The rap that said Georges St-Pierre had turned into a boring fighter probably wasn't fair to begin with. If you look at his body of work during his most recent UFC welterweight title reign, you see far more fights in which opponents such as Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck emerged looking like assault victims than you do the occasional Jake Shields stinker.
But on Saturday night at UFC 154, St-Pierre channeled the true martial artist who hasn't always been quite at the forefront during the Quebec native's transformation from young, hungry contender to GSP, Inc., but never went away, either.
With plenty of help from an equally spirited dance partner in Carlos Condit, St-Pierre forever put to rest the "GSP is boring" meme, as the two delivered an action-packed 25 minutes of blood, sweat, and one big mid-fight twist.
"I don't care about the critics and what they say," said St-Pierre, who has a long history of caring very much what his critics say, at Saturday night's post-fight press conference. "I gave everything I had tonight. I am who I am. I use my body the best that I can. I don't have the knockout power of a 'Rampage' Jackson or the athletic ability of a Jon Jones or the athletic ability of an Anderson Silva or the wrestling of a Chael Sonnen. But I use my body, the tools that I have, the best that I can and it's why I win fights."
St-Pierre's energetic performance -- and his poise under fire in shaking off Condit's near-devastating third-round head kick -- re-opens the question of who should be ranked where among the top three in the pound-for-pound rankings.
It was taken for granted going in that the welterweight champion had been surpassed by Silva and Jones. As of Sunday morning, the case isn't so clear-cut. Silva, of course, has the longest title reign and win streak in UFC history. Jones has the best pure athleticism of the three and dominated a string of former champions, but hasn't yet logged Silva and GSP's time as titleholder.
St-Pierre, for his part, has won 16 of 17 dating back to 2005 and 10 in a row. He's been dominant in his own way, with a record 33 consecutive rounds won between his UFC 74 fight with Josh Koscheck and the fourth round of his UFC 129 fight with Shields.
While Silva, St-Pierre, and Jones may as well be 1A, 1B, and 1C -- which is why the talks of potential super fights are so compelling -- and you can make a plausible case for any given order, you can no longer make the case GSP is boring. That one got buried for good in the Bell Centre on Saturday night.
UFC 154 quotes
"I just came back and I was fighting Carlos Condit and everybody was asking me about Anderson Silva. This is disrespectful to me and disrespectful to my opponent. I have to give more attention to the challenger that I have. The guy is the best in the world and I needed to focus on that opponent and not think about the next step." -- St-Pierre, on all the Anderson Silva talk leading up to UFC 154.
"I want Anderson Silva to love this fight and want this fight. I want Georges to love this fight and want it. They're both going to make a s------- of money. That's a no-brainer. I want them to want it for the right reasons. This is a legacy fight." -- White, on you-know-what.
"I think it looked cool. Everyone likes bloody fights, right? -- Condit, on his war wounds.
To whoever made the decision not to send Silva into the Octagon to challenge St-Pierre to a superfight after the St-Pierre vs. Condit bout. There's plenty of time to speculate on the potential megafight, and there will no doubt be much to report in coming months. But at that specific moment in time on Saturday night -- when St-Pierre and Condit put it all on the line in a bout which will long be remembered -- it would have been greatly disrespectful to both St-Pierre and Condit and the battle they just conducted to stage a sideshow. Whether a conscious decision was made not to highlight Silva or whether things just worked out that way, sometimes, it's the things the don't happen which make the difference in the things that do.
The end of the Patrick Cote-Alessio Sakara fight -- in which Sakara struck Cote repeatedly in the back of the head right in front of referee Dan Miragliotta, then had an apparent TKO win turned into a disqualification -- was so over-the-top bad that rehashing it almost seems like flogging a dead horse.
But this was a matter of multiple mistakes compounding a bad situation. The first was by Miragliotta in not following the proper procedure for fouls -- a rest period, a determination of the severity of a penalty (if any) for Sakara, and a decision whether to restart the fight. The second was in the Quebec commission instructing the referee to call the fight a disqualification after the fact. The correct call should have been a no-contest.
Sakara has never been known as a dirty fighter, so I'm willing to take at face value his explanation that he got caught up in the moment and wasn't deliberately attempting to foul. The only good that came out of this is that White wants to make a rematch, and up until the epic cluster of an ending, the fight was a fun little scrap.
Stock Up: Carlos Condit
Okay, maybe it seems like Hendricks should be the obvious pick here, and he absolutely earned whatever plaudits come his way after his one-punch knockout of Kampmann.
But I'm going to give Condit the nod, because he did something valuable Saturday night: He reminded us that in this sport, you can just as easily earn respect in defeat when you leave it all in the Octagon.
Years from now, I'll remember Condit for the final moments of his fight with St-Pierre. Bleeding, bruised, and pinned to the mat by GSP, Condit could have just thrown in the towel and rode out the final seconds. He wouldn't have been the first defeated fighter to do so. Instead, right up to the closing horn, after more than 24 minutes of war, Condit was still looking for that one final path to victory: Throwing punches and elbows from the bottom when he could, squirming anywhere GSP would give him an inch to move in a desperate attempt to find a last opening for a submission, giving everything he had left, long after the battle seemed lost.
That's the high standard we expect from our mixed martial artists, and when you live up to the ideal, it doesn't matter if you win or lose. He might not have a championship belt this morning, but don't ever doubt that Carlos Condit is a warrior.
Carmont, a Tri-Star fighter, came into his bout against Lawlor with a burgeoning reputation as an exciting fighter. Lawlor can use his wrestling to set up his submissions, but isn't afraid to stand and bang when the situation calls for it. Yet somehow, this style matchup turned into the middleweight equivalent of Cheick Kongo vs. Shawn Jordan. I had Lawlor winning the fight 30-27. But two judges apparently decided to reward Carmont for repeatedly getting pushed against the fence and clinched to a stalemate. The Montreal crowd booed the decision in favor of a Montreal fighter. Dana White tweeted "Who cares! They both lost that fight." ‘Nuff said.
Fight I Want to See Next: Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann
After a mostly inactive 2012, last night made it clear that 2013 promises to be a banner year for the welterweight division. Hendricks is on the cusp of the pound-for-pound Top 10. Nick Diaz will return. The winner of Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia on Feb. 2 will have a stake in the division's top five. And yes, Condit and Kampmann still matter. Kampmann has shaken off losses before and come back strong. Condit is more relevant now than he was when he held the interim title. So, while we wait to see how the drama unfolds with St-Pierre and Silva -- and what sort of chain reaction that will have on the rest of the division, particularly Hendricks -- a rematch between Condit and Kampmann, a 2009 fight which Kampmann won on a tight split decision -- is a fight you can pencil in right now.