Harsh title, I know. We have this tendency to look at our champions, especially long-reigning champions, with rose colored glasses. For some reason, as a viewing audience, we always reward them the benefit of the doubt, and maybe that’s because in winning the belt, they’ve earned it. I’m not so sure. One thing that is for sure, no one in attendance agreed with last night’s split-decision giving Georges St. Pierre the victory against Johny Hendricks. St. Pierre is the greatest fighter in the history of the Welterweight Division, uncontested. He’s also one of the preeminent faces of mixed martial arts and the UFC, even starring in the latest adaptation of Captain America as Balroc the Impaler. So, why am I so harsh on GSP? He fights for points, not for fans.
St. Pierre comes from a wold-class Kyokushin Karate background and has some of the most refined and powerful strikes in the world. That being said, GSP is renowned for his wrestling ability. Having no formal training in the discipline before joining the world of mixed martial arts, St. Pierre has gone on to become master of MMA-wrestling (an adaption of traditional wrestling specifically for mixed martial arts competitions). It is a testament to his will and his intelligence that St. Pierre has been able to go as far as out-wrestle former Purdue wrestling captain Jon Fitch in their bout back in 2008.
All good things so far, so where’s the problem with GSP? Despite being able to virtually knock anyone’s head off with a stunning backheel roundhouse kick to the temple, St. Pierre often times relies heavily on his jabs and even more heavily on his takedowns. Now, I’m not advocating that fighters go out and swing for the fences or fight with reckless abandon. What I am suggesting is that more and more fighters are depending on winning via the judge’s scorecards. Guys are trying to score points instead of inflict damage, which isn’t the point of a combat sport. Take the fact that eight of St. Pierre’s last 10 bouts have gone the distance, including the last seven straight. Compare that to his first 17 fights leading up to that streak of decisions, and you’ll notice that 13 of his first 17 professional bouts ended in a knockout, technical knockout or submission.
With St. Pierre’s long stay as the UFC Welterweight Champion, nearly six years to be exact, he’s gotten increasingly more boring. Even in fights against Josh Koscheck, Dan Hardy and Thiago Alves where St. Pierre clearly manhandled his opponent, he wasn’t able to get the finish. St. Pierre fights for points, and it’s a growing trend. We keep hearing more and more about controversial decisions, and as controversial as they may be, the judge’s usually score them correctly according to the criteria they are taught to score by. You want a sports analogy? It’s like watching two football teams kick field goals instead of going for the endzone. We lose a little excitement, and both fighters are trying to nickle and dime their way to a win, instead of ensuring they do their best to guarantee a win.
Maybe it’s a credit to how good St. Pierre is, that he can just impose his game plan and will on nearly anyone he faces and grind out victories. But in my opinion, it’s dull and it’s bad for the sport. You want guys hungry for wins and excitement, not guys that are trying to slide by on a few takedowns and scorecards. If I wanted to watch a grappling competition, I’d watch the national wrestling championships or the ADCC championships.