Georges St. Pierre has not tasted defeat in nearly six years. | Photo: Sherdog.com
It seems as if a decade has passed since UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre last stepped into the Octagon.
After reconstructive knee surgery and months of rehabilitation, “Rush” will make his return to the cage when he defends his crown against interim champion Carlos Condit in the UFC 154 main event on Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Now 31, St. Pierre has not fought since he earned a unanimous decision over Jake Shields at UFC 129 in April 2011. Will the 19-month layoff have adverse effects on the longtime titleholder?
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC 154 “St. Pierre vs. Condit” main event:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 154 Free Fan Pick’Em
Martin Kampmann: I think GSP is going to win by having better wrestling, and he’ll be able to take him down. Condit’s tricky with his knees and elbows and he can catch him coming in, but I think it’s going to be a decision victory for GSP. I’d rather fight GSP because I fought Condit before. Obviously, I’d fight him again if he had the title, so we’ll see what happens, but I’d rather fight GSP because he’s the real champ and I’ve never fought him.
John Hackleman: GSP will win. It’s like they’re fighting mirror images of each other, but I think GSP’s takedowns are far superior. Their standup is pretty much nullified. Both of their jiu-jitsu skills are very good, though I think GSP is a little bit more technical. I think GSP’s dynamic physical conditioning and takedowns will be the dominating factor. Carlos is a little more reckless. I feel George’s wrestling is better and I feel that will be the difference in the control and direction of the fight. I think if the fight goes Carlos’ way and he turns it into a slugfest, he will win. However, I feel George has the skill to neutralize Carlos’ attacks, bring it into his more technical world and win via decision.
Justin Salas: I call Condit [to win] since GSP is coming off an injury and Condit is riding a winning streak. Rich Franklin: St. Pierre and Condit is going to be very difficult to breakdown because St. Pierre has been off for so long and everything else. Given the circumstances, we don’t know how he’s going to react with all the time down, and that will be the focus. If I had any inside knowledge as to how his camp has gone, I would be able to give a great breakdown. Considering that there are too many outside circumstances that surround the fight, we don’t know how well he’ll do. It’s a question that’s better asked if we all knew how GSP was going to react to his knee because Condit is such a tough fighter. If he returns and performs at the level that he’s capable of, I think it’s a good fight for GSP and one that’s winnable for him. But if he has any sort of hesitation or doubt or nervousness left in his head because of that injury, then I don’t think this will be a good fight for him. This is all injury-dependent, so this is not a very good breakdown.
Tim Means: If the old “Natural Born Killer” shows up to fight -- the Carlos Condit FIT NHB built -- he should give GSP a run for his money.
J.J. Ambrose: GSP seems to always be ahead of the curve. The way his camp is set up seems years ahead of everyone else, with the best mental coaching and physical conditioning the sport has to offer -- the Ivan Drago [of MMA], if you will. Condit represents the old-school, iron-jawed, all-heart badass -- a modern-day Rocky Balboa. Normally, I’d pick GSP, but the time out of the Octagon may have taken its toll, so I put it to my Facebook friends. The consensus was that either Nick Diaz would climb into the Octagon in the second round or GSP would win via unanimous decision.
Fredson Paixao: It’s going to be GSP by submission.
Max Holloway: I think Condit lost to Diaz, but it is what it is. For this fight, I have to go with GSP because Condit had a hard time with Rory McDonald. I think GSP and McDonald fight the same way, but GSP is a little better. I would love to see a finish by GSP in this fight because I believe he can get it. I think GSP wins by third-round submission.
Jason High: I’m going with GSP all the way. Condit won’t be able to stay off his back and won’t be able to out-jab him. The only thing that concerns me is GSP and his knee.
Steven Siler: I see GSP winning this fight by decision. Condit is a hard guy to finish, and I don’t see Condit being able to stop the takedowns or being able to submit GSP.
Chris Clements: I have to go with GSP via five-round decision. I don’t see it being a very exciting fight, though. As much as we all would love to see a great battle between the two, I just see GSP taking Carlos down and controlling him on the ground. Carlos is the more dangerous striker, technically, and he also has the height advantage, so I don’t see GSP taking any risks in his first fight back. I imagine he will use his wrestling and strength to control Condit. I also see GSP being really fired up and hungry. I would bet he is coming back better than he was before the injury. I am out for minimum six months myself right now. This is the third time I have been off because of an injury, so I know how frustrating it is to be on the sidelines, and it really makes you hungry to come back.
Demetrious Johnson: It’ll be a hard one. I like both fighters. I never give predictions, so it’s hard to say.
Yves Edwards: I really want to see GSP win that fight but I can’t remember the last time the interim champ lost the fight [between interim and reigning champions], and Condit’s been fighting the best guys in the world. I like GSP, but I think Condit might pull it off because of the rust.
Caros Fodor: I gotta go with GSP in that one. I really don’t see Condit beating GSP unless he has the flu. I don’t think there is anybody at 170 pounds who can deal with his wrestling, so until he has a super fight with Anderson Silva, I think he will be on top.
Zach Makovsky: GSP takes a lot of heat for not finishing fights, undeservedly in my opinion. Some of his decision wins over Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, and Josh Koscheck are among my favorite fights. I think he is the most complete fighter out there; maybe it’s because he doesn’t specialize in one area that the finishes don’t come quite as easy. When he mixes his game up, threatening in all areas at all times, I don’t think Condit or anyone else can stop him.
Ben Askren: I have GSP. I just don’t see a scenario in which Condit wins this fight.
