An 18-month-plus layoff. Reconstructive knee surgery. A poor showing last time out. And a very difficult opponent.
Georges St-Pierre enters Saturday’s comeback fight at UFC 154 against Carlos (Natural Born Killer) Condit surrounded by questions. Is the UFC welterweight champion ripe for the taking? Or does the Montreal MMA star have too many weapons for Condit?
“It’s a very dangerous fight for Georges, a very very dangerous fight,” said Montreal middleweight Patrick (The Predator) Cote. “But I think he’s prepared.”
The oddsmakers would seem to agree, having made St-Pierre a 3-1 favourite.
Condit (28-5) won the interim 170-pound title during St-Pierre’s injury layoff, defeating the prickly Nick Diaz in February.
A 10-year pro, the 28-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., is a former WEC champion who has won 13-of-14 fights since June 2006. He has never been knocked out and has only been stopped three times, all by submission.
“Definitely, he’s a hard guy,” said Martin Kampmann, who was the last person to beat Condit — in 2009. “I don’t think GSP’s going to be able to finish him. I think (if) GSP wins it, it’s going to be by decision but I can definitely see Condit catching GSP with something and finishing the fight.”
Condit is durable physically and tough as teak mentally. Plus he has shown signs in recent fights that he is putting it all together.
He demonstrated resilience against Rory MacDonald, enduring a poor start to put away the young Canadian in the dying seconds. He showed his power against Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy and was opportunistic in finishing Dong Hung (Stun Gun) Kim.
Most recently he showed smarts and patience in using distance, kicks and a lot of strikes to blunt the prickly Diaz.
“A lot of people can punch and kick and wrestle and grapple and everything, but now I really feel like we’re putting this into a comprehensive strategy and that’s what’s going to be needed to beat Georges,” said Condit.
The six-foot-two fighter has finished an amazing 26 of his 28 wins — 13 by TKO and 13 by submission. He has gone the distance just five times in his career.
Condit’s first 17 fights did not make it out of the first round — and Condit won 15 of them.
He was 15 when he got into the sport, finding a gym in the phonebook. He settled on a good one at Jackson’s MMA under the tutelage of trainer Greg Jackson.
Jackson has stepped to the side for this fight, since he also has ties with GSP.
Condit is not your normal fighter. His father was chief of staff for former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. A former union electrician, Condit Sr. got involved in organized labour and ended up in state government.
Carlos Condit toured U.S. bases in Afghanistan with fellow fighters, calling it a “very humbling” experience that put things in perspective.
Despite Condit’s formidable arsenal, St-Pierre has more weapons.
He has picked apart wrestlers like Josh Koscheck with the jab. He outwrestled strikers like Dan Hardy. And he ignored B.J. Penn’s grappling skills, bullying him on the feet and on the ground.
GSP’s wrestling skills allow him to tilt the playing field in his favour.
Despite not having a wrestling background, the Montreal native has turned himself into the best wrestler in MMA with a UFC-leading 77.3 per cent success rate in takedowns. Plus he ranks third in takedown defence (88 per cent).
GSP is also second in significant strike defence (75.6 per cent).
Condit’s takedown defence is 46 per cent. A young MacDonald took him down in three-of-eight tries.
“I do feel I’ll be able to take him down,” said the five-foot-11 St-Pierre.
“I want to dictate the pace and make the fight, fighting my fight and do what I want to do,” he added.
Takedowns allow a fighter to keep his opponent guessing. And St-Pierre is a master at passing guard, allowing him to punish his opponents on their back.