UFC 137: On October 29, 2011, in Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay auditorium, Canadian George St. Pierre will face former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz for the UFC welterweight belt. This will be one of GSP's toughest challenges of the past two years and this writer believes GSP vs. Diaz will be close.
Although GSP's effective, methodical striking has earned him four straight decisions over the past three years, Diaz's striking is more dynamic, equally precise, more continuous and blinding.
Diaz has a great chin and superior reach. He can also mix up his hands with his feet.
He will rain the hand leather against St. Pierre and will weather a few jabs in order to give "Rush" a taste of what has made Diaz nearly unbeatable under Strikeforce.
GSP floats in and out of distance well and can sting and disappear. He may be able to neutralize Diaz.
But it will be too expensive for GSP and he'll most likely morph into the take-down machine that got him past a fierce striker in Thiago Alves.
Most likely, GSP already has a game plan to take this to the ground and will be jabbing and low kicking only as a means to the take-down.
The one red flag here is Diaz' solid jiu jitsu. He is quite dangerous from his back.
So is BJ Penn, but St. Pierre ground and pound Penn into corner stoppage. True, Diaz is much bigger and stronger than Penn, so this will be an interesting facet.
In the end, GSP has been submitted only once (by Matt Hughes in 2004) but never when he was on top. His ground and pound has a 100 percent track record against solid UFC talent. Arguably the best in the welterweight world.
GSP can—and probably will—take Diaz down nearly at will. And once he's in half or full guard, Diaz will taste what most GSP opponents have from their backs: heart breaking inability to get up or do any damage as they eat a steady diet of Canadian hand bacon.
Diaz is emotional, obnoxious and uncouth.
But in the cage, this single-minded, devil-may-care stubbornness has allowed him to take beatings without hitting the panic or eject button.
Paul Daley and KJ Noons put some hard leather into Diaz and he reacted better than GSP did when he began losing the upper hand against Matt Serra in their first bout.
Perhaps it's chin, not heart.
Either way, it's working for Diaz.
GSP is so good at the "game" of fighting that he simply has not had to weather the leather.
Perhaps, he has forgotten how to.
GSP is also on top of the UFC and has not recently been endangered come fight night. This can have a subtle, cancerous effect on the "heart" muscle of a fighter. Often, it's too late to fix this mid-fight, as it is a product of training camp and long term mentality.
Diaz is coming out of the junior leagues and is hungry to prove himself. He is an underdog with heart.
If both fighters find themselves in a war of the wills, the advantage is with Diaz.
All things considered, GSP has fought higher level talent for the past five years.
As we've seen with Jake Shields and Fedor Emelianenko, Strikeforce stars are more often than not exposed as having been big fish in a small pond when they start swimming in UFC waters.
GSP is also a more cerebral fighter and won't go swinging blindly into Diaz à la Fedor vs. Henderson.
He'll most likely be able to take Diaz down and will most likely not fall prey to submission while on top.
Diaz is reckless and emotional, he won't mind going out with a bang if he finds himself tractor-beamed into another boring GSP-led march to decision victory.
Expect Diaz to risk it all and put on a show.
He'll bring a fight to Las Vegas in late October and he may just be the fighter to force the "Rush" back into St. Pierre's fighting style.
PREDICTION: GSP TKO in late fourth round in ground n' pound position.