Posts Tagged ‘Georges St-Pierre’

Is Jon Jones the world’s top pound-for-pound fighter?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

That may have been Jon Jones’ most impressive showing in the Octagon yet. This is a recording.

“Bones,” the UFC’s light heavyweight champ, was proven human for a few brief moments by challenger and Karate master Lyoto Machida last Saturday at UFC 140 in Toronto. To me, that made Jones’ performance even more staggering. He took a hard shot or two, realized he was in a fight, adjusted and proceeded to embarrass one of the world’s best fighters. He needed a single elbow to turn The Dragon’s forehead into a bloody mess. The image of him dropping the unconscious Machida to the canvas after a standing guillotine choke will be replayed for years.

After the victory, buzz among MMA pundits suggested Jones deserved to vault Georges St-Pierre in the world pound-for-pound rankings. To me, that isn’t even an interesting topic to debate anymore. GSP has fought four times in the last 36 months, winning only by decision. Jones has annihilated four opponents in the last 10 months. Three of Jones’ conquests – Machida, Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson – have been UFC champions before. None of St-Pierre’s last four opponents has.

To me, Jones is clearly the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter on Earth. The more interesting question is where he ranks relative to Anderson Silva. “The Spider” deserves the unofficial title of greatest mixed martial artist of all time, but comparing his last four fights to Jones’ last four makes the waters murky. Silva was lackluster against Demian Maia and was 110 seconds away from losing to Chael Sonnen.

Then again, Silva humiliated his last two opponents, Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, using his Muay Thai. He’s also won 15 straight fights. If you count Jones “loss” to Matt Hamill, he’s actually walked through 16 straight opponents, but Silva still has the more impressive overall body of work.

The Spider still probably deserves No. 1 status – but we’re bordering on a 1A/1B situation here.

Should a No. 1 contender “wait” if the champion is injured?

Friday, October 21st, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

UFC 137 just won’t be the same. The headliner, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, sprained his knee while training this week and is out of commission for at least a month and probably longer. The main event has been postponed.

But note that I didn’t used the term “cancelled.” Top 170-pound contender, Carlos Condit, will await GSP’s recovery and still challenge him for the belt. Wrestling master Josh Koscheck offered to step in and battle Condit on short notice but Condit declined, stating that he “had nothing to gain” from fighting someone below him on the ladder.

At first glance, the logic seems sound. After all, if Condit only has one guy ahead of him in the divisional rankings, fighting – and losing – to anyone below him can only hurt his career. But I wonder if good things always come to those who wait. Waiting for a shot guarantees that you still get to battle for the belt but it also means you sit on the shelf for a long period of time and can become rusty and/or lose your hunger. Worse yet, a long layoff could hinder your body’s ability to respond under extreme stress. Just ask Rashad Evans.

“Suga” earned a No. 1 contender match against Muay Thai specialist Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in 2010 but decided to wait a full year for his title shot after Shogun blew out his knee. After not fighting for a year, Evans’ rusty body failed him leading up to the winter 2011 fight. He injured himself and lost the title shot; Jon Jones got it instead.

Evans finally returned to the cage after more than a year off to beat Tito Ortiz this summer but he injured himself again, losing another title shot (this time against Jon Jones). I have to wonder: if Evans hadn’t waited for Shogun and instead had maintained his normal fighting schedule, would he have gotten hurt as easily? He waited a year for a title shot and that wait has grown to two years and counting.

If GSP’s layoff turns out to be long and Condit waits many months for the fight, he could suffer from ring rust or increase his risk of injury, as Evans may have done.

Someone in Condit’s position might point to lightweight Melvin Guillard. “The Young Assassin” reportedly had a chance to wait for the winner of Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, decided to keep fighting and stay fresh, and lost to Joe Lauzon. Bye-bye title shot.

To me, however, that loss just showed that Guillard wasn’t a true No. 1 challenger. If you really think you’re the second-best in your weight class, shouldn’t you have no problem beating anyone below you? If Condit were to, say, risk his title shot to battle someone like Jon Fitch while GSP recovered, the risk would be huge, but the gain would be a lot bigger than he might believe. Beating Fitch would greatly increase Condit’s confidence, put a scare in the champ and keep Condit’s skills sharper heading into a GSP fight.

