KJ Gould: In the wake of Georges St-Pierre's official indefinite leave (only rock bands are cool enough to use 'hiatus'), I saw an open question regarding the legacy of GSP crop up on social media. Some feel that should Anderson Silva lose the rematch to Chris Weidman, Georges St. Pierre should be considered the UFC's 'Greatest Of All Time' fighter.
Do you agree or disagree, and why?
Fraser Coffeen:It's very hard to compare based on their styles. GSP was such an incredible master tactician. He was (talking about him in the past tense seems weird, but appropriate) tremendously well-rounded, able to strike, grapple, wrestle, submit... you name it. But what most impressed was his ability to know when to use these techniques and against who. Silva is hands down the best striker we've ever seen, and while I think the first Sonnen fight makes his wrestling over-criticized, he certainly was a bit more one-dimensional. But what a dimension it was.
The chief demerit for GSP is largely stylistic. That masterful style was incredibly executed, but there were times when it wasn't super thrilling to watch. He just doesn't have the highlight reel of the Spider. No amount of awesome gameplanning can rival the Belfort KO kick for sheer visceral thrills.
Should that count against him in a pure sporting context? No, it really shouldn't. I've been vocal about GSP's having boring fights sometimes, but those complaints should not take away from the truth - that he is indeed the most well-rounded fighter we have ever seen.
Greatest Of All Time? You bet.
Stephanie Daniels: He already is the GOAT, in my opinion.
David St. Martin: Silva finished people in such a way that it's hard for me to consider GSP the GOAT over him. I picture Anderson clowning Forrest in my dreams while GSP struggles to armbar Dan Hardy.
Stephanie Daniels: Quality of opponents = GSP had the better quality (barring Hardy). Money made for the UFC = GSP.
Mike Riordan: Anderson achieved GOAT status, had his 38th birthday and will have lost twice to Chris Weidman. Ditto for Muhammad Ali, except when he was 38 he lost to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick.
How much did those losses tarnish Ali's legacy?
Yes I know there are many imperfections in the analogy, but there certainly is enough in common for a point to be made.
David St. Martin: Aside from Chael, Silva had to make due with much less than GSP. That middleweight division was stacked with nothing but milquetoast contenders forever. GSP has really benefitted from having rivalries with real characters. Two fights with Hughes, two with Penn, two with Kos. Then there's Nick Diaz.
Zane Simon: For me, Anderson Silva has been, is, and always will be the greatest of all time. The talk about "competition" is way to overrated, especially when you have GSP fighting guys like Hardy, and Nick Diaz (at the point when he was an easily solved riddle) and Matt Serra (who beat him). While you have Silva fighting Maia, Franklin, Belfort, and Sonnen.
I've always felt that Silva's accomplishments stack up well, especially when you take his whole career, and stack up better when you consider what a phenomenal finisher he was. GSP is a great sportsman, and ambassador and I'm happy to see him go out on top, but the idea that a couple of losses at the end of his career would deminish Anderson Silva's fantastic legacy feels like such an 'in the moment' supposition.
Silva's accomplishments at Light Heavyweight (out of his division) and his Shooto title -- all the way down at Welterweight -- are something that no one else has been able to replicate, and I doubt anyone ever will.
Connor Ruebusch: This is a tough question to answer. Anderson's resume seems obviously less impressive than GSP's, but we must always consider the fact that his opposition seemed unimpressive in part due to his absolute dominance. No one looked good against Anderson because Anderson was so good. The same thing is happening to Guillermo Rigondeaux in boxing right now. It's hard to criticize him for fighting bums when he was the one turning opponents into bums.
