Interim titles typically carry less weight than "the real thing". They are 12 pound, gold-rimmed tourniquets for all intents and purposes. But I'm not sure that's the truth about the interim title that will be stamped on either Nick Diaz or Carlos Condit at UFC 143.
Georges St. Pierre is currently recovering from an ACL injury. It's the kind of injury that is not only not easy to recover from, but it's precisely the kind of injury that could hinder the most potent offense of GSP's: his famous double leg (or kneetap, take your pick).
Meanwhile, the WW division is catching up with him. If the MMA world were to give "razzies", it's strange to think GSP might sit high on that list. He was certainly the most disappointing. No, it's not his fault that he got injured. But he only fought once in 2011, and it was an absolutely stinker.
Even now, I'm not really sure how to unpack that fight. For me, his performance will never affect his standing in the rankings, nor do I think less of him as a pound for pound great. But UFC 129 put all of his flaws on display. Against Jake Shields, who was overmatched, we saw GSP's "risk averse" style that his critics have taken issue with. We saw his psychological frailty as he verbally panicked in response to being poked in the eye. We even saw (I'd argue) his limitations as a fighter: with boxing that still feels a little rudimentary, Shields landed entirely too many jabs for a guy that is often outright mocked for his striking game.
And all of that combined to create an even worse potential disaster: losing the fight. Nelson Hamilton and Richard Bertrand scored rounds 4 and 5 for Shields. One more round of Jake Shields landing that uncomfortable jab of his, and we'd have a new WW champion. Are those scores ridiculous? Absolutely. But the fact that GSP cut it so close feels like an indictment of his performance.
Meanwhile, the WW landscape has changed. Former contenders such as Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and B.J Penn have been discarded. In their place sit Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, Jake Ellenberger, and Johny Hendricks.
The interesting difference between the two groups is that the latter group pose different threats. Ellenberger and Hendricks are not upgrades of Koscheck and Fitch per se, but if not better athletes than Fitch, they are certainly quicker. Neither is a plodder like Fitch, and both are a little more dynamic than Koscheck. On the other end, Diaz and Condit possess the type of rugged, violent pressure you might expect to rattle GSP in a five round fight.
Readers and fans joke everytime a former contender to GSP's title gets destroyed that "GSP is exposed!". While not the truth on its own, it does serve as a reflection of a WW division catching up with GSP. The division is clearly surpassing its former contenders. Will the division surpass its champion too? Make your prediction below.