UFC 129: Will It Be a Standing War Between Georges St-Pierre and Jake Shields?

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UFC 129: Will It Be a Standing War Between Georges St-Pierre and Jake Shields?
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St. Pierre has proven his stand up is superior to even the best strikers in the UFC, like he did against Thiago Alves

Georges St. Pierre has proven time and again that standing with him is a terrible idea.  In the weeks leading up to his title defense against Thiago Alves at UFC 100, I remember thinking that Alves had a great opportunity to pull off an upset because I felt he was one of the best muay thai strikers in the game, and could utilize that to beat St. Pierre. 

I then proceeded to watch GSP render Alves’s entire repertoire useless as he out-struck him, then drove him into the ground for five rounds en route to a clear decision victory.  In St. Pierre’s last fight against Josh Koscheck, he used a simple left jab to beat in Koscheck’s face in for five rounds en route to a clear decision victory. 

The pattern speaks for itself, standing with GSP is bad for your health.  Anyone who has watched UFC Primetime the last couple of weeks knows that Jake Shields isn’t delusional about this fact, and both he and his coach Cesar Gracie have been up front about how they plan to attack St. Pierre; frustrate him on the feet (easier said than done) and get it to the ground where they plan on submitting GSP with superior grappling (again, easier said than done).

The thought of anyone “frustrating” GSP in his feet is an entirely different debatable subject.  At this point, the only man I put stock in to be able to do that is Anderson Silva, which is also an entirely debatable subject by itself. 

The trifecta of debatable subjects with regard to this point is whether Shields’ grappling is that much better, if at all, then St. Pierre’s.  None of these issues concern me with regard to this column, so let’s stick to the question at hand; will a stand up war ensue between St. Pierre and Shields?  In a word, no. 

Will GSP and Shields spend more time battling on the ground than standing up?

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Let’s start with the champ.  GSP knows how good his striking is, and he uses it effectively and carefully through each fight.  Can you remember the last time you saw St. Pierre in a problematic situation inside the Octagon?  I can, it was the last time he lost a fight—his first bout against Matt Serra over four years ago.  Since then he’s been a wrecking ball, an impossible puzzle to figure out.  30 straight rounds have been scored for GSP. 

As every MMA fight starts standing, so does GSP’s meticulous ability to break down his opponents over the course of a fight.  Georges trains his muay thai with Phil Nurse, one of the best coaches in this area in the game today, and a man who has become a secret weapon for fighters (Nurse also trains Frankie Edgar, Rashad Evans, and Jon Jones, among others). 

In addition to that, in the last year Georges has spent time honing his boxing with legendary trainer Freddie Roach.  His newfound boxing skills were so prominently on display in the aforementioned Koscheck bout. 

All the previously mentioned aspects of St. Pierre’s game are impressive, but what makes GSP elite, and arguably the best fighter in the game today, is his desire and ability to beat his opponent at his own game.  He’ll likely want to do the same in this case, and beat Shields on the ground.  A major part of St. Pierre’s quest to be one of the best ever is to show he’s better than everybody at everything. 

From the perspective of Jake Shield’s, that’s a much easier nut to crack.  GSP’s superiority in the stand up game is no secret, and while Shields’ stand up is certainly good, Shields is aware that St. Pierre is on another level, and will want to put this fight in a place where the playing field is more level, the ground.  The problem for Shields is getting it there. 

As I said before, the inclination by Shields that he will frustrate GSP on his feet is just too far fetched.  It makes more sense that GSP will dictate the majority of this fight, and it will go to the ground when he wants it to go there.

I hate to say it, but I actually think this fight has the potential to be less exciting than most people think.  St. Pierre has shown no killer instinct of late in his fights, and couldn’t even submit a very low level grappler like Dan Hardy just one year ago.  Surely he won’t be able to submit a much more seasoned Jake Shields.  

Shields will bring his full arsenal, but both of these fighters are high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners, and the thought of one submitting the other doesn’t quite make sense to me.  There would need to be a mistake of epic proportions by one of these fighters for that to happen, and given the ability and experience of both of these guys, I just can’t see that occurring.

That leaves a whole bunch of rolling around and scrambling for position.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good grappling match, but at the end of the day I see St. Pierre doing more damage with limited ground and pound, and making Shields spend more time playing defense en route to, you guessed it, a clear five round decision victory. 

In short, neither one of them wants to stand, if only because each believes in his own grappling ability over the other’s.  This battle will play out on the ground.

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