This is a guest post by Jonathan Gelber, M.D. founder of Fight Medicine.
"You see? You see? He's not a machine!". Those words were uttered in Rocky IV when Rocky Balboa began to chip away at the seemingly impenetrable Ivan Drago. Drago, much like Georges St. Pierre had an entire team of scientific trainers behind him, but in the end, he seemed a little more human.
Noone can deny that GSP put on a tremendous performance at UFC 154 and Carlos Condit did his best and still came up short. However, what the main event did show us is that GSP is human and his surgically reconstructed knee is the first weak link in his armor.
GSP had his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstructed 11 months ago. One of the main actions of the ACL is to stabilize the knee during sudden movements such as cutting or changes in direction. After ACL reconstruction, an athlete must work on rebuilding the stability of the knee. The ACL graft is as strong as it ever will be when the surgeon puts it in the day of surgery. After that, it begins to be re-built by the body, often in an attempt to change it from a harvested tendon (which connects muscles to bone) into a ligament (the ultimate function of the graft).
After an ACL injury, the quadriceps begin to weaken, and it is one of the ultimate goals of rehabilitation to strengthen the quadriceps. The quadriceps help to stabilize the knee during the same sudden direction changes that stress the ACL. Obviously, GSP has been working on strengthening his legs, and superficially they certainly look strong.
However, upon closer examination, GSP's knee may not be as solid as his win record may have you believe. GSP certainly shot ahead during the fight by opening up a major cut on Condit's forehead early in the fight. It was fortunate for Condit that Stitch was assigned to his corner.
Yet, Condit did manage to catch GSP and hurt him. When Condit pressed GSP with his stand-up, he forced GSP to either move to the side or backward. When he did this, GSP couldn't evade Condit's strikes - and that's when GSP got caught. This was epitomized in the 3rd round when Condit almost put away the fight. His inability to finish GSP during that window is what cost him the fight.
Clearly, GSP controlled the ground game. Every time Condit tried to swing his legs around to gain a submission or pressure GSP, the Canadian simply pushed down harder on Condit and neutralized him. But where GSP did falter was during his stand-up. And that's where his surgically reconstructed knee came into play.
Earlier in his career, GSP simply danced around most of his opponents (Serra being an exception), but when Condit took the fight on his feet to GSP, the champ couldn't move out of the way fast enough. Should other fighters learn from this, they may be able to capitalize on GSP's limited agility and not let him take them to the ground.
Anyone that doesn't think that UFC 154 and Carlos Condit showed that GSP is no longer an unbeatable machine simply needs to look at GSP's face when his hand was raised. That is the face of someone who can be beat, and not of an invincible champion.
For more medical MMA analysis, follow Dr. Jonathan Gelber on Twitter @Fightmedicine or check out Fightmedicine.net.