It’s hard to really blame any contender who wants to wait out a champ – after all, who knows when he or she might get another shot? – but the decision is more complicated than it may seem.

Why losing to Carlos Condit might help Georges St-Pierre’s legacy

Friday, October 14th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

Make no mistake: swapping Carlos Condit in for Nick Diaz as Georges St-Pierre’s next challenger for the UFC welterweight title was not a lucky break for the champ.

In fact, I’d argue that Condit may give GSP his toughest test in years – at least since the Thiago Alves fight (on paper, as he ended up dominating Alves).

Condit embodies what mixed martial arts is all about. He’s the total package, displaying knockout power, solid BJJ and submission skills, excellent fitness and, most of all, a true killer instinct. It’s the latter trait that should have the champ sweating. Appropriately nicknamed the Natural Born Killer, Condit (27-5) is as good a finisher as anyone in the sport. Of his 27 victories, 26 have come via stoppage, 13 by knockout and 13 by submission. He has a granite jaw and has battled back to win some real wars.

Though overcoming St-Pierre’s wrestling will still be a challenge for the wiry Condit, he clearly poses a major threat to St-Pierre because he’s truly willing to go for broke and he attacks from any position in the cage, including on his back. That nasty edge is the one skill GSP lacks nowadays and it makes me wonder if losing this fight would be better for St-Pierre’s career.

With a 22-2 record and having avenged his only two losses, GSP has surpassed Matt Hughes as the greatest 170-punder ever to compete in MMA. He’s at worst the No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. But if he continues to fight the way he has his last few times in the cage, he’ll tarnish his legacy.

St-Pierre has begun fighting not to lose. It was particularly evident in his most recent title defenses against Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields, when he was clearly the superior striker but seemed afraid to fully engage. This conservative style has sent many a fan leaping off the GSP bandwagon.

GSP fights cautiously because he has little to gain and everything to lose when defending his title. If we ever want to see the GSP we fell in love with again, he may be better off losing the belt.

Falling to Condit would mean that GSP would have to change his game the next time out and win more decisively to gain top contender status and challenge for the belt again. He would have to battle in a way that didn’t leave the fight to the judges. He’d have to bust out all the athletic, dynamic strikes and takedowns that he used to, when he was the welterweight version of Jon Jones. Losing the belt would also open up a chance for GSP to challenge Anderson Silva at 185 pounds.

If St-Pierre keeps winning, he’ll forever be viewed as a dominant champion, but also as a boring one who didn’t take chances. He said he wants to be known as the best fighter of all-time. To do that, he may need to be humbled first. If Condit breaks GSP down, the legend may build himself back up better than ever.

Has Jon Jones passed Georges St-Pierre in the pound-for-pound debate?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

Another high-profile fight, another easy-breezy win for Jon “Bones” Jones.

Last weekend, the UFC’s light heavyweight champion and youngest belt holder in the promotion’s history battled a legend of the sport, Rampage Jackson, and tossed him aside like nothing.

The fight lasted four rounds but wasn’t remotely close. Jones picked Jackson apart with his ridiculous reach and unpredictability in the striking game, softening him up before choking him out. Rampage barely laid a finger on him. Most other high-profile MMA fighters even believe Jones toyed with Rampage and could’ve finished the fight sooner.

The epic performance called to mind the current world pound-for-pound rankings. Jones is almost a consensus top-four pick, with Cain Velasquez arguably deserving the fifth spot. After Jose Aldo got beat up in his last defense, it’s fair to argue that Jones deserves at least the No. 3 spot. But what about the top two spots?

It’s fair to say that Anderson Silva remains untouchable at No. 1. He’s won 15 straight fights and has never lost in the UFC. But what about Georges St-Pierre?

On paper, the welterweight champion has done little to lose the second rung on the ladder, having won nine consecutive fights. But a look at four pound-for-pound factors shows suggests GSP and Jones may be interchangeable.

1. Longevity

Naturally, GSP still has the edge at this stage. He’s 22-2 for his career and has defended his UFC welterweight title six straight times. Jones’ defense streak sits at one and counting.

