Analyzing match-ups in any combative sport has its challenges. Some writers like to go with their instincts or "gut feeling" while others, like myself, go with the proven methods of reviewing tape, breaking down styles, or even mathematically analyzing statistics. In Chicago, people call that the difference between Lou Pinella and Dusty Baker, yet the outcome has been the same.
Mixed martial arts isn't any different. We could analyze a match-up for days and come to the conclusion that nine times out of ten, the champion defeats the challenger. Unfortunately, MMA has that factor that could quite possibly be one of the sole reasons why it is so popular. Anything can happen at any time between two fighters. Ray Mercer knocks out Tim Sylvia, Matt Serra TKO's Georges St. Pierre, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou KO's Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Saturday night's UFC Welterweight Championship showdown between Georges St. Pierre (19-2, 14-2 UFC) and Dan Hardy (23-6, 4-0 UFC) will likely need to end in one of these fantasy-turned-reality outcomes in order for the title to change hands. Some might call my analysis a bit overstated in favor of Georges St. Pierre, but let's look at the facts.
St. Pierre enters this contest following six straight victories against the who's who of the UFC's welterweight division. He dominated Thiago Alves, made B.J. Penn quit on his stool, punched Jon Fitch's face until he was nearly unrecognizable, walloped Matt Serra into tapping from knees to the body, submitted Matt Hughes, and beat Josh Koscheck.
Dan Hardy barely beat Akihiro Gono, and some would say Gono won. He out punched, in my opinion, an overrated Mike Swick, split decision'd Marcus Davis, and impressively knocked out Rory Markham. I don't really care for the side-by-side comparison as both men have different styles, but the names on these lists is something to take into account. Obviously, Georges St. Pierre has battled the best of the best while Hardy is only now entering those waters.
Stylistically, Hardy has the counter punching ability to be a menace on the feet while Georges St. Pierre has had some issues in the past with his chin and striking. As we've seen over the course of the last couple of years however, St. Pierre has improved incredibly on his feet. He's dynamic, quick, and powerful, and Hardy will need to be very accurate and time his punches well to have a chance at exposing St. Pierre's chin.
On the ground, Georges St. Pierre has an incredible advantage. While plenty of fans will tell me that Hardy's training at 10th Planet with Eddie Bravo and his status as a solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu grappler shouldn't be overlooked, it's inevitable that it will be forgotten. St. Pierre is the epitome of what a controlling wrestler with grappling knowledge and immense strength can do to opponents. He's dominating in top control, devastating in his offense on the ground, and strong enough to counter reversals and submit opponents. It's going to be a long night once St. Pierre wrestles an opponent to the floor.
On paper, Georges St. Pierre crushes Dan Hardy inside two rounds in my opinion. The only shot, much like my opinion of Shane Carwin, is a "puncher's chance". If Hardy can time St. Pierre out of the gate, which he has never proven to be true as it took him quite some time to feel out Mike Swick, he could put his knuckles on St. Pierre's chin and stun the world as Matt Serra once did.
Is there a chance it could happen? Of course, but I'll take the odds in this fight. I've always liked the fact that Hardy's defense is high and solid among all of the Team Rough House members, but I'm more worried about his abilities on the floor. Can anyone stop the menacing power of Georges St. Pierre as he pounds on his opponents from top control? I'd venture to say that a better Josh Koscheck stands a chance if he can outwrestle St. Pierre, but Dan Hardy? I'm not sold.