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UFC 129 Results: Can Nick Diaz Salvage GSP's Damaged Brand?

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Georges St. Pierre won his fifth consecutive decision victory over Jake Shields at UFC 129 in front of a sold out Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Although he won the fight via unanimous decision, his thirty round unbeaten streak was broken and, more importantly, his reputation as a supremely entertaining fighter is in tatters. 

Whereas once fans were clamoring for a GSP vs UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva superfight, now that fight is losing steam due to GSP's less than dynamic string of performances. 

Yes, GSP did take some brutal eye pokes that left him without vision in his left eye for hours after the fight, but MMA fans are fickle and unsympathetic. 

GSP's coach Greg Jackson told Sherdog:

"If you're sitting at home and you've never really been poked in the eye and had somebody of Jake Shields' level come after you and try to knock your block off, its hard to understand what that means. He was just off a little bit on some of those big shots and I feel like if he would have had both eyes, he would have landed those shots and he would have done a lot more damage."

"Jake Shields is a phenomenal fighter. I'm not sure where people get this idea that Jake Shields is like this punching bag."

Ben Fowlkes makes the case that GSP's brand is seriously damaged:

Quick, name the last GSP fight that you'd actually like to sit down and watch again. Be honest. His last four fights were impressive displays of dominance, but I'd rather not spend the half-hour to relive any one of them. Like it or not, in a sport where you make money based primarily on how many people want to see you fight, that matters.

Fowlkes also argued that only one opponent can make GSP's next fight something fans want to see: Nick Diaz. Leland Roling started the chorus right here at BE.

And according to SBNation's Luke Thomas, Nick Diaz wants that fight too:

A question was posed from a Brazilian journalist to UFC President Dana White about the future prospects of George St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. The nature of the question doesn't matter. White's response mirrored other recent statements on the matter. Namely, the fight's never been discussed by the parties as a serious possibility and there's still other fights available for both Silva and GSP in their respective weight classes.

That's when I heard Nick Diaz quietly say as if to suggest "why not me?" the following simple statement: "I want to fight George St. Pierre."

Jason Probst makes the case that Diaz, and only Diaz can make GSP a powerful draw again:

Diaz is never going to be more red-hot. After dispatching Paul Daley April, Diaz's stock is at an all-time high. The time to put him in against GSP is now. Are you going to wait for him to make a defense against, say, Tyron Woodley, or some other wrestler that might give Diaz's stock a hit with a boring fight or even a loss? Diaz is perfect, right now, and GSP is badly in need of a viable challenger.

Diaz has the right style to bring excitement. Let's face it -- nobody in MMA is going to outwrestle St. Pierre, not at 170 pounds. Thus far, in his second reign as champion, GSP has picked apart challengers coming in on the wings of a dream: that they would be able to plant him on the mat, backed up by modest striking. Josh Koscheck, the best banger of the bunch, never landed more than a glancing blow or two. GSP manipulates distance and angles masterfully. Diaz violates all that and would force confrontations. His high-volume style would, for once, possibly take the play away from GSP on the feet and force him into exchanges or to shoot for takedowns. Diaz's defensive guard and incredible resilience would serve him well here. He might get wrestled and controlled positionally, but at the beginning of each round, he would be right back up pressing and pushing ahead, tossing punches and cusses and scowls. Diaz is as durable as anyone in the game, and he never quits. He would either force GSP to beat him down or risk another five-round snoozer, at which point public consensus would be well-justified to pack GSP's bags for 185.

Diaz sells -- something the welterweight title definitely needs. GSP has summarily scuttled the marketability of all his top contenders. It would be a difficult proposition to sell rematches against Fitch or Penn; ironically, both were injured and their rematch will not happen, which clears the welterweight title road for the time being. Alves is only slightly more marketable because he can bang, but he has a tough assignment in Rick Story at UFC 130. No guarantee there. It is getting to the point where any GSP defense against anyone not named Nick Diaz would have to be paired with another title bout -- like UFC 129 -- to make it viable.

UFC co-owner and executive grand pooba Lorenzo Fertitta tweeted about the possibilities Saturday night:

Overwhelming response for GSP/DIAZ interesting. In NYC now working in what you all know.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply


UFC President Dana White addressed the issues blocking the fight at the press conference:

"I imagine I could do whatever I wanted to do if I really wanted to, but we have a contract with Showtime and [Diaz is] a Showtime fighter. I don't know, we're going to have to see how this whole thing works out. That's an interesting fight.

"I can do what I want to do."

He spoke to Ariel Helwani (transcription via Fight Opinion) further about Diaz:

DANA WHITE: "Yeah, there's always going to be fights out there at 170 that are interesting, there's going to be new guys coming up, you know, Nick Diaz is out there..."
ARIEL HELWANI: "But can you make that fight?"
DANA WHITE: "Um... can I make that fight? We'll see what happens."
ARIEL HELWANI: "But he says he wants to go box first. What is the likelihood of him boxing before ever fighting back in the UFC?"
DANA WHITE: "Well, he fights for Strikeforce, you know, he's a Strikeforce champion. He wants to box. I'm going to go to Stockton this week and talk to him."

Diaz' manager and head trainer Cesar Gracie spoke to MMA Mania's Brian Hemminger about the possibilities of making the fight (transcribed by Fight Opinion):

"I don't know how bad is GSP's eye, is he going to take six months off? And then why couldn't Nick box and then go fight GSP, for example, that kind of scenario. Now, if the eye if not a really big problem and they want the next fight for GSP five months from now to be Nick Diaz, I mean obviously Nick would be, uh... he would be delaying quite a contract, a money-making contract in boxing so how would that, is he going to give up that all that money... I mean there's so many questions right now and really the only (people) that has the answers to it are, you know, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, so I'm very much looking forward to meeting with those guys. Lorenzo's a guy that I truly like the guy and Dana is a good guy, too, you know, a good businessman and we're going to tell him our concerns and hopefully they have some answers for us and we're waiting just like you guys."

The negotiations will be a very big test of Zuffa's relationship with Showtime and whether or not they intend to build on the Strikeforce relationship with the premium cable channel now that they've bought Strikeforce. If They can somehow book GSP vs Nick Diaz this year and do it in such a way that it's a win/win for Zuffa and for Showtime, truly anything will be possible in the new MMA landscape.

If they can't, one would have to question the utility of the acquisition as anything but a way to gain greater control of the marketplace and drive fighter pay down.

After the jump, more UFC 129 news, analysis and results from Bloody Elbow.