It has now been more than four years since the UFC welterweight champion tasted shocking defeat from the hands of Matt Serra at UFC 69. The top-ranked 170-pounder has since established himself thoroughly as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. No one has really even challenged him since that fateful night in April 2007.
But now a new challenger has risen. Well, technically he might be considered an old challenger now, but it appears as if we’re finally going to see the long-awaited fight between Georges St-Pierre and former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz.
UFC 137 was originally set to be the host for this monumental bout, but complications with Diaz and his refusal to “play the game” cost him what was set to be his shot at the UFC welterweight championship.
Carlos Condit replaced Diaz as the scheduled opponent for GSP in the main event, while Diaz was pushed down the card to fight in the semi-main event against former champion BJ Penn.
However, an injury to St-Pierre resulted in the UFC completely scrapping the headline fight between GSP and Condit, thus pushing Diaz-Penn into the main event. Diaz crushed Penn that night, which eventually resulted in UFC president Dana White announcing him as the new No. 1 contender for the title at the UFC 137 post-fight press conference.
With the Diaz-GSP fight now back on, there is growing concern the UFC welterweight champion’s days on top may be numbered—and rightfully so.
Here are the top eight reasons why Nick Diaz, as crazy as he may be at times, is the biggest threat St-Pierre has ever faced as champion.
“He’s the most disrespectful human being I’ve ever met and I’m going to put the worst beating you’ve ever seen on him in the UFC.”
Those were the words Dana White revealed that Georges St-Pierre spoke to him immediately following UFC 137 when Nick Diaz had just called out the UFC welterweight champion after defeating BJ Penn.
As if it wasn’t obvious already, that statement certainly solidified the opinion that many fans shared when they claimed Diaz was “in the head” of St-Pierre.
The typically very calm welterweight champion has been completely distracted by what Diaz has been doing. This became very evident when Diaz was not showing up for press conferences and St-Pierre was left to reporters asking him what he thought of his opponent’s disrespect. Now the frustration appears to be boiling over.
Perhaps an angry GSP will turn him into an even bigger beast than he already is, but those type of emotions typically do not favor fighters once they step into the cage.
While challengers like Matt Serra, Dan Hardy and BJ Penn pack a great punch, none of them quite have the combination of power and technique with their hands that Nick Diaz does.
The kid from Stockton, Calif. proved this at UFC 137 when he picked apart Penn in one of the greatest performances of his entire career. He didn’t get the knockout or submission he typically does, but there was no doubt who won that fight, and Penn had never been beaten down like that—even in the two losses he sustained against Georges St-Pierre.
GSP himself has had his chin questioned ever since his loss to Serra, and if there has ever been a person who will put him to the test in that area, it will be Diaz.
As a champion, Georges St-Pierre regularly competes in five-round title fights and has trained for those contests for quite a few years now. This has typically been a huge advantage for him as many of his opponents have spent most of or their entire careers training for three-round non-title fights.
Some criticize GSP for not trying to finish more fights, but it only makes sense he would try to make use of his cardio advantage by pushing the fight into the later rounds. By doing this, St-Pierre is still functioning at a very high level while his opponents gasp for air. This has led to some very decisive outcomes in the later rounds of his fights.
The only problem with utilizing this technique against Nick Diaz is that he might be the only person in the welterweight division who can keep up with—or even surpass—GSP in terms of being in excellent cardiovascular shape.
Diaz is a known triathlon competitor who, despite not having the muscle tone of the Canadian, is in amazing physical shape. It would be very surprising to see him gassed even in the championship rounds.
The biggest hole in Nick Diaz’s game has been his wrestling for a long, long time. His inability to avoid his opponents taking him to the ground and simply laying on him has been paramount in numerous of Diaz’s losses throughout his career and has been something he has spoken out against many times.
However, in his fight against Penn at UFC 137, Diaz displayed what appeared to be some improved takedown defense. Though Penn might not possess the same type of takedown success rate Georges St-Pierre does, he is still a very skilled grappler who almost never fails to take his opponents down when he truly wants to.
Though Diaz did get dragged to the ground at one point early in the fight, Penn was unable to secure another takedown despite shooting in on him numerous times in the second and third rounds.
If he really has improved his takedown defense this much, St-Pierre could be in for some serious trouble.
Though Georges St-Pierre will certainly come into the fight against Diaz as the odds-on favorite, it seems as if some people are forgetting he is coming off an injury.
The knee injury that he sustained prior to UFC 137 was bad enough it forced him out of the fight, something which he has not made a habit of throughout his UFC career, and although he appears to be ready to get back to training now, this cannot be forgotten.
Sometimes it is the minor, nagging injuries are the ones that truly affect athletes. While a major knee injury would keep a fighter off his feet for an extended period of time while allowing it to rest, minor knee injuries are often ones a fighter will try to train through, thus extending what would otherwise be a fairly low-impact injury.
The biggest criticism of Georges St-Pierre in recent years has been his seeming lack of desire to finish fights. While the old phrase “a win is a win” certainly applies to mixed martial arts, many critics point to his not submitting or knocking out opponents as a major weakness in his style.
Now he has the fun task of going up against one of the most notoriously difficult-to-finish fighters in all of MMA.
In 34 professional mixed martial arts fights, Nick Diaz has only ever been truly finished once. He does have two losses by TKO on his record, but one of them came in the form of a cut he sustained early in a fight against KJ Noons, an opponent he later defeated in a rematch.
Diaz’s style of sometimes taking punches for the sake of throwing off his opponent is an interesting one, but it’s something he probably doesn’t need to worry much about when he’s fighting a guy like St-Pierre. While he does have some great precision in his punches, St-Pierre doesn’t possess great knockout power.
Worse yet, as talented as St-Pierre is on the ground, it’s extremely unlikely he is going to be able to submit a top-level Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt like Diaz.
One benefit Diaz has that many seem to be forgetting is that he is a training partner of one of St-Pierre’s most recent challengers, Jake Shields. While Shields didn’t pose a particularly difficult challenge for GSP, he does have unique insight that very few fighters do into exactly what the welterweight champ is actually doing in the cage.
A coach can spend all day, every day preparing for what his fighter should do, but unless he himself has actually competed directly against his opponent, it’s hard to get an exact read.
Diaz and his Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu teammates are very close to one another, and while Shields is probably frustrated he didn’t get the victory at UFC 129, he will do everything in his power to make sure Diaz doesn’t become the next victim of the UFC champ.
One of his greatest weaknesses from a business standpoint might just also be one of his greatest assets.
Nick Diaz just doesn’t give a damn.
He doesn’t care about the fans booing him, he doesn’t care that Dana White apparently doesn’t trust him, he doesn’t care that the media hangs him out to dry whenever they can and he certainly doesn’t care that St-Pierre thinks he’s an arrogant punk.
For Diaz, actions speak louder than words and that is why he has taken it upon himself to defeat some of the top fighters in the sport while still refusing to conform to the norms that most mixed martial artists are held to when it comes to relating to fans and the media.
This mentality keeps Diaz’s mind clean when it comes to actually fighting—and after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
There are millions of people who would love to be a professional mixed martial artist, but only a very small percentage of those people actually have the desire to do it. An even smaller percentage has the ability to do it professionally. However, only a small fraction of those people have the capability of fighting for a UFC championship.
He’s going to be an underdog, but Nick Diaz can defeat Georges St-Pierre. He’ll just have to be perfect.