The response was not surprising. With his fifth decision victory in six fights, Georges St. Pierre's title defense over Jake Shields was met with the usual admonition for an inability to finish an opponent that he was heavily favored to defeat. SB Nation's Luke Thomas went so far as to call the performance disappointing:
That's the essence of the criticism surrounding the welterweight champion. Finishing opposition is not a function of fulfilling fans' bloodthirsty hopes. It's about establishing a legacy. There is no question St. Pierre is fighting tougher opposition at welterweight than Anderson Silva is at middleweight, but Silva is with few exceptions putting opposition to sleep. He's creating memorable performances and establishing divisional hierarchy with exclamation points. The UFC middleweight champion is definitively deciding where he belongs in considerations of greatness, year after year.
St. Pierre is seeking to be as close to perfect as possible; to be as accomplished as possible; to be as dominant as possible. Not finishing profoundly outmatched opposition in pursuit of that lofty goal is causing him problems. He may still achieve the level of greatness he seeks, but he needs to accumulate more stoppages for that to be a clear cut decision.
I can't bring myself to criticize St. Pierre here. I won't try to convince you that the fight was exciting, that it took some sense of subtlety and nuance to fully appreciate. It was a pedestrian affair, though the broadcast team failed to exploit the legitimate drama surrounding St. Pierre's loss of faculties in his left eye.
We can't place the fault squarely on St. Pierre's broad shoulders. His opposition, while heavy underdogs, are still skilled fighters without much to offer GSP in terms of legitimate threat.
Shields couldn't take him down. Koscheck couldn't take him down or land a punch. Hardy couldn't stay on his feet. Neither could Alves. Penn was too small (and retired due to damage accumulation). And Fitch zombied his way through five rounds.
While none of these fighters could take the fight to Georges, they are still talented and tough and all sorts of other complimentary adjectives, and I'm not shocked when they prove durable enough to hang on until the scorecards.
This is why I want to see St. Pierre fight at middleweight, whether he takes the Anderson Silva fight right away or not. I want to see how his skills translate when fighting bigger men. I want to see him fight fresh blood. I want to see him pushed to his limits.
Luke talks about St. Pierre's ambition to leave the sport as its greatest fighter ever. Finishes or not, he can't accomplish that at welterweight. Outside of Diaz, he's already taken out no. 2 through 7 on the Consensus Rankings.
He needs a new challenge. He needs to fight at middleweight, hopefully with an ultimate date with the current middleweight champion.