Anderson Silva VS. Georges St-Pierre: A Mega-Fight Possible To Ignore
There’s simply too much money on the table not to make UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva versus Georges St-Pierre headline a pound-for-pound supremacy tilt in the octagon.
First, it’s a mega-fight—not a super-fight. They are the UFC’s first two truly international champions and they happen to be no. 1 and no. 2 all-time in divisional title defenses; Silva has 10 compared to St-Pierre’s seven.
St-Pierre achieved undisputed welterweight champion status after 19-months and 568 days away from defending his throne by bloodying and outpointing interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 154 this past Saturday night. It was his fifth consecutive unanimous decision title victory. In front his hometown packed into the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, St-Pierre didn’t get on his knees and plead for the best grab at greatness in the sport when commentator Joe Rogan brought up a potential bout with Silva.
St-Pierre is no stranger to the in-cage call out. After UFC 56 in November 2005, he begged for a title shot. “I’m not impressed by your performance,” he famously told Matt Hughes following Hughes retaining the welterweight title at UFC 63 in September 2006. It was the biggest win of Hughes’ hall of fame career and St-Pierre had no issue facilitating UFC’s hype for big pay-per-views. There’s a reason St-Pierre is in no “Rush” to meet Silva.
St-Pierre knows—and more importantly, so does everyone else—he’s the top welterweight in the game. The proposition of a tangle with Anderson Silva is tantalizing to everyone except for the 170-pound fighter that understands he’s being asked to prove he’s the no. 1 combatant at 185-pounds too. Silva understands dynamics involved in advancing in weight, which is why he isn’t tearing down walls to stand across from Jon Jones, a champion 20-pounds heavier.
There’s no doubt St-Pierre considers the way Silva’s held the 185-pound division hostage, dismissing a UFC record 10 title challengers, seven of which he enshrined with artsy, memorable finishes when hitting pause on their super-fight. UFC President Dana White insists it will happen, even targeting May 2013 and searching for an appropriate stadium—whether it’s Canada, Brazil or the U.S. biggest, Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Tex.
Are Silva’s 37-years with no damage endured in his six years in the octagon enough to slow him against an on-point St-Pierre? What can a fighter like St-Pierre who counts on a mistake-free, high-performance bet on with a 15-pound weight differential against the sport’s most decorated and dangerous champion? “GSP” and his Tristar Gym camp confidant Firas Zahabi—not to mention Renzo Gracie associates like John Danaher—are incredibly calculated. It’s no secret they believe St-Pierre is more suited for a two-division run at 155-pounds. After all, the French-Canadian owns a signature victory against B.J. Penn at UFC 94 in January 2009. That contest solidified division jumping can sink a fighter facing larger world-class fighters, even upon returning to the weight class they previously ruled with certainty.
The difference between St-Pierre and Silva is Silva’s never had to answer for any octagon deficiencies. It’s a testament to the level of athlete St-Pierre is that he was fighting for a UFC strap two years into his career. He dropped two of his first three title fights in the octagon, losing to Hughes via last second submission at UFC 50 in October 2004, avenging him with second-round TKO at UFC 65 in November 2006 and losing to Matt Serra five months later at UFC 67 later due to punches in the opening frame.
Losing to Matt Hughes is something an entire generation of welterweights endured. Losing to Matt Serra is the UFC’s true “Rocky” moment as the New Yorker overcame 11-to-1 odds.
Mentally, St-Pierre wasn’t ready for either. He couldn’t look Hughes in the eyes, intimidated by then-the greatest welterweight in history. Whatever consumed St-Pierre surrounding the Serra fight ended in sports psychology sessions, which opened the gates for St-Pierre to settle the score with both decisively in his next two outings, setting the foundation for his current record seven welterweight title defenses and the accompanying 10-fight win streak.
St-Pierre has the most reasonable case to call out Silva. “The Spider” has freed himself from defeat in a record 16 UFC outings, so the UFC is asking St-Pierre, if in all his divisional brilliance, he may have unearthed the answer to the UFC’s most pressing question: who can beat the greatest fighter ever?
It’s not that St-Pierre is mentally fragile or afraid of Silva. He’s simply practical. The 31-year-old didn’t become the most athletic martial artist and consistent competitor around for no reason.
Avoiding the lockjaw of loss from Condit’s 90%-plus finish rate midway through their bout suggests to St-Pierre another six months away from holding contenders in line is enough time for his margin of dominance to thin considerably. A trip to catch weight or middleweight territory means St-Pierre competes just once at 170-pounds in two years. The French-Canadian champion must have heard two-time NCAA National Wrestling Champion Johny Hendricks detonate a left hook on Martin Kampmann while he warmed up for Condit. That’s a sound that can’t be ignored, especially since “Big Rigg” took out perennial contenders Jon Fitch (who had never been finished in the UFC or at welterweight) and Kampmann in less than a minute combined. Then there’s a matter of Nick Diaz, who despite losing a controversial decision to Condit in February, remains a compelling bout for “GSP” as his true foil—a star within the division that will add the most pay-per-view intrigue for him since Penn.
St-Pierre holds the rare distinction of erasing all losses on his record with decisive finishes. Displacing his body up and away from a weight class he’s bankrolled his multimillion-dollar stardom with is a matter of no guarantees. Sure, that’s the fight game’s nature, but it’s like asking a happily married man to find what’s next. It may be enjoyable, a risk and reward worth considering yet ultimately it reeks of unnecessary doom.
Silva captured his UFC crown at UFC 64 in October 2006. St-Pierre tasted welterweight gold for the first time at the next event. There is no denying their parallel runs in adjacent divisions have led to this moment, only made possible after St-Pierre-Condit. There is no question on St-Pierre’s ledger or in his highlight reel he’s beat the best available to him, but there’s a difference between defending the throne and chasing it. Not all are prone to conquering uncharted territory especially when attempting to secure their own permanently.
St-Pierre welcomes a chance to be the greatest ever if he chooses to challenge Silva. The rub is it feels like an all-or-nothing gamble. The 31-year-old can get knocked out by Anderson Silva for far more money than he can get knocked out by Johny Hendricks or any another welterweight, but that requires he double-down first—a tough call for someone not known for their gambles.