“The first UFC vs Strikeforce Superfight is official. But was it justified?”
Poses an interesting debate, doesn't it? I’m Andre Harrison, but you already knew that (If you're from the Pro Wrestling section, this is my first MMA column). In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 Hours when it comes to combat sports, Dana White announced on Twitter yesterday that at UFC 137, the UFC Welterweight Champion, Georges St-Pierre, will fight Strikeforce’s Welterweight Champion, Nick Diaz, in a superfight in Las Vegas on October 29th (Date is subject to change).
Whether Diaz’s Strikeforce title is on the line hasn't been announced yet, but what is confirmed is that Diaz has signed a new multi-fight, multi-year contract, which enables him to fight in the UFC AND in Strikeforce. Apparently, according to Cesar Gracie (Diaz’s trainer), Showtime wasn’t really the issue, it was the pre-arranged agreement regarding the Jeff Lacy boxing fight which caused the difficulty. (To be honest, I don’t think Diaz is going back to Strikeforce unless he loses multiple fights in a row, which is unlikely to begin with, but it’s a clever catch in the contract.)
So, with Nick Diaz thrust straight back into the UFC, and immediately getting a title shot, I have to pose the question, is this fair to GSP, and to the rest of the Welterweight Division in the UFC? Let’s break some things down, look at multiple angles and see what I think of the situation.
First of all, let’s take a look at some facts about GSP. He’s the UFC Welterweight Champion with a record of 21-2. He’s won 10 in a row in the UFC, having avenged his only two losses, and has successfully defended the Welterweight Championship six times, against Jon Fitch, BJ Penn, Thaigo Alves, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields.
GSP is easily the #2 P4P fighter on the planet, with only Anderson Silva being more dominant when it comes to weight classes and fighters. Nick Diaz is/was (depending how you look at the situation), the first Strikeforce Welterweight Champion. He’s ALSO won 10 in a row, including three title defences against KJ Noons, Evangelista Santos and most recently, Paul Daley in April. Without question, GSP’s fought the better names while being in the UFC, but if you think about it, has Diaz done enough to suggest that he can really hang with GSP? Hmm…
I think the reason Diaz has been brought in is due to the fact that the UFC’s Welterweight Division is a murky place to be right now. GSP is the dominant champion, and there isn't a fresh contender for him in the Top 5 right now, as he’s already beaten Jake Shields, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, BJ Penn (Twice), and others.
The problem also is that Penn and Fitch are both injured and may not fight again in 2011, Koscheck is still medically suspended after breaking his orbital bone at UFC 124 during his fight with GSP in December, and he won’t fight again until Autumn. Koscheck's suspension ends this month, and there’s at least another two months of training to get through after that as well.
Fitch has a shoulder injury and can’t fight until December, not to mention he’s stubbornly, demanding a rematch with BJ Penn or a fight with GSP after rejecting Rick Story. This automatically makes Joe Silva’s booking much harder, as Shields and Penn want to fight each other in the first 5-Round Non-Title fight in the UFC.
Don’t also forget guys who are moving up quickly in the division, like Rick Story (Who’s won six in a row), Jake Ellenburger, who’s won two fights in as many months, and the veteran names still in the mix, like Diego Sanchez and Carlos Condit who are there as well.
Sanchez will be fighting Hughes in September, while Condit will be fighting the Korean Stun Gun, Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132 in July. So we could be here for a while before we can truly have a legitimate number one contender, with injuries, suspensions and time having to elapse first. Here’s how I rank the Welterweights right now:
1) Georges St-Pierre (UFC Welterweight Champion)
2) Jon Fitch
3) Jake Shields
4) Nick Diaz (Strikeforce Welterweight Champion)
5) Josh Koscheck
6) BJ Penn
7) Rick Story
8] Carlos Condit
9) Jake Ellenburger
10) Thiago Alves
As I’ve said, GSP has beaten four of the Top six welterweights in the world in my eyes, one of them twice, as a matter of fact. Nick Diaz is a very versatile fighter, he can stand and bag with the very best, has a big chin, and with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he can easily take it to the ground and fight off his back if need be.
Unlike some of GSP’s opponents in the past, he won’t be afraid to get stuck in and give it to Georges, which Shields and Koscheck didn’t do. However, in my eyes, Diaz hasn’t beaten anyone in the top 10-15 guys in the world at 170. He’s gotten by because of his skill set, but he hasn’t really fought anyone top quality since Takanori Gomi and Sean Sherk in 2007/2006 respectively.
Carlos Condit recently said that he thought it was unfair for Diaz to get the title shot, and to an extent I can see where he’s coming from, as other guys have been working very hard to try and climb the ladder. Diaz has come in straight away and becomes the #1 Contender with the snap of Dana White's fingers.
It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. Look at Diaz' fellow camp-mate Jake Shields. He was Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, but relinquished his title to join the UFC’s Welterweight Division to fight Martin Kampmann back in October 2010. He won (albeit in a close one), and got a title shot. White even admitted that Shields would have gotten a title shot right away if the timing was better (St-Pierre vs Koscheck 2 was already booked for December after The Ultimate Fighter Season 12.)
Overall, I can see why White’s done this. He made the move because the fans wanted a Superfight for GSP, and from a business standpoint, this a huge fight. It can be hyped up for the fans as the first real UFC/Strikeforce Champion v Champion contest, and outside of the Heavyweight Division (Everyone likes a good Heavyweight fight), GSP is the company’s biggest draw for Pay-Per-View buys, his fight with Koscheck pulling in about 800,000. His average is over 600,000, the third-highest of all time (Behind Brock Lesnar and Michael Bisping…Don’t ask), so a fight like this would pull near a million if Diaz was allowed to trash talk like Kos did for his fight.
It’s a shame he wasn’t given a coaching slot on The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 with GSP, as Mayhem and Bisping now have those roles.
From the fan's perspective and from a business standpoint, this should be awesome.
But if you’re a fighter, especially in the Top 10, and you're one or two fights away from a title shot, you’re going to have to feel like this was slightly unfair. This super-fight pretty much presses the pause button on the entire division for six months or so. But for me, as a writer, and fan of MMA, this is awesome, and something I’ve been wanting to see for a couple of years.
So I say, bring it on! Georges St-Pierre vs Nick Diaz for UFC 137, let’s do it! Sayonara!
(Please give me your feedback as to whether you liked the column, and if you like it, check out my website at http://www.theharrisonanalysis.com)