Edge: St-Pierre

2. Dominance

A few years ago, GSP would’ve gotten plenty of votes, as his wrestling has made him dominant. But Jones has taken dominance to an even higher level. In 15 pro fights, the kid hasn’t sustained a scratch. No opponent has landed a noteworthy strike, takedown or submission attempt. Jones has utterly owned his rivals with unorthodox, accurate striking, powerful wrestling and evasiveness.

The crazy thing about Jones: as his opponents get tougher, he doesn’t become less dominant. He made legends like Rampage and Shogun look just as bad as his early conquests like Stephan Bonnar and Jake O’Brien. He beat an elite wrestler like Ryan Bader with superior wrestling. He beat an amazing Muay Thai striker in Shogun with superior striking. No fighter in MMA history has ever obliterated the competition like Jones through his first 15 bouts.

Edge: Jones

3. Quality of Opponents

GSP still gets the clear edge here. Jones was coddled to start his UFC career and, after breezing through some vets and young pups, arguably has only three victories that matter (Bader, Rua, Jackson).

GSP, meanwhile, has cleaned out the competition at 170 pounds. He’s beaten two of the greatest fighters of all time, BJ Penn and Matt Hughes, twice each. He’s avenged his only two defeats (Hughes and Matt Serra). He has turned aside everyone thrown his way.

Edge: St-Pierre

4. Intimidation factor

St-Pierre was a much more intimidating fighter a few years ago, when he used his Karate to pummel opponents. But his lack of finishing ability in recent years has been well-documented. Dana White has defended GSP, stating that his opponents have gotten tougher and thus made it tougher for him to put guys away. But tough competition hasn’t stopped Silva from burying opponents and it seems no one can go the distance with Jones anymore.

As Pat Barry explained, Jones has reached “Mike Tyson status.” Fighters are afraid of him and have no idea how to solve him.

Edge: Jones

To me, St-Pierre and Jones are on equal footing as co-No. 2s in the pound-for-pound rankings. The way things are trending, Jones may be alone in the second spot before long.

Are MMA fans ready to accept “The Nice Guy”?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

For mixed martial arts and, more specifically, the UFC, 2011 has been very much about ushering in the mainstream. Adding two new weight classes, enveloping the WEC, buying Strikeforce and signing a huge network TV deal with FOX were all major steps toward making MMA a more widely recognized and accepted sport.

With the increased mainstream popularity, in theory, comes more concern over fighters’ images. In other major pro sports, the bad boy isn’t often the superstar, it’s usually the squeaky-clean guy. Cal Ripken, Peyton Manning pre-scandal Tiger Woods, and Sidney Crosby are the types of personalities that rule sponsorship deals and billboards.

We could only expect, then, that the UFC would work to market its own “nice guys.” In Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones, it has its two flagships. However, I wonder if MMA is an exception to this rule. Are we sure the nice guy is built to be a star in the UFC?

Take The Jimmy Kimmel Show, for example. This week, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and his No. 1 challenger, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, appeared as guests alongside Dr. Phil. Can you guess which fighter drew the audience’s warmth and which one was jeered?

The likeable, good-looking, talented Jones didn’t get the response as he expected. He smiled through his teeth, trying to “take the high road” and answer everything diplomatically. Meanwhile, the street-tough Rampage wasted no time tearing into Jones, insulting him every chance he got and “being real.”

The crowd laughed at everything Rampage said, so much that Jones told the audience “Come on, don’t clap for that.”

Looking at that reaction – not to mention the negative fan backlash against the “safe” St-Pierre over the last year, I wonder if the Nice Guy has a place as an MMA star.

Who are the biggest draws, the most talked about fighters? Chuck Liddell, Former pro wrestling star Brock Lesnar, Nick Diaz. Cocky, taunting Anderson Silva. Mouthy Chael Sonnen.

Maybe we simply must accept that the core of this sport is still combat and a form of violence. It’s possible that nice guys finish last in MMA. There’s something very raw and elemental about fighting and perhaps a polished, eloquent fighter just doesn’t feel right to fans.

The one major contradiction to this theory – and the man who should give us hope about Jon Jones – is Randy Couture. For now, though, Randy is the exception, not the norm.