This Saturday night at the Bell Center in Montreal, welterweight champion George St.Pierre [23-2-0], will be defending his title against veteran challenger Nick Diaz [27-8-1] at UFC 158. Diaz, who has been known as a contraversial fighter his entire career, will now have the opportunity to silence his critics and fight for the UFC belt that has eluded him thus far. Not a complete stranger to the duties of a champion, Diaz briefly held the Strikeforce Welterweight belt in 2010. For the 29 year old Stockton, California native, Saturday’s fight against the UFC’s favorite son is a once in a career opportunity and everyone involved knows it. During this past week leading up to the fight, the media has enjoyed a headline-filled buffet of sorts, highlighted most recently by a press conference held Thursday afternoon. There was no shortage of outbursts and quotable one-liners as the tone for the event was set early by the media who at one point, were accused of antagonising the challenger by UFC President Dana White.
For Diaz, who recently came off a one year suspension administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for a failed drug test [marijuana metabolite], it may very well be his last chance at a UFC title. Beginning with his UFC debut in September 2003, the man who is widely considered the divisions best boxer, has fought for various promotions throughout his career such as Pride, Elite XC, Dream, and most recently Strikeforce, before returning to the sports main stage on October 29th, 2011. Since returning to the UFC however, things haven’t gone exactly as Diaz may have hoped. After a 3-round victory over legendary welterweight BJ Penn in his first fight back, Diaz suffered a 3-round unanimous decision loss to the elusive Carlos Condit which many, including Diaz himself, thought he won. The loss to Condit would soon be the least of Diaz’s problems, as he was soon suspended [for the second time], and was forced to take some unwanted tine off. In fact, Diaz is the polar opposite to St.Pierre in nearly every way and the one thing that both fans and critics seem to agree upon is that the UFC’s current golden boy is more than likely in for a long night this Saturday.
St.Pierre began his UFC career with a first-round knockout of Ivan Menjivar in January of 2002. At the time, the UFC as we know it today, was in its infancy and was widely thought of as barbaric.. It was an early loss to then welterweight champ Matt Hughes that seemed to drive St.Pierre towards the greatness and consistency that he is recognised for today.Similar to the way that St.Pierre has been compared to Hughes, Diaz has often had his career compared to that of St.Pierre’s. It isn’t however, simply a matter of the current champion defending his title against the man that GSP openly admits is his best challenge within the division. GSP who is usually a model of restraint during interviews, press conferences and promo events, has even gone as far as to say that Diaz was ”the most disrepectful person” that he ever met and promised to give Diaz the worst beating ever seen in the UFC. Whether they’ll admit it or not, the UFC has set the stage for an epic battle of good versus evil, worthy of the most classic of comic books.
Now that the fight is set, the insults have been hurled, and the predictions have been made, there isn’t much left to do except fight. Of course, its not that simple and recently for GSP at least, there remains one glaring obstacle.
Early in his career, GSP earned a reputation as well-rounded, hard working, and aggressive fighter. As he continued to develop into the future-Hall of Famer that he is today, GSP accepted challenges from all comers. Time after time, defusing the world’s most lethal cage dwellers, and after initially winning the belt in a rematch with then-incumbent champ Matt Hughes [November 2006], he was shocked by veteran mixed martial artist Matt Serra in a first round knockout in which GSP lost the belt less than a year later. Since reclaiming the belt from Serra in April of 2008 however, GSP hasn’t been the same fighter. Defending his title seven times after the Serra rematch and begining with the Jon Fitch fight, GSP has had six of those seven title defences decided by the judges score cards. In fact, GSP hasn’t knocked out or submitted anyone since January 31st, 2009 when he famously knocked out BJ Penn in four rounds.
Going in to Saturday night’s main event, GSP, a Montreal native, is the heavy favorite according to the odds makers, coming in at -500, whereas Diaz is currently the underdog at +350.. Its no secret that the UFC enjoys having GSP as the champion and definitely considers him the face of the organization. Almost all the ingredients are in place for what could very well be the fight of the year. We as fans have to wonder though, what if Diaz does in fact win the belt? As recently as Thursdays press conference UFC President Dana White could be heard saying ” If Nick would just play the game.”’ White’s comment most likely refering to numerous occasions on which Diaz could have and probably should have, fulfilled his end of various UFC-related promotional obligations.
At this point, just two days before the potential fight of the year, it isn’t hard to imagine Dana White and the UFC brass, shivering at the thought of Diaz being obligated to the schedule and demands of a UFC champion. Whether or not a battle of epic proportions actually does takes place remains to be seen. Its safe to say however, that the UFC wouldn’t mind seeing an angrier, more aggresive effort from the hometown hero. The alternative would place the sports most hated, most criticised, and arguably the fighter most irresponsible outside of the octagon, directly on one of the sports most coveted thrones. It has become clear that if Nick Diaz leaves Montreal a champion, GSP’s inability to finish his opponents will be the least of the UFC’s problems.