Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
The MMA world obtained its first take a look at Georges St-Pierre, Version 2.zero, Saturday at UFC 217—and the early returns had been spectacular.
St-Pierre not solely defied the chances by taking the UFC middleweight title from Michael Bisping by way of technical submission, he shocked us all with the fashion he used to do it.
Conventional knowledge stated St-Pierre must make use of a gentle weight loss plan of takedowns and high management if he had any hope of defeating the bigger, stand-up-oriented Bisping. In different phrases, most all people anticipated a clbadic GSP recreation plan, using the identical methods he used from 2006 to 2013, as he constructed a legacy as essentially the most dominant welterweight within the firm’s historical past.
What of us noticed within the Octagon final weekend was one thing radically completely different. Instead of that protected and regular wrestling-based motion plan, GSP largely fought—and beat—Bisping on the ft, in the end utilizing strikes to arrange the rear-naked choke that rendered The Count unconscious close to the tip of the third spherical.
It was, in a phrase, superb.
Damon Martin @DamonMartin
Georges St-Pierre is the best fighter of all time. 9X defending WW champ, simply gained the MW belt. Never examined constructive. Case closed IMO
In defeating Bisping the best way he did, this 36-year-old reboot of St-Pierre concurrently elevated expectations for the second part of his profession and stoked quite a few questions on precisely what sort of middleweight champion he will be.
Certainly there is not any scarcity of challenges for him at 185 kilos—together with interim champion Robert Whittaker and a badbadin’s row of high contenders. On the opposite hand, coach Freddie Roach has stated he desires St-Pierre to return to 170. There is even some speak that this comeback may very well be one-and-done for him.
For his half, GSP himself has been decidedly noncommittal about his future.
“This is not really my real weight,” St-Pierre advised UFC coloration commentator Joe Rogan within the cage instantly after the battle. “I did it for the challenge.”
We know the UFC will need St-Pierre to unify the middleweight title by preventing Whittaker. UFC President Dana White stated as a lot on the UFC 217 post-fight press convention. New Zealand native Whittaker, too, would little doubt like to attain a profitable matchup with St-Pierre, maybe as quickly as UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, on Feb. 11.
St-Pierre seems to be good with the middleweight belt. But what occurs now?Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Leading as much as the Bisping bout, St-Pierre had additionally stated that his new UFC contract contains the stipulation that he should defend the 185-pound belt. But towards whom?
Now that is a reasonably vexing query.
The reply will in the end inform us loads about how St-Pierre plans to method this comeback.
UFC 217 actually gave us some clues.
Perhaps most significantly, St-Pierre appeared refreshed and relaxed throughout his return to the Octagon after 4 years away. He appeared to legitimately benefit from the spectacle surrounding UFC 217, laughing his approach by means of his ultimate staredown with Bisping at Friday’s weigh-in.
This was in stark distinction to the man who did not appear to be having any enjoyable throughout his ultimate welterweight title defenses in 2013. When he introduced his prolonged hiatus following a very hard-fought cut up determination win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, St-Pierre indicated the pressures of being 170-pound champion had taken its toll on him, psychologically in addition to bodily.
The prolonged break seems to be to have finished wonders for him.
Georges St-Pierre @GeorgesStPierre
The ambiance final evening at MSG was unreal… Feeling nice at present – Thanks everybody for making this one of the best evening of my profession!!! Merci! https://t.co/4aYEAlnrgC
He even appeared extra carefree contained in the cage.
St-Pierre’s vaunted athleticism was nonetheless there. So had been his crisp jab and the energetic punching combos that discovered their approach to Bisping’s face most of the time. He even flashed simply sufficient of his spinning kicks to remind us that earlier than he normal himself into one MMA’s greatest offensive wrestlers, St-Pierre started his preventing life as a kyokushin karate stylist.
Was his willingness to combine it up on the ft with Bisping an indication that the brand new St-Pierre goes to supply a looser, extra thrilling product throughout his fights?
Or did he simply gamble that it will be too troublesome to constantly take the larger man down and subsequently was compelled to beat him with putting?
If it was the latter, perhaps he was proper: St-Pierre had considerably much less success within the grappling division, the place he was largely unable to maintain Bisping down. On the one event when St-Pierre did put himself in a great place on the bottom, Bisping lower him open on the bridge of the nostril and brow with a collection of slashing elbows.
If you squint exhausting sufficient, the tip results of this victory may even be a bit troubling, if you’re a St-Pierre fan.
St-Pierre wraps up the rear-naked choke on a surprised Bisping.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
For starters, by successful the middleweight title, he is basically put himself again in the identical place that drove him from the game within the first place. He’s a UFC champion once more, instantly confronted with the duty of avoiding a gaggle of harmful contenders.
Second, whereas he was in a position to shock Bisping on the ft, St-Pierre’s greatest power traditionally—his wrestling—was much less efficient. If he cannot recreate the identical putting dominance towards youthful, extra harmful middleweight opponents, does that spell unhealthy issues for him?
Aside from Whittaker, the brand new middleweight titlist might face powerful instant challenges from former champions like Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman in addition to perennial high contenders resembling Yoel Romero and Jacare Souza.
Is he actually going to wish to try this?
Now that St-Pierre is older and wiser, maybe he’ll have realized to deal with the stresses of being champion higher than he might earlier than. If not, there may be little likelihood that he’ll be curious about diving again into the rinse-and-repeat schedule of defending the title towards the hardest individuals on the planet just a few occasions a yr.
St-Pierre was noncommittal when Joe Rogan requested about his future.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Luckily for him, there are quite a few different big-money bouts at his fingertips.
Depending on how issues go in Anderson Silva’s upcoming bout towards Kelvin Gastelum on Nov. 25, maybe the Silva vs. St-Pierre superfight that by no means got here collectively throughout their primes might lastly be booked.
Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden has already thrown his hat within the ring in favor of Conor McGregor. St-Pierre and McGregor might conceivably meet at both 170 or 185 kilos in a bout that might little doubt shatter the UFC’s earlier pay-per-view file for buys.
There can also be welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, who lacks a clear-cut subsequent challenger after Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson defeated Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217.
Considering what St-Pierre advised Rogan, he might nicely nonetheless think about 170 kilos to be his “real weight.” If he gave up the middleweight title and returned to his outdated stomping grounds, it will actually be for a superfight towards McGregor or a right away title shot towards Woodley.
Does that imply it is unreasonable to suppose St-Pierre has designs on turning into the preventing champion the middleweight clbad has been hungry for since Bisping gained the title in June 2016?
Just because it has all the time been, it will be exhausting to know precisely what’s in St-Pierre’s head till he decides to let the remainder of the world in on it.
What we do know for positive after UFC 217 is that after 4 years away from the cage, he is nonetheless obtained it.
What precisely will he do with it?
Stay tuned for that.