine we’ve seen in the past, or will GSP - perish the thought - actually gas in a fight for the first time.
Probably not. In all honesty, the odds makers have this one pretty much right. GSP is on another planet from most of the welterweight competition, Dan Hardy included, and he should have no problem taking care of business in his usual fashion. Cue roaring crowds, Mike Goldberg screaming “AND IT IS ALLLLL OVER!” and GSP backflipping in the middle of the Octagon. Better luck next time Dan.
Then again, that’s what we all thought the last time, too. In the end, it comes down to Georges. Either he will learn from history - or be doomed to repeat it.
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