The roundtable is another concept I wanted to bring back once I decided to begin writing for Bleacher Report once again. Much like the "Who's on the Hot Seat," it's another one of those columns that is fun, interactive and gets the juices flowing.
The idea behind the roundtable is simple. Robert Gardner and I, along with a different guest columnist each time, will discuss the top three bouts of a particular card. Each bout will be given its own separate column and the three of us will talk about each bout as though we were sitting in a bar, drinking a beer after work somewhere.
For UFC 129 we have chosen the esteemed Mr. Nick Caron to join us. A Bleacher Report Featured Columnist since February of this year, Nick has shown himself to be a very insightful writer with a ton of versatility.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields Roundtable Discussion
Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields is a great matchup, but I fear that they are so similar we could be in for a massive snooze fest; Shields and St-Pierre have both been known to take part in them from time to time.
On the other hand, Jake Shields just may have the tools to give GSP a real run for his money. The way Shields was able to dominate Dan Henderson, a much larger wrestler, has me at least seeing the possibility of an upset.
Who Wins & How?
I expect to see some artistry here. I see a war of attrition between two fighters who are not afraid to fight off of their backs and forgo a slug-out in favor of ground battle. I am really looking forward to seeing some high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I spoke with Shields, and he sounded more confident than he ever has.
We know what we are getting with GSP; he is either going to keep the fight standing where he has a huge advantage or he will want to challenge Shields where he is at his best and that is on the ground. GSP loves to face new challenges head on and I don't see that changing here.
I feel that this a classic stylistic nightmare for the challenger, Jake Shields. Though he may be the best overall grappler in the world at the welterweight division in MMA, Shields does not display excellent striking skills in any area.
Many will turn to Shields' defeat of Dan Henderson as an example of how great he is, and there really is no denying that he showed his determination and skills. But Henderson's lack of energy has to be considered when looking at that fight. After a tough weight cut to 185 pounds which may turn out to be the last time he ever does that, Henderson completely gassed after crushing Shields with punches in the first round.
Georges St-Pierre doesn't have the one-punch knockout power that Henderson does, but he does have an ever-improving stand-up game which he most recently used to pick apart Josh Koscheck. With Shields' stand-up game being his biggest weakness, expect St-Pierre to do damage there before taking Shields to the ground where he will work his ground-and-pound attack.
Jake Shields' best chance of winning this fight is catching St-Pierre in a submission from his back, or somehow knocking him out on the feet. Neither of which seems very likely to happen due to St-Pierre's cautious style.
All valid points Nick but if you look at the dominance Shields' fellow "Scrap Pack" fighters Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez it is foolish to think that Shields has not improved by leaps and bounds as well.
I don't question GSP's ability at all but there are times that I have questioned his true heart. I think if Shields and bring the fight early and keep GSP of balance he has a great chance of pulling off the upset.
Listen, I have to agree with Robert about the fact that Shields has improved and a lot of it has to do with how good his teammates are. When you train with the caliber of fighters he has been training with, it's only natural that he would get better. Obviously GSP trains with some of the best in the world and at times trains with guys that fight in higher weight divisions so the caliber of camps has helped both fighters tremendously.
I don't see how you can question GSP's heart. He takes on all challenges and meets them head on. Koscheck told anyone who would listen and even those who didn't want to hear it that GSP would never take a chance and stand with him. Not only did GSP stand with him, he completely dominated the entire fight. The two spent a total of 68 seconds on the ground. One would have to look at Koscheck's eye and the damage that GSP caused to understand the exact nature of the ass whoopin' St-Pierre handed out.
I’m not trying to say that Shields hasn’t improved, only that he has a long way to go before he’s going to be on a level of striking with Georges St-Pierre.
Even though GSP isn’t known as a knockout artist, his boxing skills and safe approach on his feet since the Matt Serra fight have served him extremely well, and he really hasn’t taken much damage on the feet since that crazy night.
Also, I think it’s important to remember who Shields has brought in to try to prepare for St-Pierre. He’s not bringing in guys who are highly skilled strikers—he brought in Matt Lindland and Chael Sonnen.
Shields is fully expecting this to turn into a wrestling match, which seems to be what Koscheck thought as well... And we see how that turned out.
There is no question that GSP is light years ahead of Shields on the feet and if this fight turns into a standing battle I expect to see a similar result as the GSP-Koscheck fight, but if Shields can turn this into a grappling match I see this fight as being a coin flip.
GSP is more athletic and, for all intents and purposes, the best functional wrestler in all of MMA but Shields is not far behind and I would argue that he has the better BJJ.
It’s going to be a close fight and as much as I want to pick the upset here, I think GSP is the more complete fighter and I think he will pull out the unanimous decision victory.
It’s amazing to me how Shields can be so damn dominate on the ground and so proficient in BJJ yet suffer so mightily with his striking. I truly hope that we get to see these two grapple and show the fans who are infatuated with the knockout just how awesome a good ground battle can be,
GSP knows he can control this fight on the feet, but I think the athlete and competitor in him will cause him to test himself against the jiu-jitsu of Shields. Regardless of how long this bout remains on the mat, I don’t see GSP being submitted. Shields will have to look to score points any way he can, but in the end I think he’ll come up short as GSP will use all his tools which are plentiful.
Georges St-Pierre via fourth-round TKO (Ground-n-Pound)
I truly believe it’s going to come down to how nervous GSP is. If he goes into the fight as cool and collected as he has against his recent opponents, I don’t see Shields standing much of a chance.
Realistically, Shields has the better jiu-jitsu, but unless he can submit St-Pierre, I don’t see how he can win this fight. It’s going to be tough to do that, too, because St-Pierre has made such a change in his style to where he is constantly avoiding danger and picking the right spots to do his own damage.
St-Pierre might be the most frustrating fighter in the sport to fight against, and I think he’ll end up winning a decision in a fight where neither fighter does a whole lot of damage.
Check out my feature interview with Jake Shields by clicking here.