Great Expectations: The Problem with Georges St. Pierre

On Saturday night UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre once more notched a win against a worthy challenger to his belt, meeting jiu-jitsu specialist Jake Shields head on with strikes for five full rounds to earn a win via unanimous decision.  As usual, it was a strong performance by the Canadian, who was never really in any trouble throughout the bout.  And of course, as usual, the fight stunk.

What is it about St. Pierre that makes him so dominant a champ?  Clearly, it’s his amazingly-high level of skill in all facets of MMA combat, which, coupled with his athleticism and ironclad game planning, has made for a combination that’s virtually unbeatable.  Also, boring.  But really, the Canadian can only take half the blame.

St. Pierre can kickbox like nobody’s business, as evidenced by his stunning performances against Matt Hughes and Jay Hieron, and he can submit cats just as easily (see his UFC 54 bout with Frank Trigg or his third and final pairing with Hughes).  He can out-wrestle wrestlers, he can withstand punishment and bounce back – he can do it all.  We’ve seen it in action with our own two eyes.  But it’s been so long since we were treated to St. Pierre “wowing” us (like Brock Lesnar likes to be wowed).  As they say in show business, he’s got a great act but man is it stale.

Consider this: since winning his belt at UFC 83 in 2008, St. Pierre successfully defended his title six times.  Of those six, all but one were victories by unanimous decision, with the BJ Penn fight the only stoppage (which came when the Hawaiian’s corner threw in the towel after four grueling rounds).  As championship reigns go, that’s not a lot of finishes.  At least middleweight lord Anderson Silva mixes in sudden, dynamic endings (like his front-kick KO of Vitor Belfort and his submissions over Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson) with his uninspired decision-based stinkers.  Why can’t St. Pierre do the same? 

The truth is, because St. Pierre is so dominant and capable a competitor, we expect more from him.  Yes, he can find an opponent’s weakness and exploit it to perfection, but how much more entertaining would it have been if he had beaten striker Dan Hardy at striking in lieu of laying on him?  How much more thrilling would it have been if he’d stood and traded with Thiago Alves instead of mashing the Brazilian into the canvas?  As viewers of such a kinetic sport, we would much rather see the Canadian defeat Jake Shields and Josh Koscheck like 205-pound champ Jon Jones did to Shogun – crushingly, overwhelmingly, not with just one cautious jab and overhand right at a time.  We want dominance from the man, and sure, we’re getting it.  But it’s not enough.  It’s not fun.

Shouldn’t it be fun, though?  As fans, don’t we deserve more?  Or should we just be satisfied with our heroes getting the “W” regardless of the method?

Those are very good questions, but the answers aren’t that cut and dry.  Yes, St. Pierre has a duty to entertain us, and yes, as consumers feeding the coffers of the UFC and ultimately putting the zeroes on fighters’ paychecks with our pay-per-view buys, we do deserve more than a champ really good at winning by points.  But St. Pierre also has a duty to himself – to win by any means necessary and keep winning – and between those conflicting interests (ours and his), a balance must be struck.  Unfortunately, the key word when it comes to the welterweight champ’s performances in the past couple years is “imbalance”.

We’ve seen wondrous, breath-taking things from St. Pierre throughout the years, but lately we’ve been unsatisfied.  What it all boils down to, though, is our great expectations.  Excessive or not, St. Pierre is not living up to them.

  • THEMAN

    problem with st. pierre is he’s an athlete. not a true fighter

  • MrMiagi

    I’m a french Canadian, I live in Quebec and as such, I can’t even describe how happy I was when St-Pierre TKO’d Hughes to get the belt or when he crushed Serra to get it back. I’ve always watched him fight and I’ve always rooted for him.

    But lately I’ve lost a lot of interest in him, my passion for this sport is growing, to the point I’m actually training in MMA, but as much as I love having such a nice person representing Quebec, I’m not really excited anymore about a card that he is headlining.

    I buy a lot of PPV events, boxing or UFC but when it comes to St-Pierre, I think reading the recap or watching the highlights will be enough. I mean, in a title fight, I expect something more, I expect an entertaining fight…yes here and there a title fight will be boring but it shloudn’t be the other way around, it shouldn’t be mostly boring fights.

    He says he wants to finish fights now but when Jake was clearly rocked, he just waited till he got up, someone one who really wanted this fight to not go the distance would have jumped on him right after that kick landed. When you’re a champion, I think you have the skills to finish the fights you’re in or at least try to till you get beat. If I buy an event whith guys like Silva, Jones, Velasquez, Aldo…sure it can go the distance like Aldo did Saturday (wich was a great fight regardless of no finish) but I don’t expect it to!

    So I think you’re right Jim saying we want more of him, but to do so, he’ll have to really want to finish his fights, he’ll have to take some risk and jump on guys. If you ask me, just being in that cage is a lot of risk, please take a few more and make it exciting

    • sam_snee

      im in the same boat with you, i like St. Pierre, but i wont pay to see him fight ever again. (he’ll probably ko his next opponent bc i said this)

  • Spankappletrees

    GSP I’d the champ and needs to defend it but all means necessary. If you want to become the champ you have to go and get it. Shields or Koscheck didn’t go after it. When GSP regained his title he went and took it. All these fighters say that their going to go in and get after him but none actually do. None of his last opponents pushed GSP to showcase his skill. Why should GSP push and risk making a mistake and loss his title when his job now as the champion is to defend it. I would love to see GSP vs. Nick Diaz because I know that Nick will force GSP into a fight. Even though I don’t like Nick I believe he is the only last challenger at 170. But still I believe GSP will dominant him. GSP is to strong and great at all of MMA. But only time will tell who will win that fight. So make it happen.

    • Spankyappletrees

      Messed up in the first sentence sorry, typing on the iPhone and it makes to many corrections where it shouldn’t be. Meant to say “GSP is the champion and needs to defend it by all means necessary.”

      • http://www.mmaconvert.com Steve Barry

        That’s funny, I just got an iPhone and the autocorrect drives me nuts. But it also helps a lot too so I guess I can’t complain.

    • sam_snee

      i dont get why people think Diaz is such a valid contender, he almost got KO’d by daley (who if he fought smart could have won that fight) and daley lost a lopsided fight to Koscheck, who lost a lopsided fight to GSP. I know the ladder of defeat doesnt mean anyhting, i know i know, but still thats a long ladder for Diaz to be seen as so valid. Diaz is good, reallly really god, and i want to see the fight, i just expect the same old 5 round decision again.

      • Spankappletrees

        Diaz, in my opinion, is the only 170 that will bring the fight to GSP. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like DIaz but he is really the only one that will back his trash talk up and make it a fight. Plus he has the skills on the ground (on his back) and stand up to finish the fight, unlike all the other fighters GSP fought that aren’t as skilled on the ground with submissions and standup. I know Bj Penn has those skills but he doesnt have the right work ethic.

      • jim genia

        Nick Diaz has turned into a huge risk-taker, and it’s been paying off for him nicely (and for the fans) since he brought his skill-level so high (he was no where near the boxer he is now when he was in the UFC). of course,when he was in the UFC he was stymied by wrestlers – remember when all he did agains Sean Sherk was try to hit a switch? and of course we all know GSP would only try to lay on him, nothing more. but at least we know Diaz would, without a doubt, bring it. that right there makes him the best, most valid contender.

    • The Jester

      I can all but promise you that Diaz will do nothing remotely similar to “forcing GSP into a fight.” His stand-up is decent but GSP’s is far superior. That doesn’t even matter though because GSP will take will down with ease and ground-and-pound/lay-and-pray or whatever you wanna call it and will grind out another decision. Every aspect of Nick Diaz’s game is highly overrated. As much as I don’t like GSP and think he is very boring to watch these days his skills are not overrated he just doesn’t use them in an exciting fashion anymore. Diaz only has a prayer in this fight because it is just that, a fight. Take it to the bank kids, if this fight ever happens Diaz loses every aspect of it.

    • sandman

      I absolutely agree with you. Well said….

  • Matt Silliman

    GSP is the P4P safest fighter in MMA. He doesn’t finish fights because he won’t risk losing any advantage he has. He doesn’t go for certain SUBS because he knows if he doesn’t get it, he could end up on bottom. He doesn’t follow up good strikes because he wants to remain in control and not get caught rushing in. The truth is, he changed once he got his belt back the second time. The old GSP was aggressive and finished people or at least went for it. The new GSP is afraid to lose so will always play it too safe.

    So you can be sure he will NOT stand with Nick and we can only hope to see Nick work magic off his back.

  • hangtown

    how is this gonna work, if diaz loses does he remain strikeforce champ? or is it a real unification bout…if it even happens, if diaz gets to go back to being strikeforce champ then he will probably go balls out, and say “screw it, if i lose im still the champ and will get another shot eventually as long as i remain champion of strikeforce” or if it a unification bout and only 1 champ will be crowned then he will probably go with the ” alright, no homie is takin my belt, fool, you better put your hands up or get the crap beat out of you cuz im goin ball out” either way, i see nick as getting really risky in the fight, the guy is a risk taker already, and fight with a safe fighter like gsp might be gsp kryptonite, nick dont g.a.f. i see a ko in first or second by diaz, or lay and pray all night baby by gsp,…..ps.. remember when ufc’s highlight reel always had nick diaz ko of robbie lawler…lol, that was cool

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