Opinions: The Sport’s Greats and Their Fall From Grace
By Jesse Heitz
We are nearly half a year away from UFC 167, but the chatter and excitement surrounding the highly anticipated bout between UFC Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre and challenger Johny Hendricks is palpable, even at such an early stage. Given recent events within the MMA world, it’s perfectly reasonable to reflect on the falls of the sport’s greatest fighters in recent years, and hypothesize whether a similar outcome is in store for St-Pierre.
In a recent interview published by mmajunkie.com, St-Pierre spoke on the recent stunning loss suffered by Anderson Silva, stating,
“I still believe Anderson Silva is the best in the world, pound for pound. Even though he (made) a mistake and got beat by Chris Weidman, I believe it was a style matchup, and he got caught. I believe he’s still the best in the world, but even the best can lose sometimes.”
In an interview released by Yahoo Sports, St-Pierre’s upcoming opponent, Johny Hendricks, spoke to the unpredictable nature of MMA, stating,
“Anybody can be beat. Any given time. And I believe I have what it takes to — and can — beat Georges St. Pierre.”
“I’ll eat a jab for a left hand any day. All I got to do is touch him. My left hand is going to do that, and I’ll bite down on my mouthpiece all day long [and trade] a jab for a left hand. Wouldn’t you?”
Indeed, MMA is a sport where one false step can result in a lighting quick loss. Not moving your head at the right moment, throwing a mistimed punch or kick, or the improper placement of an appendage at any given time, can all lead to catastrophic results. This is something we’ve seen time and time again with fighters of all types. However, over the last few years, we’ve seen men considered to be the best in the sport’s history fall in thunderous fashion.
Three years ago, Fedor Emelianenko, arguably the greatest fighter to ever lace up a pair of 4-ounce gloves, looked to be on the verge of toppling Fabricio Werdum. Yet, one miscalculation later he was caught in a submission, and within seconds his beyond impressive domination of his fellow heavyweights had come to a crashing halt. His subsequent losses to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Dan Henderson, were a confirmation of that reality. Sure, he finished his career on a win streak, but Jeff Monson, Satoshi Ishii, and Pedro Rizzo, weren’t exactly stellar competition.
Following the demise of Emelianenko’s rule atop the “best in the world” heap, Anderson Silva was the undisputed kingpin. He had pulverized the likes of: Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami, Rich Franklin, Demian Maia, Vitor Belfort, and Dan Henderson. Then, at UFC 162, underdog Chris Weidman laid him out on the canvas. Another contender for the title of the “Greatest of All Time” had fallen. Is the third man of the “GOAT” triumvirate, George St-Pierre, at risk of following suit?
At first glance, it would appear that St-Pierre was acknowledging the possibility that he might lose. This has always struck me as a startling sign. More often than not, when a top fighter acknowledges his “fighting mortality”, when his words and disposition stink of a bizarre complacency, a loss tends to ensue.
However, this may not be the course St-Pierre unwittingly follows, as evidenced by the aforementioned interview when he stated,
“It made me realize I need to work very hard to maintain what I have. It gave me motivation and woke me up in a way.”
Unlike his predecessors, St-Pierre seems to recognize the unpredictability of MMA and that one false step can end your reign as champion. He’s motivated and hungry. He has recognized the danger his opponent poses, and perhaps most importantly for fight fans, he’s prepared accordingly. Despite Hendricks being arguably the stiffest competition GSP has faced in quite some time, the champion gives no indication that there is any possible outcome other than him leaving the Octagon with the title belt firmly in his hands.
Will St-Pierre fall like Emelianenko and Silva, or will he persevere and extend the duration of his occupation atop the MMA world? That’s a question that we’ll have to wait until November to have answered.