First off this is my first ever post on BE. I've followed the website with dedication for a year or so now (I used to try and post on Sherdog forums....never again...NEVER AGAIN!) and finally decided I've got something worth writing about. My boy Diaz is finally going to get a shot at the reigning champ in GSP, and for the first time in St. Pierre's lengthy title defense history he is going up against someone with all of the right tools to hand him a decisive loss.
Now I know what the skeptics, hell everyone, is thinking. How can a lack of take down defense actually be an asset against arguably the most accomplished wrestling and top control tandem in MMA? I've heard all the arguments, GSP is going to blanket Diaz to a decision or somehow finish him because Nick has only fought cans, etc. While the latter is preposterous because of the fashion in which all his last wins have come by, there is definitely a good chance the first may happen. However, the mean mugging kid from Stockton has an equal opportunity to finish Diaz in this fight as GSP does to LNP him to a decision. Don't believe me? Proof after the jump
There is no disputing what Nick Diaz's main two assets are: his constant onslaught of punches on the feet and his hyperactive jiu jitsu attack on the ground. Conversely, I would argue GSP wins the majority of his fights by his take downs/top control, and the precise timing of his striking attacks that also allow him to transition perfectly into those same take downs. His fight with Thiago Alves is the most revealing example of how St. Pierre is able to take a striker out of his element through this combination. The threat of the take down allowed him to constantly keep Alves in check from releasing his full striking arsenal, and it paid off in full. The resulting combination was 5 rounds of him beating the Pitbull to the punch standing and taking him down whenever he attempted any significant offense.
I'm not sure if you've heard, but Nick Diaz does not give a fuck. Like, at all. And this, ladies and gentleman, is why he is going to win this fight.
First of all, we need to clear up this whole myth that the GSP of today is some godly striker who's stand up is equally potent as his wrestling. Lets look at his previous fights that are brought up to support this nonsensical notion.
-Fights before Matt Serra: Any fighter will tell you, it doesn't matter what your MMA basis is, if you don't keep training it you will lose your edge in that particular area. I don't care if GSP was a beastly striker before he got upset by Serra. Since then he has adopted a strategy based purely around his wrestling ability. As such, his striking skills and killer instinct have atrophied a great deal. The GSP of old would have torn through Koscheck or Shields withing 2 rounds on the feet. Not so much the case now.
-Thiago Alves: Every once in the while someone gets the idea that GSP can outstrike anyone "because he out struck Alves all 5 rounds". Not so much. In a K1 match Alves would destroy GSP. But since this is MMA he was able to blend the threat of the takedown with his striking to keep Thiago from ever getting his strikes off in the first place. Thiago never got to use his best weapons because of his fear of being taken down. That fear nullify's his only advantage in the fight.
-Josh Koscheck: Folks, Koscheck is not a striker. GSP proved that through jab fucking him for 5 whole rounds. And yet....that's all he did. He didn't go in for the kill after Kos was blind in one eye. He didn't mix in power shots to try and finish the fight more. No, he just jabbed. A lot. And hey, it worked, no problem with that strategy he did what he had to do to win. But that was nowhere near the "stand up dominance" many people claim it was. It was simply a wrestler trying to throw overhands and failing because the other fighter had the perfect antidote; one move, the jab.
-Jake Shields: "Shields" and "accomplished striker" are two words that should never be in the same sentence.I will even be as gracious as to discount the rounds where GSP couldn't see out of one eye in this particular fight. That does not excuse the first couple of rounds where St. Pierre did nothing but frustrate and out point one of the notoriously worst strikers of the WW division. In fact, throughout the fight Shields probably had more success than anyone since Matt Serra.
Think about that. Why the hell did it happen? Because Shields was confident enough in his jiu jitsu to be completely unafraid of GSP's takedowns. In fact, I believe he asked his corner at one point if he should pull guard. And the champion respected those same ground skills enough to try and stay on the feet to avoid arguably the best grappler he has faced so far. Makes you wonder what someone with equally nasty jiu jitsu and very credible standup could do in the same situation...
I don't feel the need to go into detail about Diaz's striking and why he has a huge advantage in pure striking skills on the feet. He has dismantled some of the heaviest hitters in his division and done it without his opponents worrying about his (nonexistent) take downs as well. There is one very significant observation to take away from this though.
If Diaz does not fear being taken down, his striking will be significantly more effective. He will commit to his punches and never let GSP rest on the feet. Yes, this means he will be taken down more. But he also has 5 rounds that start standing, and combined with his sweeps and scrambling ability, more time than that to do some damage on the feet. If GSP is afraid of Diaz's jiu jitsu and makes the mistake of trying to fight like he did against Shields he will be KTFO eventually.
If it comes down to a grappling match, Diaz poses by far the greatest danger to GSP on the mat for several reasons. He has the cardio and grappling conditioning to constantly go for submissions all 5 rounds. No one has been able to say as much against GSP so far. Yes, BJ might have better technical jiu jitsu but it hasnt translated to MMA as well as Diaz's has. Not to mention GSP had a huge size advantage over him and BJ's cardio had him giving up once he was on his back in the later rounds. Diaz will not relent on sweep and submission attempts from the bottom.
Sure, Jake Shields might have equal jiu jitsu to Diaz. Doesn't mean jack though because the fight never went to the ground, we have no way of knowing how GSP would have dealt with that issue. Hence, I would say no one has ever posed a greater threat to GSP on the ground than Nick will. 25 minutes is a lot of time to make a mistake, and if St. Pierre does you can be sure his opponent will capitalize.
Finally, the biggest asset Nick will have going into this fight is his mindset. The only fighter I can think of that has truly gone after GSP all 5 rounds was Fitch. However, Fitch's only real weapon is his takedowns, so once GSP had won 3 rounds the fight was basically over. Even if Fitch had managed to use his weapon late in the fight and get GSP on his back it wouldn't have mattered, its not going to stop GSP or get him the win. On the other hand, this same never-say-die attitude in a fighter with Nicks skillset is incredibly dangerous. If GSP slips for a moment against a wrestler, he gets taken down no big deal he can recover. He slips against Diaz on the feet, he might get KO'd. He slips up on the ground he might get submitted. Both of these things can happen in an instant (*cough*Matt Serra!*cough*), and the combination of danger on both the feet and standing has never been this big of an issue for all 5 rounds of a fight in GSP's career.
Some other interesting wildcard factors that Nick brings are his trashtalking and the fact he is the true definition of a fighter. Not an athlete, not a mixed martial artist, a fighter in every sense of the word. He will not break. He will not be discouraged. But he will keep coming forward. His goal isn't to get the win; it's to hurt his opponent until they can no longer continue. He has stated outright that he does not like the sport of MMA. He just likes to fight. And that attitude combined with his skills makes for a scary ass opponent. His trash talking only adds to this persona. I don't care what anyone says about GSP's composure.It is hard keep your calm and collected when someone is simultaneously punching you in the face and calling you a bitch. GSP will not react to that well over the course of 5 rounds.
Ok everyone sorry for the long article, hope I was able to get my point across. In short, I think GSP has never faced anyone who will be able to threaten him from every position for all 5 rounds the way Diaz will. Nick will be able to commit to his stand up more because he is perfectly comfortable getting taken down and fighting off his back. GSP will need absolutely flawless top control to have any hope of not getting submitted or stopped with strikes. Diaz has the mindset, the striking, and the jiu jitsu to test GSP better than anyone we've seen so far. I see the fight at 50/50 between a GSP decision or a late Diaz stoppage. Lets hear what you think.