When the Ultimate Fighting Championship invades Montreal for UFC 124: St-Pierre vs. Koscheck 2, it will mark the organization's fifth appearance North of the Border. The event will be the Bell Centre's fourth, with UFC 115 in Vancouver rounding out the Canadian quintet.
The event will also mark a possible crowning moment for UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre.
Fighting in his native province, Quebec's favorite son has a chance to defend his belt for a fifth time. That would tie him with Hall of Famer Matt Hughes for most welterweight title defenses in the history of the UFC.
Considering GSP's stated adulation of Hughes, you have to believe the feat would mean almost as much to him as shutting Kos' yapper in front of his hometown faithful.
The 29-year-old might not possess the flashy career highlights of his fellow pound-for-pound elites like Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo, but St-Pierre remains comfortably in their company.
Arguably the most athletic champion in in the UFC's stable, Rush combines his unique physicality with an equally singular cerebral approach to grind out—if not dominate—round after round after round after round.
And Josh Koscheck has made him angry.
Well done, Kos, well done.
Georges St-Pierre is nothing if not versatile and he is one of three most unassailable fighters in mixed martial arts today.
As a primer for Saturday's main event and in the Canuck's honor, here's a list of the sport's 10 most well-rounded practitioners.
Before getting to the list, let's clarify what is meant by "well-rounded."
No fighter is perfect, but the guys on the countdown possess a rare blend of superlative striking, ground skills, cardiovascular capacity and ability to avoid danger. An excess of one category (or more) might make up for a comparative lacking in another, but there are no weaknesses.
Though obviously not invincible, each man can hang with or neutralize the best in the business in any facet of the sport.
Which is why these guys and others don't quite make the cut:
Eddie Alvarez, 21-2 with 12 (T)KO and 7 submissions
It's very possible I'm underrating the Silent Assassin out of ignorance. He just annihilated Roger Huerta in two gory rounds at the end of October and the TKO broke a string of five consecutive submission victories.
An impressive showing against Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez in a matchup everyone wants to see would certainly do wonders to convince those who remain skeptical based on Alvarez' "strength of schedule," so to speak.
Vitor Belfort, 19-8 with 13 (T)KO and 2 submissions
The Phenom gets a chance to prove he belongs back at the top of lists like these (and others) when he squares off against Anderson Silva at UFC 126.
Until then, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and ferocious striker remains a cautionary tale of upside unrealized, which is really more a statement about Belfort's once-skyscraping potential than an indictment of the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
Urijah Faber, 24-4 with 7 (T)KO and 13 submissions
The California Kid's debut at bantamweight went decently when he played to his strength and scored Submission of the Night of the technical variety with his rear-naked choke of Takeya Mizugaki.
He'd have a better argument for higher placement if some of those knockouts came against the top-tier of competition instead of early on in his career.
Alistair Overeem, 33-11 and 1 NC with 13 (T)KO and 19 submissions
A h, the Demolition Man, how you underwhelm me. The man is a force of nature to behold and that extends to an ocular pat down of his win-loss records.
But—as is my perpetual beef with the Dutch kickboxing dynamo—outside of a handful of sincerely outstanding performances, most of his damage has been done against fluff. Granted, his striking prowess is beyond question; it's the rest of the package that remains suspect.
Fabricio Werdum, 14-4-1 with 4 (T)KO and 8 submissions
In an ironic indignity, Vai Cavalo will probably go down in history as The Man Who Beat Fedor and that's ignoring what was already an accomplished resume.
The 33-year-old will forever butter his bread on the ground, but he owns technical knockouts of Brandon Vera and Gabriel Gonzaga (twice), so he's no chump on his feet. But he's also not good enough to dislodge any of the men who follow.
At first glance, Shogun looks tremendously out of place on a well-rounded collection—the reigning UFC Light Heavyweight Champion only has a single submission victory in the heat of battle.
Granted, it was a beautifully excruciating kneebar of Kevin Randleman, but the Monster is a perfect example of the old stereotype of wrestlers who had monumental trouble on their backs.
Nevertheless, Rua has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from Nino Schembri and has been practicing the art since he was a young child. Additionally, it would hardly be fair to hold his insanely dangerous standing arsenal against him.
As you can see in the highlight clip, there's little reason to deploy a BJJ approach when most of your opponents are unconscious once they're on the canvas. Mauricio's fists are fine, but his knees and kicks are what set him apart from other run-of-the-mill savage strikers.
