Note: This is a roundtable discussion from my cohorts over at Fightticker.com where I work as a blogger. Feel free to head over there for complete MMA news and fight coverage.
FightTicker.com is back with its seven-person “roundtable” discussion for UFC 94. This one covers the super-fight between UFC lightweight champ BJ Penn and UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre for the 170 pound belt.
The participants in the discussion are FightTicker.com bloggers KingLev, Hardyz55, PreView, IronMan, the_general, afadaie and iamphoenix. This roundtable discussion was essentially one long email thread between the seven participants with Fight Ticker moderating.
And, now onto the discussion…
the_general: Man, what a ridiculous fight. I’ve been waiting for this one since August when it was announced. It’s great because it really is one of the few times that you get two of the top pound-for-pound fighters in their primes. Picking this fight is tough but here are my thoughts:
St.-Pierre is perhaps the most well-rounded fighter in all of MMA. Not only is he well-rounded but he’s GREAT at every facet, not just good. He’s going to be around 185 when he steps in the Octagon while BJ will be roughly 170. I think BJ is going to be in for a surprise when he gets in the cage with St.-Pierre. I really do. GSP will have his way with Penn wherever the fight goes because he’s just THAT good.
I don’t think it’s going to be that close. Usually when you get great match-ups like this on paper, they become lopsided fights in the cage and I think that happens come Saturday night. I really think that St.-Pierre is going to put on a performance that will be remembered in history as one of the best. I think mentally he’s locked in and ready to start cementing a legacy as the best in the sport. It’s not that I think Penn is overrated or anything because I don’t; I think Penn is great. I just think St.-Pierre is too big for him and ultimately a better fighter.
KingLev: I guess hell has frozen over because I have to agree with the_general. I think GSP is keeping all of his aggression bottled up and will use all of BJ’s insults and accusations as fuel to prove a point come this Saturday. The size difference will matter most in the later rounds when the gas tank starts to get low. Can BJ deal with not only GSP’s superior athleticism but his bigger frame as well? I don’t think so. I see GSP taking the fight over sometime in round three and while I am not sure he can stop BJ I wouldn’t be surprised if he was able to score a TKO late in round 4 or early round 5.
While BJ has many great attributes such as his crazy dexterity and his fabulous jiu-jitsu, does he really do one thing that much better than GSP? Stand-up goes to GSP — maybe BJ is better with his hands but I give the edge to GSP overall because his kicks are killer — just ask Matt Hughes. GSP is probably the best wrestler in MMA today and that is saying a lot considering the fact that he never really wrestled when he was younger. GSP has a habit of picking things up very easily and while BJ is no slouch in that department I have to give GSP the slight edge because of his superior physical attributes. Most likely scenario is a unanimous decision for GSP. Say 48-47.
IronMan: This is bizarre. I like Georges, I really do. I think there’s a great argument that he’s a better fighter than BJ. I think there’s an argument that his standup has improved and that his wrestling will allow him to control the pace and location of the fight and so on… but c’mon.
“GSP will have his way with Penn…”
“Does he really do one thing better than GSP?”
Make an argument that GSP is better because of his skill set, not that he’s the second coming of the MMA messiah. There are things that GSP does very well, but BJ is a mundial champion in jiu-jitsu and the last time they fought, BJ destroyed Georges standing up. Georges’ jiu-jitsu has improved alot, but he’s not a black belt in the same way that BJ is a black belt; he’s not a technical jiu-jitsu fighter in the same way that Penn is. He makes amateur mistakes and top jiu-jitsu guys know that.
Now, he’s athletic and it’s not going to be easy to catch him in a submission. He’s a big welterweight and he’s not going to be easily knocked out. BJ is in for a tough fight, but this notion that BJ is going to get walked through seems incredibly strange to me. He’s an underdog, but his jiu-jitsu is a long way ahead of Georges and his standup has proven far more dangerous in the past, so there’s a great chance BJ finishes on the feet (or at least does serious damage there) and there’s a great chance that BJ catches that omoplata this time and finishes it.
KingLev: I never claimed that GSP was the second coming. All I said was that athletically he was as gifted as anyone in MMA today. I don’t think his BJJ is at the level of BJ’s but I do believe his striking — and by striking I mean boxing, kicking, Muay Thai — is on par if not better than BJ’s. His skill set is just superior. We all know about BJ’s crazy dexterity and he is one of the smartest mixed martial artists in the world today but what I question is his cardio. Yes, he has looked so much better in his last two fights but one fight went just under two complete rounds while the other was just under three rounds but fought at a very slow pace. The whole time BJ fought Sherk, it was on their feet and he wasn’t moving around much or forced to exert much energy. Can he go five rounds with a guy who has proven he has a superior gas tank?
