The early look: Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping
For most of Georges St-Pierre's largely dominant runs as UFC welterweight champion, the MMA world wondered how he would do if he moved up in weight to challenge for the middleweight title. Now that the retired living legend says he's ready and planning to make a comeback, he himself has turned the focus toward a middleweight fight for gold.
St-Pierre is campaigning for a shot against new 185-pound champion Michael Bisping. "I believe I have more skills, more athleticism, and a higher fighting IQ than he does," he said, with uncharacteristic braggadocio.
"The world doesn't revolve around me, but if it's a fight that the fans and the UFC wants to make, they've got my number, they can call my agent no problem. We can organize to make it happen and make an agreement."
Why wouldn't GSP want this fight? He likely feels he could out-wrestle Bisping and looks at the Brit as much less dangerous than the likes of former champions Anderson Silva, Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold.
Bisping says he wants the GSP fight, and why wouldn't he? Bisping will have the advantage of size and -- unlike the Canadian -- won't have to shake off any rust after a long layoff.
Michael Bisping (L) could defend his new middleweight belt against former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre.
So, both fighters want this, and there would be no bigger-money fight than this matchup for the UFC. It would appear that we're in the early stages of what could become an inevitable super-fight, so that also means it's time to start prognosticating.
If St-Pierre finally moves up in weight and challenges Bisping for middleweight supremacy, how will it go down? There's no way of knowing for sure, but here's how I see a few key areas:
Grappling: Bisping has underrated takedown defense and get-up ability, and also has a nice butterfly guard. He also strikes well on the ground from top positions -- with good posture and nice timing.
With that said, St-Pierre in his prime had the most effective takedowns in the history of MMA. His ability to change levels, drive through, turn a corner and score takedowns off of his own punches as well as in a reactive way off of his opponents' strikes was unparalleled.
Once on top, on the ground, no one within a few weight classes is probably good enough to submit St-Pierre, then or now.
And, as Matt Hughes can attest, St-Pierre also had great upper body trip and hip-toss takedowns. He will be a lot shorter and a bit lighter than Bisping, but St-Pierre's strength and takedown techniques would probably be enough to win the wrestling battle with the middleweight champ.
That is, unless, St-Pierre has lost too much of his timing and reflexes. That is very possible.
Because of his dominance, it is easy to forget how long St-Pierre has been a pro fighter, absorbing damage and slowing slightly over time. A few years ago when he last fought, St-Pierre had already slowed considerably, and was simply lucky to get a bad decision victory nod from judges over Johny Hendricks.
He may be refreshed but I wouldn't be surprised if he's also a little slower, and a tad rusty. The point is, Bisping would have his chances to land punches before St-Pierre rushed in for takedowns.
If GSP hesitates or telegraphs even in the slightest, Bisping could make him pay.
After a long career and lots of damage sustained, should Georges St-Pierre even consider coming out of retirement?
Striking: After his loss to Matt Serra back in 2007, St-Pierre relied so heavily on his grappling that it can be hard to remember what a fantastic striker he is. He does the fundamentals well, in addition to quite fancy and unpredictable things.
St-Pierre's jab was one of the best in the sport, and he could kick superbly to every level of opponents. A straight-striking match against a larger middleweight like Bisping could be challenging for St-Pierre, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got off nicely with leg kicks and more than a few lunging jabs.
St-Pierre would likely need to corner Bisping against the cage, however. Out in the open, Bisping is moving his head better than ever, and his hands are faster than they've ever been.
At this point, the world needs to start realizing that Bisping can indeed hurt men, badly, with his punches.
Conditioning: Both men have deserved reputations for peerless conditioning. Who would break first?
Could Bisping with his size advantage wear St-Pierre down? Or would a refreshed St-Pierre frustrate Bisping with constant takedowns and grinding ground work?
My bet is that neither man would ever really wilt, and we'd get a steadily-paced fight for five rounds.
X-factors: Though Bisping is getting close to 40, his conditioning looks on point and he's getting faster and better-timed. He's also been competing regularly -- which means he's taking damage St-Pierre hasn't, but also that he'll have a better feel for the rhythm of the fight.
St-Pierre has taken a lot of blows to the head, and he should probably stay retired if strict health considerations were the only ones being weighed, here. He's got to fight relatively safely to avoid the next big shot that could hurt him.
The brain never really fully heals from concussive damage, and I worry that St-Pierre's reflexes may not be anywhere close to what they once were. Fortunately or unfortunately for him, he doesn't need to be 100 percent to beat some of the best in the world, and that is probably what makes a comeback so tempting to him.
I think Bisping may be a bit fresher and with better timing.
Prediction: I could be foolish, considering the size difference between the two men and St-Pierre's time away from competition, but I still believe his superior takedowns and ground grappling would be enough to get him the win and give him a world title in a second weight class.