Georges St. Pierre is his given name, but Google data tells us most fans know him by just three letters: GSP. At 29 years of age, the UFC Welterweight has already assembled a collection of wins that puts him in the conversation for greatest of all time honors. In a division dominated by wrestling stalwarts, he's managed to outgrapple them all. NCAA All American Matt Hughes. College wrestlers Frank Trigg and Jay Hieron. Even an NCAA Champion in Josh Koscheck.
Many consider St. Pierre not only the best fighter in the sport, but the best wrestler as well. Not so fast says two time NCAA Champion Ben Askren. The former Dan Hodge Trophy winner and 2008 Olympian tells the MMA Torch that he would wipe the mat with the Canadian champion:
"I want to become the best pound for pound fighter in the world [and] I think I can get that started [under the Bellator banner]," said Askren. "I strongly disagree [with the statement that Georges St. Pierre is the best wrestler in MMA]. The only person that he really out-wrestled who is good is Josh Koscheck. And Koscheck was way too worried about keeping his hands up by his ears and not getting hit in the head to defend his legs. So just because you can take someone down when their hands are at their head doesn't mean you're a good wrestler."
"If me and Georges were in a wrestling match, it wouldn't be close."
In all liklihood, Askren is right. Pure wrestling matches and MMA competition are wildly different beasts. Not only are the rules different, but the stances, balance, and strategy also change dramatically. There's little doubt that Askren, who wrestled the best in the world in recent memory, would likely pin St. Pierre with his trademark funky style.
But as Royce Alger, Karim Ibrahim, Kevin Jackson and a host of other accomplished wrestlers have discovered, there's more to fighting than just controlling your opponent on the mat. Askren, to his credit, understands this and is developing the kind of multi-faceted grappling game that can take him far.
He faces down Lyman Good in a battle to crown the Bellator Welterweight champion next week. And if he continues to progress at this pace, he will get his opportunity to test himself against GSP. Only the stakes will be significantly larger than anything that might go down in the wrestling room. The bout will be under MMA rules and inside the Octagon. The prize won't be the mythical "Best wrestler in MMA." It will be for UFC gold. And the winner might just be the kid from Missouri with the giant fro bumping N.O.R.E on his way to the cage. Askren is potentially that good.