Brazilian Anderson Silva and Canadian George "GSP" St. Pierre are two competitors who usually show up near the top on the best fighter in MMA pound-for-pound lists. I will exclude Jon Jones at the moment, the future will determine whether he claims the all-time title. While Silva has been a human wrecking ball destroying such greats as Rich Franklin (twice), and Dan Henderson en route to 16 straight wins before his loss to Weidman, St. Pierre has used his superior wrestling game to suffocate opponents and literally make them quit on the mat while winning his last 16 out of 17 fighst in the UFC. In short their records stand at a eerily similar 16-1 over their last 17 fights during a period which many call the golden age of MMA.
Often called the best wrestler in MMA, the criticism against St. Pierre recently has been his inability to finish fights as he has six straight decision wins. Silva on the other hand has always been a devastating finisher, but it seems that his embarrassing wealth of talent has dulled his competitive edge and lately he seems content to taunt his opponents in the ring in a bizarre manner rather than try and finish them. Their most recent fights are probably the best indicator to use when arguing which of these fighters is better pound-for-pound or the.
Last March St. Pierre defended his welterweight belt (170 lbs) against the one and only Nick Diaz. St. Pierre swarmed Diaz from the beginning of the fight taking him down with ease and controlling him without much effort on the ground. Diaz didn’t make it easy but George despite not being able to take him down in the third gave him more than enough chance to back up his words with his fists in the fourth. At that point Diaz had lost the fight and looked listless. For a man who had GSP’s name in his mouth for the last four years he looked tired. This is what GSP has done and will continue to do, suck the very life out of top level fighters through superior work, skill and strategy. For all of the haters welcome to the cold hard reality that UFC 1 introduced us to; the ground game matters more. If you don’t like it find a way to beat it.
I am not going to hold the fact that Silva just lost the title against him. The argument for pound-for-pound best should be based on principle not recent events. It is however the pattern demonstrated in his title loss that undercuts his legacy. It was the same contempt he showed against the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard Demian Maia on April 10, 2010 in Abu Dahbi. While Silva started strong with his trademark sledgehammer strikes, and spidey-like ability to avoid return fire, he started to showboat late in the first round. His strange display continued well into the third round at which point he seemed to tire. At this point Silva started dancing around the outside of the canvas apparently unwilling to engage drawing boos and chants of "Maia." The champion eked out a five round decision but was roundly booed after the fight and even had to endure chants of G-S-P, the nickname of George St. Pierre. Had this fight been been against current day Weidman, Silva may have well been knocked out then as he tired in the desert heat. The lack of a quality competitor at middleweight in the recent past reduces the argument for Silva as the pound-for-pound champ despite his preternatural skill.
One of the great hypocrisies in sport is that while we claim to cheer hard work, diligence, intelligence and heart, what we are often applauding is simply god-given genetic ability. A guy like Anderson Silva could probably eat donuts and watch TV his whole life and still knock you out with one punch. On the other hand some fighters work their brains out and never even make it to the UFC due to their lack of natural talent. The difference between GSP and Silva is that GSP works for it. While GSP is obviously a talented fighter he has become the best wrestler in MMA despite having no background in amateur wrestling. That is simply an unduplicated feat in the sport. Most importantly GSP never displays any arrogance toward his opponents; he competes in every fight like it is his last and continues to be a humble and polite in ambassador for a sport in need of heroes. That is why he is the best fighter, pound-for-pound, in MMA right now, which in my opinion means he is the greatest martial artist of all time. So far…