Then again, I believe there is some truth to the criticism. How can we possibly laud Anderson's finish wins so much when so many of them were over the likes of Nate Marquardt, Travis Lutter, Patrick Cote, and Thales Leites? How can we place those wins on the same level as victories over Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Carlos Condit, and Johny Hendricks? Anderson may have made his division look worse than it was, but even his first UFC title shot was won after a win over Chris Leben, and that was Anderson's 22nd career fight. GSP, on the other hand, lost to Matt Hughes in his eighth fight, and after that his second UFC run saw him trampling Jason Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk, BJ Penn, and Matt Hughes in rapid succession. That's not just a laundry list of welterweight greats, that's a list of all-time MMA greats, and GSP beat them all.
Muhammad Ali was not undefeated, because Muhammad Ali fought the best of his time, in an era with many great heavyweights. Stylistic and personality similarities aside, we can't compare Anderson to Ali because Anderson has rarely been tested the way Ali was. GSP, on the other hand, has a record much like that of the Greatest. Despite his losses, he never fought an opponent that he couldn't beat. His wins came over legendary competition, and were the result of strategy and skill.
To me, the outcome of Anderson vs. Weidman II is moot, because Georges St-Pierre is already the greatest of all time.
Well, except Fedor, that is.
Stephanie Daniels: "Couple wins at the end of his career"
Zane me boy ... you funny guy, you!
Let's run the list down here:
Sherk (who was 31-1-1 when GSP beat him)
avenged loss to Serra
Fitch (who was 18-2-1 when GSP beat him)
Alves (who had beaten Koscheck, Hughes, Parisyan, Lytle when GSP beat him)
Shields (who was 26-4-1 & on an incredible streak of noteworthy wins)
Zane Simon: For Anderson:
Sakurai was 18-0-2
Newton was a former UFC Champ
Leben was, believe it or not, 15-1 at the time.
Franklin X2 (who was 22-1 for their first fight)
Thales Leites was 14-1 for as bad a fight that was
Okami was 26-5 with wins over Marquardt and Tanner
And you have Vitor Belfort
As well as three wins at LHW
And, of course SonnenX2
I'm fine with Anderson's record. It may not stun everyone, but I think it stacks up with anyone's to the point where his in cage performances push me over the edge in his favor.
Stephanie Daniels: Those 3 wins at LHW were hardly challenging opponents.
That list showcases a very thin division, barring Hendo, Belfort, Franklkin and MAYBE Okami, who beat him first.
Chris Hall: I'll give you Irvin and Bonnar (who Brent still picked), but that was Griffin's first fight after losing the title. You cannot discredit that win on any level.
Tim Burke: I don't think there are many weak opponents when you're going up a weight class. Those were all good wins. And Okami won via DQ, so it's like saying Hamill beat Jones. It didn't really mean anything.
Overall, I'd say Anderson's resume is better than GSP's. Not by much, but it's close.
Stephanie Daniels: Exactly how competitive was that Griffin fight, Chris? Remind me again how fast he got KO'd ...
I stick by my earlier claim that his LHW fights were hardly competitive affairs.
Tim Burke: It doesn't matter how competitive it was, Anderson took out a guy that had just been the LHW champ. If anything that's more impressive than it being a close fight.
Chris Hall: The fight itself wasn't competitive, but you can't say it wasn't challenging matchmaking. He was facing a former champion of the division right after he lost the belt.
Stephanie Daniels: Okami won by DQ but it still shows up as a loss on the record, unfortunately. I think if you reasonably compare their records, the edge goes slightly to GSP, SLIGHTLY. This is just my 2 cents, though, and somebody is always gonna want to make change.
I never said a thing about the matchmaking. You did. I said the fights were hardly challenging. And they weren't. Period.
Tim Burke: You said the opponents were hardly challenging, not the fights.
Zane Simon: You can't list Nick Diaz and then ask how competitive Griffin was. Nick put up as much fight but it got spread over 5 rounds because GSP lost all his fight ending drive. Or Kos, for that matter, that wasn't competative either, neither was Fitch ...
KJ Gould: Just to be clear, I wrote UFC GOAT, not MMA GOAT. That might change some of your arguments slightly.
