Saturday marks Georges St. Pierre’s 11th UFC welterweight title fight. GSP is 8-2 in those title bouts and along the way, he supplanted Matt Hughes as the best 170-pound fighter in the history of the UFC. If St. Pierre wins on Saturday, it could be his last time fighting at welterweight and thus, his last time fighting for the 170-pound championship. With that in mind, I thought we would look back at the five title fights that shaped GSP’s legacy.
GSP – Hughes I — UFC 50 — October 22, 2004 [Full Fight Video]
The obvious place to start is with St. Pierre’s first title fight against UFC Hall of Famer, and 6-time champion, Matt Hughes. A then 23-year-old Georges St. Pierre had been in the UFC for all of 9 months before he earned his first title fight. Hughes and GSP both fought on the same three cards that year. Hughes lost his title to B.J. Penn at UFC 46 on January 31, 2004, the same night that GSP made his UFC debut with a unanimous decision victory over Karo Parisyan on the undercard. On June 19 at UFC 48, GSP and Hughes again shared the card. Hughes beat Renato Verissimo while GSP – again in a dark match – knocked out Jay Hieron to improve to 7-0 in his career and 2-0 in the UFC.
GSP and Hughes were fighting for the belt which B.J. Penn had taken from Hughes before leaving the UFC to fight in K-1 earlier that year. The fight was close, but St. Pierre got caught in an armbar and tapped a second before the bell rang to end the first round. It was the first loss of GSP’s career. It’s the classic story that exists in sports where a team has to take its lumps and losses before capturing a title.
GSP – Hughes II — UFC 65 — November 18, 2006 [Full Fight Video]
After the loss to Hughes at UFC 50, GSP had to start all over again. In January 2005 he defeated Dave Strasser by kimura at TKO 17. It would be his last fight outside the UFC. Over the next year he would beat Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn to earn his second title shot.
From the beginning, it was apparent this was a different version of GSP than the one we saw in 2004. He won every facet of the first round and almost finished the fight before Hughes was saved by the bell. St. Pierre stuffed Hughes one takedown attempt and took Hughes down easily after catching a kick. He picked him apart with the jab that would break Josh Koscheck’s face a few years later.
The third round was even more one-sided as GSP picked Hughes apart with jabs and kicks before landing a head-kick and finishing the fight with vicious ground and pound. At 25-years-old, St. Pierre had avenged his one loss and become the undisputed champion of the world.
Unfortunately, for Georges, that world was about to crumble.
*Behind the Music commercial break*
GSP -Matt Serra I — UFC 69 — April 7, 2007 [Full Fight Video]
For his first title defense, GSP would take on Matt Serra who earned his title shot by winning Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter. While GSP looked fairly sharp, Serra caught him. This fight would become the cautionary tale for every favorite and the inspiration for every underdog in mixed martial arts.
This is also the fight that people point to as the cause of the recently “cautious” GSP. After the Serra fight St. Pierre became even more of a tactician who worked to minimize the risk in every fight. From this fight on, we got a better, more dominant and arguably more boring Georges St. Pierre. GSP would go on to avenge the loss a year later.
GSP -Penn II — UFC 94 — January 31, 2009
St. Pierre had already beaten B.J. Penn once at UFC 58, but this was a meeting of two current UFC champions. Penn was at the top of his game, had won three straight fights at lightweight and was the two-time defending UFC lightweight champion. Penn was also the former UFC welterweight champion. GSP calmly tooled Penn, pouring it on heavier and heavier each round until B.J.’s corner threw in the towel after the 4th round. It was a thorough beatdown and solidified St. Pierre’s place at the top of the MMA world.
GSP – The Field —- UFC 79 – UFC 124 —- Late 2000′s
For the final fight, there are multiple cases to be made. I asked multiple people for help on this question and each had a different opinion. There’s the rubber match with Matt Hughes where GSP submitted the only man that had ever submitted him. The revenge of Matt Serra II. The five-round domination of Jon Fitch who no one else has beaten since 2002. Beating a giant Thiago Alves with a pulled groin muscle at UFC 100 on the UFC’s biggest showcase. And finally, the thoroughly dominant beatings of Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck who both offered vastly different skill sets which St. Pierre completely neutralized. You tell me what GSP’s other most historically significant fight has been.
When its all said and done on Saturday, GSP could be leaving the welterweight division as its undisputed champion. His two career loses came to UFC titleholders and he avenged both. He’s currently on an 8-fight win streak that includes 7 consecutive title fights. If he beats Jake Shields and if he moves up in weight class to face Anderson Silva, this will be the end of an era. One of the most dominant eras in MMA history.
[Images via Getty and SpikeTV]