This fight is an interesting stylistic match-up. Both fighters are at the top of their game and both fighters represent what it is to be a world champion. Their is certainly potential for this fight to end in a variety of different ways, and the winner of this fight is far from certain. That being said, let me launch into my shpeel:
THIS FIGHT IS GEORGE SAINT PIERRE'S TO LOSE!
I've heard it said on many occasions that BJ is tougher mentally, and that that is his fundamental edge. I'm not so sure if BJ is all that tough mentally, but I am sure that GSP has shown in the past that he is weak in this area. He wants to please, he wants to be exciting, and most importantly he believes he is the best, to the point where it is detremental. These assertions are heavily supported by his losses to Hughes & Sera & his aspiring hip hop career. How, specifically, can this lack of mental fortitude result in a GSP loss?
This fight is being billed as a barn burner. There is so mutch history, and so much expected, that it would be hard not to get caught up in it. The problem for GSP is that Penn can feed off this excitement, it actually helps Penn's game plan. He wants a toe to toe war. Penn has huge power in both of his hands and he showed it the first time they fought. GSP, on the other hand, needs to be very cautious, he can not afford to get caught up in the moment. He can not afford to please the fans. He certainly can not affort to exchange with Penn the way Penn, and the fans, would like.
I've heard over the past few months people, including myself, debate the pros & cons of each fighter's style and skill set. I've heard some people say that BJ is a better boxer (seems to be the consensus), and I've heard myself say that GSP is a better boxer. I think that both these statements are half true. Watch how BJ implements his stand up game in his fight with Sherk and even his last fight with GSP. It reminds me of a Roger Huerta, a Rampage, Thiago Alvez: he inches forward, making sure that his feet are planted as much as possible so that when the opportunity comes, he can use his legs to generate tremendous power. When he does this he is able to put together some beautiful & powerful combinations. This is good boxing. Watch GSP in his last few fights. Up on his toes, moving in and out, side to side with fluidity. Stops for a moment to plant his feet and then back to the bobbing and weaving. This style allows him to be highly mobile and extremely effective with less powerful combinations. Kind of reminds me of Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Forrest in his fight with Rampage. This is good boxing. Less exciteing, but equally good. Neither guy has what it takes to go pro, but effective in their own regard. Watch Pacman fight -- he puts both these skill sets together in beautiful fashion.
OK... so the stand up is somewhat of a push. But Penn certainly has the grappling advantage. IF PENN GETS GSP ON HIS BACK, then GSP is in some trouble. Problem is: PENN CAN'T PUT GSP ON HIS BACK. Rush is just to good a wrestler. At the same time, I don't see him doing much damage to BJ if he gets BJ on his back. For me, it's the ground game that's the biggest push. Their respective skill sets neutralize each other on the ground. But as we all know as MMA fans in America, the wrestler is more easily able to acquire points in a grappling exchange. This may very well be the deciding factor if this fight goes the distance. George should definitely look for the takedown even though he is only doing it for the points.
Given all this, what's the game plan:
St. Pierre needs to use leg kicks, jabs, and footwork to score points and set up a clinch situation. From here he needs to attempt a takedown for points and then retreat. He's skilled enough that he doesn't need to be overly concerned about Penn's guard, but at the same time, Penn is skilled enough to neutralize any GnP. It's best for him to be counting points and to be dragging this fight to the deeper waters. BTW, this is exactly what he did in his first fight with BJ after the first round -- and it worked. George cannot get overly aggressive, he can not get emotional, and he can not deviate from this gameplan. A boring fight is a good fight for GSP.
Baby J needs to do what he's been doing. He needs to capitalize with power any time George is in range. He should be cautious of leg kicks, as this is a 5 rounder, and he has to conserve energy. This is pretty much what he did in the last fight, and he lost, so he needs to do somethings a little different. He needs to be more aggressive in the clinch -- try to do some damage with knees and elbows. If George overcommits on a take down, Penn needs to punch him hard in the face. Further more, and perhaps more importantly, Penn needs to get the crowd on his side. He's the one fighting the exciting style and the crowd is gonna see it like they saw it last time. If GSP gets frustrated, he's gonna make a mistake -- and that's exactly what Penn needs to win this fight.