Zane Simon: It's true that does take Sakurai and Newton off the table somewhat. But I didn't even mention the 16 fight unbeaten streak which is still insane by UFC standards (although Jones would be in position to break it if it weren't for technicalities.).
Stephanie Daniels: OK, I misworded. Conceded. I meant the fights were not challenging. Bonnar (I also picked him out of some misguided sense of nostalgia) and Griffin were solid. Irvin was not. But We seem to be putting stock in 3 superfights that had zero bearing on the relevance of the weight classes they held belts in. I wouldn't even count those superfights into Anderson's pretty sterling record, to be honest. I'm just saying if we're going by opponent credentials, GSP has the better list.
Chris Hall: If we're talking about the GOAT, how are Silva's Light Heavyweight bouts irrelevant? It's a significant part of his legacy and a move that GSP has been historically criticized for not doing as well.
KJ Gould: Silva losing to Weidman as UFC champion can't compare to GSP losing to Serra as champion, even if Silva loses twice. Also GSP's first loss to Matt Hughes would sort of be like Silva losing to Franklin the first time they fought, just Welterweight has always been a much stronger division than Middleweight. GSP is secure as the best Welterweight fighter of all time, but by not challenging himself at other weights and then going on indefinite leave after the toughest fight of his career against a guy who many felt beat him and many feel will definitively beat him in a rematch, excuses GSP from GOAT status in my opinion.
Never entertaining Middleweight showcase fights against equivalents to Irvin, Griffin and Bonnar shows just how risk averse GSP became in the latter end of his career, and I've always maintained that when it comes to GOAT status, if there's no guts there's no glory. In a different universe a consistently motivated BJ Penn could be the GOAT because of fighting in several weight classes for this kind of reason.
Stephanie Daniels: Yeah, I guess you're right there. I still have to go with GSP on this one. Still think he has the better resume. For the record, I find Anderson's superfights secondary to all the title defenses. That's just me, though.
To be fair, GSP was never offered any superfights except Anderson. Anderson, however got to cruise by with Irvin, Griffin and Bonnar.
KJ Gould: GSP was always adamant that if he were to go to Middleweight, it would be permanent. I think he even cited the issues Roy Jones junior had going to Heavyweight than back down to Light heavyweight as being detrimental to his career in Boxing. GSP was never offered a middleweight showcase fight probably because he seemed to always shun moving up in general.
Stephanie Daniels: I can't get on board with the philosophy that because they don't take superfights, they're not GOAT-worthy.
KJ Gould: Because he only fought at Welterweight when he was rarely physically out matched by opponents makes it harder to distinguish his skill from his ability.
Mookie Alexander: You know what would've solved a debate like this? These two fighting each other at any given time within the past 5 years!
I kid I kid.
I'm torn. GSP has fought the better competition in a historically superior division in terms of quality and talent, but Silva was so breathtakingly dominant from his very first fight that I tend to side with Silva. To go 16-0 in the UFC fighting in two weight classes is just remarkable. It's one of those untouchable feats in my book.
The knock on St-Pierre's inability to finish fights in his later years is a tad unfair, as the "best" version of GSP (including a few fights post-Serra loss) absolutely tore through Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg, and in the rematches vs. Serra, Penn, and Hughes. He is/was masterful in a way I can appreciate equally to Silva's.
All that said, I'll give the edge to Anderson. Uninterrupted success over the course of almost 1.5 dozen fights, and it's something I'm not sure we'll ever see repeated in the UFC in our lifetimes.
Stephanie Daniels: OK, Mookie just sold me on Anderson.
Connor Ruebusch: I suppose I'm less impressed with the supposed perfection of Anderson's record. In the words of Matt Brown, "I can go 100-0 beating a bunch of idiots." That's overstating things a bit, but whatever. In fact, to make another unfair comparison, considering Anderson better than GSP just because he went unbeaten for so long is a lot like saying Renan Barao is the greatest bantamweight of all time. Yes, he has some great wins in that streak, but a few good wins and a bunch of easy ones does not the GOAT make.