Jeff Hougland: I think it’s gonna come down to Condit’s takedown defense. I like Condit’s style better, so I’m rooting for him. Condit wins by fourth-round TKO, as he catches GSP with a big knee and finishes with punches.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: I don’t expect GSP to miss a beat in this fight. I think he has the advantage in every aspect. Condit’s only chance is to be in the best shape of his life and make it a fast-paced fight, attacking nonstop with striking and submissions and hoping to pull something off. I see this fight just like the rest of GSP’s fights. He will score takedowns every round and take the unanimous decision. I do not believe GSP can finish Condit and will rely heavily on wrestling and control. Hopefully, with this win, it will set up the fight everyone wants to see with Anderson Silva.
Jason Dent: I’m going with GSP in this matchup. GSP is one of the smartest, most athletic fighters in the game -- ever. He will have a good game plan and neutralize Condit’s attacks. I believe he will have some trouble finishing Condit, though, as he may have some ring rust, plus he is getting over his injury.
Ricardo Liborio: GSP wins by decision.
Keith Berry: GSP wins by takedowns.
Joe Duarte: I’ll be rooting for Condit by way of TKO.
Benji Radach: Wow, this is hard to call. Condit has the ability to take this one, but I’m going to go with a GSP decision win.
Dave Jansen: I see Condit using his momentum to claim this fight. Carlos has a proven killer instinct. He’s a trigger man. No doubt that Georges will come back stronger, but while he’s been rehabbing his knee, Carlos has been refining his extremely powerful game. Condit wins by TKO in the fourth.
Tom Watson: I train with both guys, so it’s not really an option for me to do a prediction on fight. It doesn’t seem right, so both of them win.
Danillo Villefort: I believe that it will be a good fight. They are both very tough athletes. I believe GSP can make Condit look stupid in the cage if he wants; he has way more tools to play with than Condit has. Condit is good, but they are on a completely different level. GSP is a great sportsman, and I’d like to see him with the belt for a while.
Andy Ogle: Yes, GSP is coming back from a long layoff, but the only thing it makes me think to myself is that people must have short memories. GSP made B.J. Penn quit on the stool, left Fitch wondering what had happened to him, literally broke Koscheck’s face and beat every other top contender that has been thrown at him. His layoff may have been based around getting his knee back to 100 percent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he has been learning and creating a more devastating GSP while away. Condit’s best chances are on the feet. The fight starts standing and he’s always got a puncher’s chance, but previous standup fighters such as Alves and Dan Hardy couldn’t get the job done, which makes me doubt that he will KO the ever-improving stand up of GSP. Then again, this is MMA. Somewhere, Matt Serra is sitting there saying, “Well, I did it.”
Mark Bocek: GSP wins by decision.
Javier Vazquez: This is a very tough one to call. It totally depends on GSP and how his knee will hold up and how his confidence is. I know how difficult an ACL tear could be to come back from. It’s not just the injury or the pain associated with it; it’s having the confidence to really go hard and have full confidence in your knee. Has GSP given his knee enough time to recover? If so, I don’t see him having a difficult time taking Condit down and controlling him. Condit does have a very active and effective guard. His striking is sharp, and his much-improved footwork could give GSP trouble. He has also been a bit more active since the injury to GSP. My pick: I just have a guy feeling that Condit is going to pull off the upset. It will probably be late in the fourth or fifth round by TKO or more likely by decision.
Nam Phan: I’m gonna have to say GSP by double-leg takedowns for five rounds.
Travis Wiuff: I’m going with GSP in a great fight that goes five rounds. GSP is just a little bit better at everything and wins a decision.
Eric Prindle: GSP wins if he is in good shape. I think GSP is too good in all areas, but Condit is one tough guy who takes damage well and will keep coming. If GSP isn’t in top shape, it’s going to be a long night. GSP wins in the second round.
Kyle Kingsbury: Condit runs away most of the fight, but when he engages, GSP gets the takedowns and wins.
Travis Lutter: I think GSP’s wrestling will be too much for Condit. GSP has been off for a long time, but I don’t see it being an issue for him.
Jacob Volkmann: GSP wins by unanimous decision using mostly standup.
Robert Drysdale: GSP wins.
Tarec Saffiedine: I believe GSP wants to prove that his injury hasn’t set him back and he can come back to the top after a long break. GSP wins by submission.
Bart Palaszewski: Carlos wins.
Johny Hendricks: Man, this one is tough. Is GSP’s knee back to normal? If it is, has Condit’s takedown defense gotten better? Those are the two biggest questions. I think that GSP will win if he gets Condit to the ground, which I think he will, so I’m going with GSP.
John Gunderson: I’m picking GSP, though Condit is a great fighter. GSP appears to be the best chain wrestler in the UFC right now and will use his size advantage once on the mat to control Condit for five rounds, maybe even getting a submission.
Michael Chiesa: GSP is arguably the number two pound-for-pound fighter and is making his return after the layoff. Condit is an interim champion, earning his belt with a highly opinionated decision over Nick Diaz. GSP has a lot of added pressure due to the knee injury and the potential super fight with good ole Andy Silva, whereas Condit is an underdog chomping at the bit to silence the critics by defeating GSP. He’s also had almost a year to prepare for this, and GSP had months of rehab. Condit’s will to win and being undefeated in championship fights will be the deciding factor. I’m taking Condit by split decision.
Ramsey Nijem: I have GSP winning this fight by unanimous decision. If GSP can take down Josh Koscheck, an amazing wrestler, I think he will be able to take Condit down. Also, he was able to avoid the ground game of Jake Shields, so he will be able to neutralize Condit’s ground game. I’m hoping for a war, but I think it will be a technical battle.
Pros Picking St. Pierre: 28
Pros Picking Condit: 6
No Pick: 9
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