Getting pushed upon and laid on by a guy who will be a minimum of 15 lbs heavier than him will not help BJ’s cardio at all. It is here that I see GSP being able to take advantage in the later rounds when BJ is tired and GSP is fresher. It will be one hell of a fight and one we will be talking about for a long time coming.
IronMan: BJ’s cardio has always been called suspect, and it should be. It’s sucked in his past fights, especially at 170. But go back and watch the first fight. Who’s winning at the end of round three? Who’s got the submission attempt on?
I’m not saying that BJ won’t get tired and collapse. It’s a five round fight, which is a long-ass time, and Georges is a lot bigger and definitely more athletic, but I think it’s important to point out that BJ looked good in his last two fights. His cardio may not have been showcased, and it may have been against smaller opponents, but if he shows that kind of athleticism against GSP, it’s going to be closer, athletically, than it was last time.
As for BJ’s standup, I hear that kind of comment all the time, but I’m an evidence guy, and I just haven’t seen any evidence to support that Georges’ standup is that much better than BJ’s, if it’s better at all. In the first fight, BJ destroyed Georges standing up, and Georges pushed him to the cage to keep from taking damage. Also, with regard to improvement since that fight, BJ has fought many better strikers than Georges has (including Machida, who I think we can all agree is far more technical on his feet than either of these guys) and he’s looked good against all of them.
I’m not saying that the first round of this fight is going to look like the first round of their last fight. I think Georges will avoid damage a little better than he did last time, but BJ displayed a lot of patience in that fight with Sherk, and if he works angles on GSP and takes his time, fighting at his own pace, it’s going to be a tough fight for Georges on the standup, and I definitely don’t see him finishing BJ.
iamphoenix: It doesn’t matter that BJ had a submission attempt on. So did Tito against Machida. Sherk is not GSP. GSP will be winning this one. He’s sooooo good at everything it probably doens’t matter that BJ is better at one aspect than GSP. This is the fight that will decide who is better. And it will be GSP. Their first fight is still argued about and everyone has had heated debates. GSP will finish BJ Penn. It’s going to happen decisively this time. No more confusion or whining. It’s put up or shut up time for these guys.
IronMan: I agree that it’s time to put up or shut up, and I think that this fight will be far more decisive than the last one. It’s nice that they’re going to have two more rounds tacked on to do it.
My point is the whatever people believe about BJ’s cardio, even in that fight, he was the one who finished strong. I hear all the time that “BJ’s cardio is dog crap,” but at the end of three, BJ was working and GSP was looking for a way out — that says something to me. It would also say something to me if Tito and Machida fought again in a match that was going to go more than three rounds. Of course, that’s not what we’re talking about.
Also, I didn’t say that BJ was just better at one aspect of MMA. I cited two differences. Everyone thinks that GSP is going to be competitive in the striking. Why? BJ did a lot more damage last time on the feet and, over the course of his career, he has looked better standing up against better strikers. Oh, and he’s never been stopped standing up. The only loss where he’s been finished is by ground-n-pound, and that’s something GSP may very well try to do, and it’d be an interesting game plan.
It’s going to be competitive, but BJ’s advantage seem pretty clear cut to me. I don’t see why everyone thinks that athleticism and solid wrestling (the areas where Georges has the clear advantage) are going to be so much more significant in this fight than the advantages BJ has.
iamphoenix: GSP took BJ down easily in the first fight. That’s where this one is going too.
PreView: I think BJ is going to win. In spite of the athletic improvements both fighters have made, and in spite of the fact that GSP is likely at the top of his game right now, I think what’s going to be more relevant in this fight is who comes in stronger mentally, and I think that’s going to be BJ. I think that is what is to blame for BJ doing all of the crap talking — he’s trying to psych GSP out before the fight and I don’t think that’s a big secret or anything.
Way back when Pete Sell called GSP a “mental midget”, I thought he hit the nail on the head. GSP has admitted he was psyched out when he fought Hughes the first time, and clearly he wasn’t all there in his preparation for Serra the first time — it is important that he avenged both of those losses in a dominating fashion. In his title defense against Fitch, GSP showed up to fight and put on another dominating performance. Some of you are probably saying that GSP has the mental edge going into this fight because he already beat BJ once, but I think that works to BJ’s advantage. Not that GSP is taking BJ lightly — I’m sure it’s quite the opposite — but in the back of his head somewhere, subconsciously at least, I think that GSP is thinking, “I did it once, I can do it again.”
