On paper, Georges St. Pierre holds many statistical advantages over Carlos Condit. | Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Incumbent champion Georges St. Pierre takes on interim titleholder Carlos Condit in the UFC 154 main event on Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, and trainer Greg Jackson will not be in either corner. It will be a matchup between deserving, respectful professionals, an intense fight full of questions. Is St. Pierre fully recovered from his knee injury, back in his legendary condition and ready to reign over the UFC welterweights? Or is Condit’s finishing instinct the perfect foil for St. Pierre’s ring rust and tentative knee? Will the undisputed belt remain in Canada or return to the United States?
Let us break down the matchup:
The elephant in the room here is St. Pierre’s long layoff due to a torn anterior-cruciate ligament. The resulting year-long delay led to the creation of an interim belt and Condit’s return to championship status. St. Pierre’s rehabilitation has been well documented and certainly appears to have been extensive and successful, but there is no doubt about it ... nearly 19 months on the sideline is a long time away from the Octagon. Two words: ring rust.
If we assume for a moment that St. Pierre is at full health, full speed and ready to enter the cage at full shine, then the rest of the tale of the tape becomes less interesting. GSP is slightly older than Condit, but not by much and still within the range of peak physical performance. Though St. Pierre is shorter, he has a long reach for his size, and while both fighters are natural right-handers, GSP is more likely to switch his stance depending on his fight plan. This is kind of a wash, with no big advantage indicators here.
Experientially, the fighters look similar. Both have competed professionally since 2002. Though Condit has actually racked up more total fights and is coming off a more reasonable layoff, his UFC-caliber experience is far more limited. However, while St. Pierre has been facing elite talent in the UFC for many years, Condit’s abdication of the WEC title and move to the Octagon warranted a series of solid opponents, as well. Condit’s wins over Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, Dan Hardy, Dong Hyun Kim and Nick Diaz boost his pedigree, with his only loss being a split decision to Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut.
The biggest difference on paper will certainly draw knowing eye rolls: finishing rate. Condit’s finishing prowess stands at 80 percent, which far exceeds the average for welterweights, as well as GSP’s own figure. Condit was a submission machine in the WEC and has since balanced his attack with three impressive finishes by strikes in the UFC. His body is lean and rangy, great for sinking chokes and maintaining stamina. GSP, on the other hand, has been more of a grinder, with most of his wins coming by way of decision. This trend has only increased since the start of his second reign as champion.
All told, we see a close matchup on paper going into the fight, with the biggest uncertainty centering on St. Pierre’s aggression and five-round conditioning after the injury and layoff.
How do they stack up once inside the Octagon? Let us move on to the performance statistics.
Finally, we see some real differences in striking performance metrics. St. Pierre has been an outstanding technical striker in his UFC career. His jab and power head striking accuracy are way above the welterweight average, and his defense may be the best in the division. This trend carries into the clinch, as well, where GSP has been above average on both offense and defense. Contrast that with Condit, who has an average jab, below average power striking accuracy and a defense straddling the average. As with GSP, Condit’s trends remain true in the clinch as in a standing, distance position.
It is no surprise that a champion like St. Pierre would be an efficient and effective fighter. Overall, St. Pierre has gotten the better of opponents in striking in nearly all metrics. He is the all-time UFC leader in significant strikes landed and also ranks third among active UFC fighters in terms of fewest significant strikes absorbed per minute. That requires accuracy, control and position dominance, along with evasiveness and good defense. St. Pierre has done all those at a very high level for a very long time.
There are only two places where Condit has excelled relative to St. Pierre. The first is his pace of striking. While GSP only slightly outpaces opponents in terms of volume of standup striking attempts, Condit’s output is generally 50 percent more than his opponents. Remember, it is often volume that wins rounds with the judges, not landed strikes. As we saw in the Diaz fight, Condit has learned to keep distance and control exchanges, often using combinations before retreating and repeating the cycle. Furthermore, Condit throws a higher mix of power strikes than GSP. He will need both these advantages of extra volume and the higher power mix if he is going to get the better of St. Pierre at a distance. Condit’s height will benefit him here. Regardless of reach, the taller fighter can use his legs to control range, so look to see if “The Natural Born Killer” comes out early using his legs.
Lastly, when it comes to knockdown power, both fighters have it and both have gotten the better of opponents despite having been rocked a couple times. Neither fighter is old enough to be a significant concussion risk. If the two choose to stand and trade, GSP has strong technical advantages and the ability to work a stiff jab, as he did against Josh Koscheck. Condit can only succeed if he can execute a disciplined strike and fade game that controls the pace and range of the exchanges. With that said, they also have five full rounds to look for the right opening. Both may look for the occasional head kick after some pacifying jabs, which are dangerous in any weight class and have been effective for each fighter.
Since these two probably will not stand and trade for 25 minutes, let us check the grappling stats.
Once again, we see incumbent champion GSP with some record-breaking performance statistics when it comes to takedowns. Not only does he attempt them at a high rate, nearly twice per round, but he lands a UFC-leading 77 percent percent of his attempts. The combination of those two trends puts St. Pierre atop the all-time UFC record list for takedowns landed at 68. On defense, St. Pierre again excels, and his 88 percent takedown defense rate is second among active UFC fighters behind Gleison Tibau.
That bodes well for GSP to control the position of this fight. Condit’s takedowns are better than his defense, but he has not as good as his opponent in either category. If either fighter tries to take this fight to the ground, St. Pierre will likely have control.
Once on the ground, “Rush” has been aggressive in advancing position, and he outpaces opponents in striking by a better than 4-to-1 margin. While Condit is no slouch and has certainly excelled on the ground, he has not kept that kind of pace. One wild card factor is that Condit does have a history of submissions and attempts them at a higher rate than his opponent, who has been caught before. While GSP certainly has the ability to decide when and where to take this down, he will have to be careful defending Condit’s submissions. While GSP’s normally dominant stamina remains in question here, the threat of submissions being locked in will decline with each round, making ground-and-pound more effective.
The Final Word
St. Pierre stands at a -350 favorite against underdog Condit at +265. The implied probability of these odds are basically that GSP has a 78 percent chance of winning and unifying the belt. This betting line actually makes St. Pierre a little more of a favorite than he has averaged in his UFC career. Oddsmakers have been pretty good at assessing GSP over the years, with the lone exception being the historic upset loss to Matt Serra in 2007. Condit on the other hand, is no stranger to the underdog role. Since joining the UFC, Condit has been even or an underdog in all but one matchup. Given that he has won several fights already in the Octagon as an underdog, perhaps he has been undervalued as a fighter. His finishing instinct certainly makes him competitive in any fight, and he has also come from behind to win bouts. Condit remains a threat.
The numbers show that GSP has solid fundamental advantages in striking, takedowns and ground control, but they also show that Condit has a chance to stay on the outside to use his range and combinations. If Condit gets taken down, he can be dangerous with submissions, but GSP is more likely to control the action. Condit is opportunistic, while St. Pierre is technical and methodical. What do the numbers tell you?
Next month, we will wrap up the year with a close look at the heavyweight championship matchup between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez at UFC 155.
Note: Raw data for the analysis was provided by, and in partnership with FightMetric. All analysis was performed by Reed Kuhn. Reed Kuhn, Fightnomics, FightMetric and Sherdog.com assume no responsibility for bets placed on fights, financial or otherwise.
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