Zane Simon: That's totally hyperbolic though. You're basically comparing the MW division to regional Brazil. And quite honestly Matt Brown's losses say fairly easily that he can't go 100-0 fighting a bunch of idiots. He's not exactly fought the best of the best in his time in the UFC and he's lost enough to prove that he's more than capable of losing on the regional circuit.
Chris Hall: Let's not go down the road of discrediting everyone's wins and losses. It's probably the worst thing about MMA discussion and easy to fall into. Brown's competition, while not the best, still made it into the UFC. While there maybe be some subjective difference between the competition of Anderson and GSP, this is a discussion about the GOAT. Neither would even be mentioned if they were can crushers.
Connor Ruebusch: Sure, but the point is that, for much of his time as champ, Anderson's opposition did not have strong records themselves. Travis Lutter got his fight with Silva after beating Pele (a pioneer but not a great win at that time), Cedric Marks (who?), Patrick Cote (in his UFC debut). Then Nate Marquardt, who earned his shot by beating Joe Doerkson (again, who is that?), Crafton Wallace, and Dean Lister. Shit, he even fought Hendo coming off of a loss to Rampage. Then James Irvin, coming off a win over Houston Alexander (maybe we thought that was impressive at the time?), and Patrick Cote himself, who had one of the best win streaks of anyone in Anderson's reign so far, and whom Anderson couldn't really finish. Anderson had his toughest and most meaningful wins in a two-year window between 2010 and 2012, and then Weidman knocked him out.
All I'm saying is that Anderson's many wins in a row aren't worth half as much as GSP's mixed bag of wins and losses, because GSP's competition was worlds above Anderson's. Worlds, I say. A win streak like Anderson's is nothing to laugh at, and I don't mean to come off like I'm harshly dismissing his many wins, most of which were impressive finishes. But we have to remember that GSP's opposition, except for two contenders, were given title shots based on impressive win streaks over some of the best fighters in the world, while Anderson's opponents were just guys on win streaks, regardless of who those wins came over. And if the wins of your opposition aren't impressive, you're not as impressive for beating them.
Chris, I hear you, but the reason that kind of discussion is hard to avoid is because it's essential to determining who is the greatest. We can't assume that a win is a win and leave it at that. I'm not trying to shit on Anderson's record at all--I don't think I'm discrediting him. Merely pointing out that his wins are less credible than GSP's. I realize that sounds like I'm splitting hairs, though.
Mookie Alexander: This discussion is going to end with Fedor being the GOAT, isn't it?
Connor Ruebusch: Like all conversations, it started with Fedor being the GOAT.
T.P. Grant: I don't think there is much question that St. Pierre is the most accomplished MMA fighter of all time, but that word "greatness" makes this discussion slippery. Both fighters had such different paths to and methods of greatness that it is difficult to compare.
St. Pierre was a monster talent from the first time he took an MMA fight, and his only official losses came when he was rushed to face against another great fighter in Matt Hughes, and when he became arrogant about his own abilities with Matt Serra. St. Pierre embodies the idea of the application of fundamental technique to high levels of success, demonstrating that basic control of distance, use of the jab, time of power double legs, and efficient top control can be nearly unbeatable even at the highest levels of the sport.
Silva recently appears to be a savant of MMA, but it easy to forget that he struggled to reach that point with losses to much lesser fighters as he sought to develop his game. But once it clicked for Silva it was MMA perfected, damage in the form of art, as he ran off seventeen straight wins against some of the best the sport had to offer him in a fashion that just made his competitors look just silly and unworthy.
Picking between the two is difficult. St. Pierre has faced a consistently higher level of challenger, Silva sought out fights by moving between weightclasses.
Who is greater? The fan in me loves the brash style and highlights of Silva, but from an impartial point of view I have to pick the consistency and success of St. Pierre.
Stephanie Daniels: And I'm back on Team GSP.