Two welterweight champions will walk into Montreal’s Bell Centre on Saturday for UFC 154. One champion will walk out.
Georges St-Pierre, the current welterweight champion, will square off with Carlos Condit — the man who captured the interim welterweight belt during GSP’s lengthy layoff — in a match that will determine the undisputed champ. The stakes are high, the anticipation is through the roof and the result will go a long way toward shaping the UFC landscape.
St-Pierre’s reign at the top of the welterweight division has been long and illustrious. It’s been more than four years since he captured the undisputed crown from Matt Serra at UFC 83, which also took place at Montreal’s Bell Centre, and GSP has already successfully defended the belt six times. That’s a strong representation of the type of champ St-Pierre will forever be regarded as; tough, consistent and driven.
But St-Pierre’s current reign among the UFC’s elite is in jeopardy of being dealt a serious blow — both literally and figuratively. The Canadian enters Saturday’s main event showdown as the favorite, but the heavy-hitting Condit comes in having knocked out three of his last four opponents and having finished all but four of his fights via knockout or submission. In other words, St-Pierre is going up against a guy who will be looking to slug it out, making GSP’s takedown ability that much more important.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle St-Pierre will be forced to overcome Saturday is that he’s basically battling two opponents. In addition to the physically imposing Condit — who is three years younger and has a 3-inch height advantage — St-Pierre’s surgically repaired right knee will be tested. All indications are that St-Pierre is completely healthy, otherwise he wouldn’t be stepping into the octagon, but the knee is something that needs to be monitored in GSP’s first fight in almost 19 months.
You can bet that if Condit somehow pulls off the upset on Saturday, the immediate reaction will be that St-Pierre’s knee injury and lengthy layoff played a major factor, regardless of whether or not such is true. After all, St-Pierre is a legend of the sport, so watching him falter would simply be something we’re not accustomed to seeing. More important than any post-match speculation, however, is what a GSP loss would mean for UFC.
If Condit is able to emerge victorious, he would not only end St-Pierre’s reign at the top, but he would solidify himself as the man to beat in the welterweight division. Everyone would be gunning for him, just as they’ve been gunning for St-Pierre for almost half a decade.
A Condit win would also cast some doubt over the superfight that MMA fans have been drooling over for years. A clash between St-Pierre and middleweight champion Anderson Silva has taken on Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. anticipation, and while it could still become a reality even if St-Pierre loses on Saturday, the hype would die down to a certain extent. Because of that, UFC president Dana White is likely sitting back and hoping that St-Pierre shows on Saturday that he’s still as dominant — and healthy — as ever, for a St-Pierre-Silva showdown would be arguably the biggest fight in MMA history.
Will we see a changing of the guard on Saturday, or will St-Pierre show that a knee injury and a formidable opponent are no match for his greatness? You’ll be able to tell by the man wearing gold around his waist come Sunday morning.
Be sure to tune in to UFC 154 live on pay per view on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST.
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Georges St-Pierre photo (left) via Flickr/scienceduck
Carlos Condit photo (right) via Facebook/Carlos Condit [Fan Page]