I shouldn't be writing this. I really shouldn't. I'm trying to be more positive in general, and write on a more varied array of subjects than my staple of "this person is really, really stupid and should be beaten with a stick." And there's so much worth writing about, too. Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit pummeled the common sense out of each other for fifteen minutes in maybe my favorite fight of the year so far. Jordan Mein, a phenomenal prospect with absolutely beautiful striking, proved that he's ready for the big leagues in his thorough disassembly of Dan Miller. Jake Ellenberger simply mauled Nate Marquardt. Rhonda Rousey's going to coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter! This wasn't a one-note night, and there's plenty to talk about, but all I can think of is how disappointed I am in Georges St. Pierre, once one of the fighters I looked forward to watching the most.
In light of some posts I've seen here as well as on Twitter, Facebook, Middleeasy, and Cagepotato, among other places, I'm hesitant to write this. It seems like "fighting smart" has become synonymous in many eyes with "fighting without any intent to inflict damage, knock out, submit, or hurt your opponent." I assure you, that's not how I feel. I don't want to see the UFC turn into the Leonard Garcia Championship. I respect a well-designed gameplan, even when it's not enjoyable to watch. I applauded Carlos Condit for managing to render Nick Diaz ineffective, even though watching it was almost as enjoyable as being punched in the eye by Mark Hunt. My issue with St. Pierre is not a matter of strategy. My problem is this: GSP isn't really trying any more.
Georges St. Pierre is truly a once-in-a-generation kind of person. He has nearly everything you would want in the hypothetical perfect fighter. He's got an incomparable mixture of technical skill, creativity, versatility, and intelligence, along with the kind of natural athleticism that most people could only dream of. All this would be nearly meaningless if not for his heroic work ethic. I am not exaggerating at all when I say I feel that St. Pierre is the most complete martial artist we may ever see.
However, the "Rush" we once saw demolish people such as Jon Fitch, Matt Hughes, BJ Penn and Matt Serra is nowhere to be found nowadays, replaced with a man so conservative in nature that Glenn Beck would be left saying, "Hey, man, maybe you're taking it a bit too far?" When was the last time GSP threw a head kick? What about one of those brutal knees from side control? Remember those? How many times has St. Pierre had all the opening in the world to take his opponent's back, and simply... declined? He would be, after all, exposing himself to unnecessary risk to do so.
This is where the disagreements start with several of my friends. My usual verbal sparring partner, a fourth-degree black belt in Taekwondo, sees no difference between my concerns and the people who imply that Diego Sanchez automatically wins every fight he's in by virtue of moving forward and brutally concussing the air surrounding his opponent. When discussing the fight with her, I asked her why he didn't try to take Diaz's back during the roughly 80 times in which Diaz found himself turtled up with St. Pierre on top of him. She replied, "Why? He didn't need to. You think he should have just given Diaz a chance to do something?"
It's not a question of risk or safety, or even of an enjoyable fight. It's simply that GSP is doing the absolute minimum possible to win a fight. I don't feel that taking the back of a turtled opponent is an unnecessary risk. It's hardly a risk at all! I mean, on what planet is this even a question? Your opponent is turtled on his hands and knees, and you are on top of him. If you don't so much as attempt to TRY to take his back, you shouldn't be fighting, plain and simple.
On UFC 100's undercard, Stefan Bonnar faced off against a Mark Coleman so old and covered in bandages and braces that the biggest threat Coleman faced in the ring that night was mummification. I can't understate this: this fight was absolutely terrible. Bonnar was out of shape, Coleman was, to quote Mickey Rourke, "a broken-down piece of meat," and probably had no business being anywhere near a professional fight. Fifteen minutes of extremely aggressive cuddling followed. The crowd was more interested in attempting to force Logan Stanton into a wardrobe malfunction through telekinesis than they were in the fight. And I was riveted by this fight. Coleman knew he was outclassed. Bonnar is the better fighter standing and on the ground. Coleman had nearly no chance, and would almost certainly be released with a loss. Knowing this, he simply latched on to Bonnar, smothered him relentlessly, and while I loathe using such stereotypes, broke his will. Coleman probably lost five years of his life on that night, but he gained my admiration for giving the fight everything he had.
Even if everything he had was absolutely terrible.
Maybe Johny Hendricks will be the one to dethrone GSP. I doubt it. Maybe Rory McDonald will overcome him. Maybe it'll be someone we don't even know yet. But regardless, all I want to see is somebody to simply make him care again. I want to see the most talented fighter in the world actually fight, instead of do just enough to win a match. I want to see Rush breakdance in the ring again, but I fear that all I'll get is GSP humbly bowing.