Throw in some breathtaking athleticism and enough cardio to maintain an up-tempo assault for five rounds, and Mauricio Rua has all the elements to be considered one of MMA's most well-rounded representatives.
The Natural Born Killer's appearance might earn me a little heat, but I'll gladly take it as long as I get to laugh in a couple years when I look like a prophet.
Consider that the American is 26 until next April.
Now consider how much he improves from scrap to scrap.
His latest outing saw him light up everyone's favorite mohawked striker, Dan Hardy. While most observers (including yours truly) were expecting the Outlaw to emerge with a knockout if one was to be had, Condit beat his English adversary to the punch and received Knockout of the Night honors for his trouble.
The striking stoppage was Carlos' second in a row after a TKO of Rory McDonald at UFC 115 and arguably his most extraordinary to date when you account for the caliber of competition.
The seasoned youngster is a genuine devil in the submission game—he was able to submit Frank Trigg via triangle armbar, eschewing the more time-honored rear-naked choke approach on Twinkle Toes—and his stand-up game is on the make.
With more hard work and a little luck, Carlos Condit will only be moving up this list.
Yeah, yeah, the Stockton Bad Boy side of the elder Diaz turns a lot of people off to him.
Remember that his is a combat sport—it ain't a pillow fight and it ain't Centre Court at Wimbledon. It shouldn't be a surprise and it isn't entirely inappropriate that a lot of these scrappers have more than a few rough edges, the current Strikeforce Welterweight Champion included.
In fairness, Diaz seems to have smoothed some of those jagged spots recently and remains as dangerous ever inside the cage.
A a well-traveled 27, Nick is MMA-wise beyond his years and seems to have a natural ability to shake off or walk through substantial damage. Combine that with some of the best-though-admittedly-unorhtodox hands in the sport and Diaz is a challenge for even the heaviest hitters on his feet.
On the ground, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu (from Cesar Gracie) is no less dangerous.
Though a hot urine test that revealed the presence of marijuana wiped it from the record books, the permanent memory of fight fans will always have space reserved for the gogoplata the Stockton Bad Boy finished Takanori Gomi with at PRIDE 33.
The dude stood toe-to-toe with KJ Noons twice and only a cut kept him from two victories, he put Robbie Lawler to sleep on his feet, and finished the Fireball Kid with one of the most exotic submissions you'll see in the cage.
I'd say that's a well-rounded resume.
Only the two losses to UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and the on-again-off-again questions about his gas tank keep the Prodigy this far down the ladder.
But judged on purely stand-up and ground game, Baby J might be No. 1 because he has the uncanny ability to knock you out on the ground or submit you on your feet.
He can also go the more traditional routes with the greatest of ease to which Matt Hughes can attest—in both regards now that Penn added the lightning quick knockout at UFC 123 to the rear-naked choke of Hughes at UFC 46.
Both a striking stoppage and submission of a UFC Hall of Famer really captures the Hawaiian legend's versatility, but there is other evidence if you need further convincing.
Like the bloody evisceration of Diego Sanchez or the fact that B.J. became the first non-Brazilian to win the black belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Rio de Janeiro after only three years of training.
Before UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, B.J. Penn probably would've been in the top three, but the losses to Edgar at least raise the old gas tank/lack of focus eyebrows.
Of course, another thorough performance against Jon Fitch at UFC 127 would allay those concerns.
Bones is still relatively unproven at 205 pounds and the division's champ, Mauricio Rua, is four slots lower on the list so it's probably a good time to remind everyone that this isn't necessarily a countdown according to ultimate efficacy of each athlete.
For instance, Shogun's striking prowess makes him a better combatant at this stage of their careers than Jones despite the latter being a more even threat across the board.
But the 23-year-old up-and-comer is closing the gap between himself, Rua and everyone else in MMA at light heavyweight.
The junior collegiate champion wrestler has shown his ability to assimilate new phases of the fight game into his own, utilizing a devastating array of judo throws to burst onto the scene and adding blisteringly accurate striking in his most recent bouts.
There are few hombres in mixed martial arts who set such a relentless pace while featuring such powerful bombs, yet Jones is still just scratching the surface of what he might still become.
Which is why Jon Jones is the most popular example of the "new breed" of MMA practitioners—young, well-rounded, supremely athletic and technically proficient.
Not all superlative ground games result in submissions, and the new UFC Heavyweight Champion is Exhibit A of this reality.