GSP bled a lot in their first fight, and BJ is like a shark when he smells blood — he goes in for the kill. I think GSP will likely take BJ down at will through the first and second round of the fight, but once he gets him down, I think BJ is superior on the ground, so I don’t think GSP will be able to really use his superior wrestling skills effectively. However, I think that BJ is going to open up GSP late in the first or early in the second, and after that, he’s just going to frustrate GSP and pick him apart until he goes for broke and catches GSP with something big in the third round to win by TKO.
I think the possibility of being the first person to simultaneously hold two UFC belts is a huge source of motivation for BJ, and I think that he’s ready to crash GSP’s party. Even Dr. Mayeda recently commented on BJ’s comments in Primetime about this being a fight “to the death” and I think BJ truly has that mindset. Not that he really intends to kill GSP, but that he’s willing to die to win this fight. I truly believe BJ is such a fanatic he would die in the cage if it meant he could win the fight. I think GSP knows that, and I also think GSP wouldn’t be willing to make that sacrifice, and that’s going to eat at him all the way up until he loses the belt. On a side note, this win by BJ will be the perfect set-up for the rubber match, which the UFC could hype even more, because of GSP’s uncanny ability to avenge his losses in a dominating fashion.
afadaie: With all the respect in the world for both fighters, GSP is my favorite. I don’t like when people sit back and criticize the top fighters in the world. If you have ever climbed the ring or Octagon even for a sparring, you know how tough life for a pro fighter is and you would be more respectful to anyone who steps in the Octagon…
Georges is a well-rounded fighter. BJ is not a kicker and although he has great boxing skills, Georges’ boxing has improved significantly. Georges does not mind fighting on the ground — Matt Serra was a great BJJ black belt and Georges was on the ground with him a majority of the time in their second fight.
And well Georges is a fantastic wrestler who has out-wrestled fighters like Hughes, Fitch and Koscheck.
I am a big fan of Georges and my opinions maybe biased but I have to acknowledge that BJ is a portrait of a super-technical martial artist who has always won his fights with skill not by outmuscling his opponents…but well you need to be greatly conditioned against a fit and skillful fighter like Georges.
Good luck to both of them and I think GSP will win.
the_general: I respect every opinion and reasoning given by those who are pro-Penn but I just don’t see it. Georges is focused on one thing and one thing only and that’s his legacy. He knows that a great, dominating performance against Penn come Saturday night will put him among the very elite in the sport’s history — and he’s still just 27 years old! That’s what’s truly scary. It isn’t anything physical that you can point to (for why GSP will dominate Penn), it’s something completely meta-physical, an intangible that GSP has where he rises to the occasion and meets his own lofty goals. He wants to finish BJ and I believe he will. GSP by 4th rd TKO
KingLev: Stop it already! I don’t like it when the_general agrees with me and even picks the same method and round of victory as me. Everyone has given fair and excellent assessments on why they think GSP or BJ will win. When you read what has been said so far it makes you want to go one way and then two seconds later you are thinking the other way. That is what makes this fight so damn great, it is so hard to pick who, what, where, when and why.
This is MMA and anything can and usually does happen but when you have two fighters who are so evenly matched and who are so motivated, you know the mistakes will be so minute it will be hard to take advantage of them. It will come down to who prepared for this more and who wants it more. I think GSP will outwork BJ and I think he will have more heart at the end. He will want to prove their first fight was scored correctly and more importantly he will want to prove to himself that he is the better fighter and he has what it takes to shut BJ Penn up.
Hardyz55: I think BJ is going to be more focused than ever in this fight. The one factor from the first fight that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that BJ hadn’t fought in 10 months. Also, it was his first fight back in the UFC in over 2 years after a very heated exit. I think that factored into his poor condtioning for that fight. BJ in this fight will be more mentally fit.
Do I think that that’s enough for a win? Not a chance.
GSP will be looking to capitalize on whatever minute mistake that BJ makes. I think that GSP will wear down BJ after repeated takedown attempts. GSP is going to use his superb wrestling skills to dictate where the fight goes. I just find it hard to believe that GSP will go into this fight giving anything less than all he has. I look for GSP to finish the fight by KO in the 5th round.