Tommy Lasorda once said "The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination." There were many ways in which I thought the idea of Georges St. Pierre returning from a horrible knee injury, surgery and more than 18 months out of the cage and looking like his old self at UFC 154 was impossible.
But St. Pierre has a level of determination that allows him to be more than simply a great athlete and instead makes him a great fighter and a great champion.
Carlos Condit may not have been the stiffest test of GSP's career on paper, until you added in all the other factors. At that point this became a test unlike any we've seen in MMA to this point in the sport's young history. We'd never seen an athlete who relies so much on his athleticism and who had achieved the highest highs suffer an injury like this while at their career peak. Mauricio Rua had been close, but he's a different kind of fighter, and his time off due to knee injuries came after he'd lost to Forrest Griffin in his first UFC fight.
But the way Shogun had returned and looked awful against old Mark Coleman coupled with years upon years of hearing NFL and NBA players, freakish, complete athletes, talk about two years of competition post-surgery before they feel like their "old selves" meant that stepping directly in from the layoff to a bout with the new #1 welterweight in the sport was an unbelievable risk. It was so risky that I talked publicly about wishing GSP would take a tune-up fight rather than jump into the deep end.
But little did I know that GSP is the rare athlete who survived this kind of injury and came back immediately as good as he ever was.
In the UFC 154 main event, every bit of GSP's timing was there, as he perfectly ducked down, scooped up an incoming leg kick and burst through a takedown we saw that the explosiveness was still there, but more importantly, when we saw Condit badly hurt him with a head kick, follow him to the ground and fire away...we saw that his determination didn't end at the gym doors. GSP survived the worst moment of his career since the embarrassing loss to Matt Serra. Not only did he survive the moment, but he did enough to win the round in the eyes of two of the judges, riding out the Condit flurry, getting to his feet and getting the takedown to finish the round with more ground and pound.
In a sport with men like Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, Junior dos Santos and others, Georges St. Pierre reminded us that he is something unique, something special that we all need to appreciate at a level that goes beyond sports. St. Pierre is a special human being, possessing a level of determination very few others on this earth will ever understand.
A few other thoughts from the show:
- The atmosphere for the main event was insane. Tickets didn't sell out the day they went on sale or anything, but there was never a doubt that this show would do very good business. Add in that GSP didn't fight in a "boring" way at all, instead really throwing hard shots on the feet and on the ground and the annoying "oh god, he's so boring" talk should go away for the next fight.
- Of course I want to see GSP vs. Anderson Silva. It's a huge fight. But forgive me if I don't think it'd be the worst thing ever to see GSP vs. Johny Hendricks and then GSP vs. Nick Diaz if that doesn't happen.
- Speaking of, Johny Hendricks has ridiculous power. Martin Kampmann's chin is as legit as anyone's and Hendricks stiffened him with a single short shot.
- Francis Carmont was able to beat Tom Lawlor without doing anything of note offensively. But that's the risk you run when you're in a horrible fight.
- Mark Bocek being completely without a "plan B" when his takedowns weren't getting him anywhere did him no favors as an impressive Rafael dos Anjos dominated the fight. I'm not sold on dos Anjos as some incredible force, but he handled the only dimension Bocek had quite well.
- Watching Mark Hominick fight is just sad at this point. I want him to be so much more than he is. Pablo Garza looked sharp though and there are a ton of interesting fights in his future.
- Alessio Sakara was doing a very good job against Patrick Cote up until he lost his composure. Sakara, always tagged as having a bad chin, had been hurt by clean shots, but cleared his head and had Cote badly hurt but then flurried to the back of his head with hammerfists, earning himself a DQ. It's unfortunate because Sakara basically had him beat if he'd have just taken his time and aimed his shots. I hope they decide to put these two in the cage together again though as it was proving to be as good of a mix as it appeared on paper.
- Chad Griggs isn't very good. I wish that weren't the case because he's entirely easy to root for as a guy. But Cyrille Diabate just ran through him and then he submitted him. Not a good sign for Griggs' future.