UFC Welterweight Title Fight
Serious as a heart attack…
This rematch is nothing personal, only business…ALL business. And, other
than Matt Serra’s teammate Pete Sell referring to the former
champion/challenger as a “mental midget”, there are no tricks, no
theatrics or showboating here. In their hearts, both men know this is a
fight for survival. Whether they admit it or not, they both STILL have
something to prove: Matt Serra-was his first shocking victory a fluke
and Georges St. Pierre-can he shake the post KO victim curse of nerves
and/or falling into the resulting tentativeness/inconsistency?
St. Pierre has truly seen peeks and valleys in the last year and a half.
After a top-of-the-world, career peaking performance in avenging his
sole loss and capturing the UFC welterweight title from passive
aggressive nemesis Matt Hughes on November 18, 2006, Georges’s future
couldn’t have looked any brighter. The sky was the limit. A well-spoken
man in his 20's, with a toothy smile, perfect physique and a charming,
self-effacing sense of confidence…who could fight! Everything and
everyone was falling at his footsteps, major endorsements, magazine
covers, “pound for pound” praises almost across the board. No one would
EVER doubt him again.
Then came that fateful April (2007) night in Texas where the Canadian
took on what perceived as a ‘safe’ opponent in New York bred Matt “The
Terror” Serra. Although Serra had made a huge impression on the 4th
season of The Ultimate Fighter with his spunky, wisecracking charm and
highly motivational coaching style (Serra eventually ended up winning
the whole season), he was still largely written off, mainly because of
the analysis of his relatively unimpressive record (then, according to
Sherdog.com, 8-4, with 4 decisions and 4 submissions) meant to some that
he wasn’t in St. Pierre’s league. To add fuel to this fire, Serra had
lost to most of the ‘name’ fighters he had faced (BJ Penn, Karo Parisyan,
Din Thomas, Shonie Carter) and last six fights, win or lose had all
ended in a decision.
Georges “Rush” St. Pierre on the other hand was just a massive pot of
talent and charisma boiling over. His only loss was to the best fighter
in the UFC (in 2004), Matt Hughes, in a fight that he was looking quite
impressive in. After that wrinkle he reeled off five straight victories,
among them were the likes of BJ Penn (split decision), Sean Sherk (TKO)
and Frank Trigg (submission). After he settled the score by knocking out
Hughes in the rematch it really seemed like St. Pierre could not be
Video hoarding know-it-alls and statistic chirping parrots agreed
unanimously: smart money was on ‘Rush’ to beat ‘The Terror’. It seemed a
simple call and the judgment and “knowledge” of those who favored the
New Yorker was questioned openly. But unfortunately, in the imprecise
and all too fallible world of MMA math, ‘smart’ isn’t always ‘right’.
And on that queue…enter the overhand ‘right’ from the fireplug from Long
Island (ask Karo Parisyan about that punch) and BOOM; out went the
lights and the, up to that point, irrefutable, albeit recently completed
myth, of Georges was shattered to pieces. The underdog took on the hero
and things didn’t quite go according to plan. Many people refused to
believe it. How could a guy with this much “talent”, and with this kind
of a record over these kinds of fighters, crumble under the emotionally
fistic storm of a blown up lightweight who had never before knocked
anyone out prior?
Many non-believers attempted to use the excuse of a “lucky punch”. But
when I saw Renzo Gracie, the man who promoted Serra to black belt, he
told me he expected that punch/outcome and said that Matt hit everyone
with that punch. When I used to train fighters I would tell them to make
sure that EVERY punch they threw was a lucky one! But St. Pierre was
very gracious in defeat. He took the loss humbly and vowed to make
And he did just that. His ‘jumping back on the horse’ bout was a
unanimous decision against fast rising wrestler Josh Koscheck. Then he
completely dominated in the rubber match with Matt Hughes, finishing the
former champion with an armbar in round two.
But logic just doesn’t seem to apply anymore when it comes to predicting
the outcomes of MMA fights. There have been so many upsets over the past
2-3 years, including Serra toppling the St. Pierre bandwagon, that all
bets are permanently off.
Which makes this second tussle between these two dynamos an even more
intriguing story than the first. Many have speculated that Georges loses
confidence when faced with an opponent who isn’t intimidated by him. BJ
Penn and Sean Sherk both did well in the early going against “Rush” and
seemed to have his number, mentally. But the area where Georges St.
Pierre is among the greats is in his ability to make both physical and
mental adjustments, as he did in securing victories over both Sherk and
Penn, both of who are (or have been) UFC champions in their own right at
Serra feeds off the indifference and seems to get fired up by the
disrespect. He fights best while running hot. I would say that he might
have inherited that trait from training under Renzo and his brother, the
dearly departed Ryan Gracie (R.I.P), but there’s one thing you must
remember: Matt Serra is an Italian-American…FROM NEW YORK, proud as
hell, to the bone, scrappy, “never back down”…you get the picture.
So, to me, the big questions before this HUGE title fight are:
Is Matt Serra and his single bullet/overhand right inside Georges head
to the point where we’ll see a tentative performance from the former
Will St. Pierre step even higher than he did in that title resting
effort in November of 2006 and feed of the energy of the hometown crowd
and put another demon behind him?
My gut tells me that St. Pierre will be waiting for the bomb and is
ready to defend and counter it’s danger. He will use the energy of
having his back to the wall to put forth another career high
performance. I do not foresee him stopping, and for sure not submitting,
Matt. I envision Georges St. Pierre by decision.
But remember…this column is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. If your
impulse is to gamble your family’s life saving on prizefights or other
sporting events, I might suggest a 12-step program instead. After all…I
picked GSP to prevail the first time he met Serra too… :-P
Either way, I can’t wait! This WILL be a great one!