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It was that same old argument combat sports has been having since the creation of weight classes: Pound-for-pound, for whatever that means, who’s the better fighter?
This was mostly pre-Jon Jones, and pre-Demetrious Johnson. The way it would work was, when Silva went all Jedi on someone, he’d jump to the top of the list. Then GSP would go and completely shut down his next challenger, and soon he was back at No. 1.
Occasionally we dared to hope that they might actually fight each other, but come on, one reigning champ against another? Stuff like that only happened when one guy had more ambition than sense (looking at you, B.J. Penn), so it would have to remain an impossible dream.
Now several years have passed, and oh, the things we’ve seen. We saw Silva clown his way into a knockout loss. We saw his leg snap in half like a piece of dry kindling, and then we saw him come back just in time to blame a positive drug test on Thai sex juice.
Then, at UFC 217 in New York City on Saturday night, we saw St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) blink away the blood before dropping Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) with a left hook and then putting him to sleep with a rear-naked choke.RelatedUFC 217 results: Georges St-Pierre chokes out Michael Bisping to become two-division champ
Four years away. At a weight class 15 pounds heavier than the one he once dominated. And somehow he looked as good as ever – maybe even better.
So now who looks like the greatest to ever do it?
If you’re talking about accomplishments and titles, all the stuff that fills out an MMA resume, it just got a lot harder to argue against St-Pierre. He was the rare champion to “step away” on top, opting to take his 12-fight winning streak and go home rather than staying until the forces of time and natural decay dragged him out on his back.
He was so committed to this course of action that, even when the UFC president flew into a purple rage over his decision, St-Pierre was unmoved. Ever the rational actor, GSP wasn’t about to do anything that didn’t appeal to his own cold logic.
It was the same with his comeback. The way he set his sights on Bisping, you got the sense that St-Pierre had crunched the numbers and done the math and decided that this was the perfect time and opponent. Not that he was going to rush it, of course. He’d do the fight any time after October, he told us back in May.
That prospect was so disagreeable to Bisping and the UFC that they both flirted with forgetting about the whole thing. GSP was unmoved. And then, what do you know, the fight gets booked for early November, like it was St-Pierre writing the script and the rest of the world couldn’t help but follow it.
There were plenty of reasons to think that the fight itself would not be so kind to him, though. Four years is a long time to be gone, after all. And how would his style play against a bigger man who wins fights on endurance and stubborn resiliency?RelatedTwitter reacts to Georges St-Pierre's historic title win in return vs. Michael Bisping at UFC 217
You saw that threat poke through here and there. After a strong first round for St-Pierre, his pace slowed somewhat. Bisping began to find his rhythm. Even when St-Pierre took him down, it was Bisping doing the damage off his back, opening St-Pierre’s face with elbows from the bottom. By the time they got back to their feet, GSP’s face was a mask of blood, and his well-laid plans seemed to be under imminent threat.
Then came that left hook – the result of diligent film study, according to St-Pierre. After that, the rear-naked choke that you just knew Bisping wouldn’t tap to, even though he had no hope of escape.
The next thing you know, there’s St-Pierre with UFC gold around his waist once again, politely explaining his process while pausing to apologize for his language, which was nothing that most New Yorkers don’t already hear or say themselves on a Sunday morning subway ride to church.
When it was all over, the interviews completed and Madison Square Garden emptying out, St-Pierre still stood there in the cage, grinning and turning in circles as he took it all in, like he couldn’t bring himself to leave.
— John Morgan (@MMAjunkieJohn) November 5, 2017
Or, another possible explanation, maybe that was the look of a man who already has left once, and who knows what it’s like to wonder if those moments of glory are gone for good.
This time around, he knew enough to stop and enjoy his own triumph, every last drop. Because who can say if and when the feeling will ever come again.
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC