Intelligently Defending 8.23.07: The Road to the Title Begins Again
You are an up-and-coming UFC fighter given a title shot at age 23. In the fight you work over one of the greatest fighters of all-time, only to be submitted with one second left in round one. Following the loss, you go on a tear and win six fights in a row against top competition. Along the way you gain a legion of fans and are dubbed ‘the future of mixed martial arts.’ Your impressive winning streak culminates with a rematch for the world title. In the fight you dominate the greatest UFC champion of all-time and capture the gold.
Your hard work and perseverance have paid off. People say the only way you will lose your title is if you retire.
Your first title defense comes five months later against a 12 to 1 underdog. He has no business being in the same state with you – let alone the same octagon. Before the fight starts you are announced as the ‘UFC Welterweight Champion of the world,’ – a phrase you have waited for your entire life to hear.
Five minutes later – you watch as the title you worked so hard for is placed around the waist of your opponent.
For the three of you who have not figured it out, the above scenario has happened to Georges St. Pierre.
After his title victory over Matt Hughes at UFC 65, GSP looked to be on top of the world. He was so impressive in his title run that some were starting to mention him alongside Fedor Emelianenko as being the greatest fighter in the world. Then things came crashing to a halt on that fateful night in Houston when Matt Serra scored possibly the biggest upset in MMA history.
A reality television star had defeated GSP. All of the mystique that had been building up in regards to St. Pierre suddenly vanished. He was far worse off than he was following his loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 50.
The road back to the title now begins again for GSP.
Recent fighters who have lost their titles were given relatively easy fights when they first returned to competition. Matt Hughes got Chris Lytle, Rich Franklin got Jason MacDonald, and Chuck Liddell will soon get Keith Jardine. Again, the key word is ‘relatively’ since no competition at the UFC level can be considered ‘easy.’ Still, in each of these cases the former title-holder was expected to get back on track with a win.
Unlike these past champions, St. Pierre will hit the ground running when he returns to the octagon this Saturday at UFC 74. Waiting in the wings for GSP is Josh Koscheck – a 42-0 Division 1 NCAA wrestler, four-time All-American and one-time National Champion. Koscheck’s hands have been shown to have power and the technical aspect of his stand-up improves with each fight.
Above all else, Koscheck is currently enjoying a win streak similar to the one GSP went on after suffering his first MMA loss to Matt Hughes. After tasting defeat for the first time at ‘Ultimate Fight Night 2′ to Drew Fickett, Kos has rolled off five straight victories. The biggest of these wins coming in his last fight where he ended the undefeated record of Diego Sanchez. Also similar to GSP, Koscheck is starting to gain a lot of notoriety as being ‘the next big thing’ in MMA.
Both fighters will gain the same thing from winning this fight – a Welterweight Title shot against either Matt Serra or Matt Hughes.
However, of the two, GSP stands to lose much more.
If Josh, who is still relatively new to the fight game, were to lose this fight it would be the first blemish to his record in nearly two years. Couple this in with the fact that he is stepping in there with one of the best welterweights in the world, and a loss for Koscheck would be easily excused.
People will say that Kos was not quite ready for the big-time — but will be back.
If GSP were to lose this fight his situation would become much worse. He will now have dropped two fights in a row – both of which he was favored to win. Questions will continue to rise about Georges’s mental toughness. Even worse, GSP would fall even further down the already crowded welterweight ladder.
People will say GSP does not have the heart of a champion – and may never again.
Again it should be noted that GSP was a one man wrecking crew after suffering a heartbreaking loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 50. After being defeated he would go on to beat fighters like Jason Miller, Sean Sherk, and B.J. Penn. He certainly did not look like a man who would lose his mental edge after a loss — which is why this notion is so puzzling for this upcoming fight.
In order to fully establish himself as the premier fighter in the UFC welterweight division, St. Pierre should aim for a performance similar to the one he put in against Frank Trigg. The fight took place at UFC 54 after both men had already lost to Matt Hughes – with Trigg losing to Matt twice at this point. At the time, many people thought GSP was a cut below the likes of Trigg and Hughes. Going into the fight the notion was that Frank would come out victorious and GSP would head back down to easier competition before trying the big boys again.
The outcome of the fight could not have been more opposite. Georges dominated Trigg as if Frank were an amateur off the streets. From the stand-up, to the wrestling, and ultimately to the BJJ where GSP submitted Trigg in a rear naked choke – this was a mauling. It was so bad that Trigg has not been seen in the UFC since. At this point people realized that GSP was not simply a flavor of the month and would be a major player in the world of MMA for years to come.
A performance like this on Saturday would help remind people of this fact.
That’s it for this week. Email me at [email protected] and visit me at www.myspace.com/intelligentlydefending. The MySpace blog has been quiet as of late but should be rolling again soon. Go ahead and add yourself as a friend. Till next week.