Georges St-Pierre fought the most difficult fight of his career Saturday night against Johny Hendricks in what is being billed as "the most controversial decision" in Mixed Martial Arts history. It appears an overwhelming majority of fighters and fans have expressed outrage over the decision in which they feel Johny Hendricks is the new welterweight champion. According to score cards, rounds 2,3,4, and 5 were scored in a similar fashion leaving round 1 up to debate amongst the judges. According to FightMetric, Hendricks outstruck St-Pierre 142-125 in total strikes but St-Pierre won significant strikes 101-85. (Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1853770-georges-st-pierre-vs-johny-hendricks-breaking-down-the-fightmetric-numbers)
In my opinion, this fight is by far the closest fight in UFC title fight history. Whether or not the fight is controversial will be left up to debate forever. All across different MMA websites, fans are split on who won the fight, citing damage as the main indication of victory vs. the 10-point must system. St-Pierre and Hendricks both had their moments in the fight and it visually appeared St-Pierre was on the verge of defeat. Going into the fifth round, a sense of urgency settled upon St-Pierre (a rare sight for the reigning champion) while Hendricks displayed great confidence (a rare sight for a challenger to the welterweight title). St-Pierre put everything he had to end the fight in his favor while Hendricks, believing he had done enough the previous rounds, fought in a more defensive manner. When the bell rang, there was no doubt in Hendricks' mind that he had won the belt. Unfortunately, the following decision will forever be considered an atrocious occurrence in the UFC by fans and fighters alike: "48-47 Hendricks, 48-47 St-Pierre, and 48-47 to winner by split-decision... and STILL UFC welterweight champion of the world, Georges "Rush" St-Pierre!"
So what went wrong?
Should Johny Hendricks have finished St-Pierre when he had the chance? Did Hendricks do more damage? Did Hendricks out-wrestle St-Pierre? Did Hendricks outstrike the champion? Should St-Pierre have finished Hendricks when he had the chance? Did St-Pierre do more damage? Did St-Pierre out-wrestle Hendricks? Did St-Pierre outstrike the challenger? Who spent more time in top position? Who was more aggressive? Who controlled the octagon? Who controlled the clinch? Do takedowns matter if nothing is accomplished on the ground? Who was controlled against the cage? Was anything done against the cage? How significant is a submission attempt? Was St-Pierre in trouble in the second round? Was Hendricks in trouble in the fifth? Did Hendricks perform to his full potential? Did St-Pierre perform to his full potential? Who won this fight?
Never is a long time but I honestly feel the debate on who won is never going to be solved. Just like the previous decisions of Diaz vs. Condit, Jones vs. Gustafsson, Machida vs. Rua, or even Rutten vs. Randleman, St-Pierre vs. Hendricks is always going to be up to debate (and rightfully so). Thus, as fans, we're left with the big question, How do we move past this and have closure? The answer is simple: A Rematch.
After the decision was read, St-Pierre announced he was leaving the sport for a while and was unsure when or if he will return. Rumors swirled around for weeks leading up to the fight indicating retirement for St-Pierre and he somewhat answered those rumors in the octagon and at the post-fight press conference. Dana White was not happy with St-Pierre and his vague statements about personal problems while Hendricks could care less and placed his attention solely on the belt. With the rematch in jeopardy, what are the UFC and St-Pierre going to do for the future?
In my opinion, these are worst circumstances any champion has ever had to endure leading up to retirement in Mixed Martial Arts. If St-Pierre retires without a rematch, this match-up could plague the end of his career for the upcoming years. I cannot say if it will tarnish his legacy but it is said "your only as good as your last fight". To retire on this note could give rise to significant criticism from the UFC, his peers and fans. One could argue that words aren't bullets but when one has worked so hard to be a champion and defend the belt time after time, the final words can have a lasting impact. St-Pierre has mentioned the pressure to remain champion and it appears to have finally caught with him. If St-Pierre accepts the rematch, I feel it would be one of the most difficult rematches to watch as a fan because of St-Pierre's state of mind. It also said that when a fighter has one foot out the door, he won't perform to the best of his ability. Whether or not that occurred Saturday night is another topic of discussion but how can anyone expect St-Pierre to perform well when he has mentioned his desire leave for a while and handle his personal problems? His previous fights with Condit, Diaz, and now Hendricks, St-Pierre has mentioned his desire to take a vacation and get away from the sport. Is it even possible? If everyone believes Johny Hendricks completely won that fight, what will the rematch prove?
According to the post-fight press conference, Hendricks said he fought at 70% to preserve his energy throughout the fight while St-Pierre said he fought all his energy and soul. If one is going judge the fight by damage, the appearances of both fighters seem to show that their statements held truth (especially the way the fight went). So now you have fighter who is extremely upset over the decision and will look to use 100% in the rematch vs. a fighter who wants to leave the sport and already fought with his heart and soul in the first place. The point I'm trying to make is whether or not the rematch has the potential to be competitive like the first fight. From my perspective as a fan, I watch mixed martial arts for the competition and with this rematch, it's almost as if the UFC and some others are saying "Johny you won that fight, now beat him up and knock him out in front of millions people to prove a point".
It's one thing to have a rematch when a title fight is very close but when a fighter mentions the idea of leaving and all the people that care about him are saying the same thing, the rematch doesn't work. If this fight happened without all the retirement talk, then yes, immediate rematch and that's final. This is a very unfortunate situation for Georges St-Pierre. All he can control is how he he fought and he fought with everything he had that night. He had no control over the decision or the backlash that it carried. It could be bias or concern but I just hope St-Pierre isn't forced into a rematch that he doesn't have a desire to train for with the best of his ability. The only solution i can think of is that he relinquishes the belt to take the time off but in doing so admit defeat to Hendricks (which would be unprecedented in the sport). Something just doesn't feel right.
Are there any solutions?