Condit worked a prickly, active game from the bottom but could not stop St-Pierre’s dominant top game.
“Obviously that’s not where I wanted to be, I didn’t want to be under Georges taking elbows,” said the game challenger.
Ultimately GSP’s wrestling skills and ability to resist Condit’s submission attempts on the ground won the day in what was an entertaining fight. St-Pierre controlled the contest.
“I’m happy, I gave everything I had. I left everything I had in the Octagon,” he told the post-fight news conference, with Condit nodding his head in agreement.
The strategy against Condit was to push the pace and “soften him up those first two rounds,” said Nurse. “And then when you see fit, take him down and soften him up” some more.
So St-Pierre came out, took the centre of the Octagon and stalked Condit. Many had given Condit the striking edge going into the fight, but St-Pierre walked away with no less than a tie in striking.
The first takedown came within two minutes, with St-Pierre looking to score from above in Condit’s guard. Condit, comfortable fighting off his back, looked cool but took some damage.
Condit was cut above the right eye by an elbow near the end of the round.
Condit knocked St-Pierre down with a head kick early in the third and swarmed him. GSP weathered a dangerous storm and finally got back up, his face leaking blood. He then dumped Condit on the ground and won the rest of the round.
“I thought I had him there,” Condit said of the kick.
“Georges showed again why he’s the champion,” said Nurse, admitting his heart was in his mouth at that point of the fight. “He came back, got out of that situation and turned it around and took back charge of the fight.”
St-Pierre spent considerable time on his back with jiu-jitsu coach John Danaher in advance of the fight, just for that eventuality. The move that saved him was slicing a knee through the legs, working his way back into a wrestling position and then getting up off the fence.
“It wasn’t necessarily the most exciting thing to do in training camp but he did it and it paid off,” Nurse said of the jiu-jitsu prep.
Head coach Firas Zahabi said St-Pierre proved he could stand with a powerful striker, with the exception of the “nasty head kick.”
“Georges made a grave mistake, that I don’t think he will make again,” said Zahabi. “I told him many times to watch the head kick ... I don’t think he realized how dangerous it was until he got kicked. It’s something I reminded him of every round after that.”
The fast pace was shown by the fact St-Pierre held a 16-2 edge in significant strikes in the first round and 16-9 in the second, according to FightMetric which tracks such statistics. Condit won the third 16-9 before St-Pierre regained his edge to lead 9-3 in the fourth and 21-6 in the fifth.
While the significant striking tally was 71-36 in St-Pierre’s favour, Condit had a 190-172 edge in total strikes — significant or not.
There were questions going into the fight. Would it be business as usual for St-Pierre? Or was the returning champ ripe for the taking?
St-Pierre proved willing and able.
White has some options if he needs more time to settle the ground rules for a Silva-GSP super-fight.
In Saturday’s co-main event, Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks knocked out Martin (The Hitman) Kampmann in 46 seconds in a battle of welterweight contenders. It was a slightly longer replay of his 12-second KO of Fitch.
Hendricks, a former two-time NCAA wrestling champion, has now won five straight and stands at the top of the 170-pound contender line.
“I made my case,” Hendricks (14-1) said of his title aspirations.
“I’m a wrestler and I can knock people out. That’s pretty sweet, huh?” he added, drawing laughs.
Said White: “He looked damn good tonight.”
The 37-year-old Silva met the media before the card started, declaring his interest in meeting GSP somewhere between their two weight classes.
“I need to take some vacation and think about it,” St-Pierre said of the super-fight.