One of the best wrestlers in the sport, the former collegiate competitor at Arizona State has used the discipline as a foundation for his evolving and improving arsenal. I and a lot of others underrated Cain's ability to stand and trade, but those days ended (at least as far as I'm concerned) when the big fella dispatched Brock Lesnar with stunning ease at UFC 121.
Much like he did to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 110.
Despite plying his wares in the 265-pound division, Velasquez' endurance can match those of the more relentless burners at any weight class and he boasts a purple belt in Guerrilla jiu-jitsu to complete the picture.
Although his argument would be stronger with a few submissions authored during the real thing, Cain Velasquez doesn't need them to be considered one of the most well-rounded fighters in MMA today.
Oooh, this is not gonna go over well with the Canadian crew, but such are the perils of writing for public consumption.
As airtight as GSP's game is, he's really only other-wordly in two areas—his wrestling and his cardio.
His gas tank hardly needs to be expounded upon, but suffice it to say you will NOT outlast St-Pierre. You must beat him or die trying, because he won't fatigue.
Additionally, the man is simply impossible to stop when he's after a takedown, at least statistically speaking.
The reason he so rarely loses a round is because he so rarely gets denied in his attempts to take the tussle to the ground. Once there, he uses inhuman balance and unparalleled strength to control the proceedings.
However, his failure to submit an utterly compromised Dan Hardy at UFC 111 demonstrated that Rush's submission game isn't quite on par with the best in the sport.
Meanwhile, the eight technical knockouts are nice, but Georges has yet to demonstrate that one-punch power that separates the good strikers from the special ones.
Once upon a time, the Emelianenko and Brock Lesnar camps were at each other's cyber-throats, declaring that a single loss would prove the hollowness of each champion's legacy.
Coincidentally, both men have lost in 2010 and such chatter has disappeared as it should have since it was never legitimate in the first place.
Even the best fighters lose eventually; it's a fact of life dictated by the staggering number of variables that factor into the human condition.
Consequently, I don't want to hear any of the standard gripes about the Last Emperor.
Lest his detractors' sheer volume persuade you, I'll point out that Fabricio Werdum was only able to execute his cataclysmic upset because (A) Fedor clipped him and landed him on his fanny; and (B) Emelianenko recklessly dove into the waiting guard of a fantastically gifted BJJ ace.
That's not meant to denigrate Vai Cavalo's superb victory, it's to point out the the Russian didn't get dominated or exposed. He simply got caught.
And when it does, it doesn't erase a career's worth of being the gold standard according to fellow fighters and "experts" alike.
This is a figurative Goliath with nuclear capabilities in both hands and an unrivaled flair for Sambo. There's also Emelianenko's fluidly punishing grappling game, where armbars and kimuras come out of nowhere, and rear-naked chokes will do in a pinch.
The only genuine hole in Fedor Emelianenko's game is the infrequency with which puts it on exhibition.
If you're making a list about greatness in the sport of MMA, the Spider is probably not only on it, but also at or near the top of it.
That's because the 35-year-old is elite in pretty much everything that can be considered an asset inside the Octagon—he has black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo and tae kwon do, while many consider him to be one of the best boxers in the history of MMA.
There's also the matter of his ability to assess an opponent on the fly and incorporate that into a suffocating game plan that can utilize whatever pace is necessary, considering Silva's proven ability to remain effective through the championship rounds (provided he's interested).
As Chael Sonnen demonstrated, Anderson might have a wee bit o' a blind spot when it comes to the cream of the crop wrestlers.
And I do mean "wee"—by all accounts, Silva had a rib injury and he still managed to emerge victorious.
But the minor flaw is big enough to keep the UFC Middleweight Champion at No. 2.
Junior is essentially a smaller, younger and possibly better version of Anderson Silva.
The 24-year-old—sweet Jesus, he's only 24—UFC Featherweight Champion is quickly establishing himself as the most irresistible force of nature in the sport. He is a fiend on his feet, using whatever limb serves his fancy to inflict abuse most human bodies cannot endure for more than a few minutes.
But as usual, an ominous ground game is lurking underneath all the glitz and glam of highlight-reel knockouts.
Jose is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a crackerjack defender against the takedown. Much like his countryman Mauricio Rua, the presence of a paralyzing striking assault in Junior's tool kit means his grappling abilities don't get much run.
However, that doesn't mean they don't exist.
After all, an arm-triangle choke in less than a minute (versus Luiz de Paula) is no accident regardless of who the opponent was (or was not).
Expect to see more proof of Jose Aldo's well-rounded game as more and more of his victims try to engage him on the ground at all costs.
And expect to see more submissions.