MONTREAL -- For everything the Georges St-Pierre-Nick Diaz bout wasn’t -- enthralling, competitive, an out-and-out war -- Georges St-Pierre versus Johny Hendricks just might be. And that’s the silver lining after UFC 158, where wolf tickets and dark places finally converged.
Hendricks was victorious over former No. 1 contender Carlos Condit on Saturday in Montreal, and made his case (yet again) for a fight with St-Pierre. Unlike when he defeated Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann, this time everybody -- including UFC president Dana White -- seems to be on board with the idea.
“There’s no doubt, as far as the welterweight division is concerned, Johny Hendricks is next in line,” White told ESPN.com moments after UFC 158 wrapped up. “As for a superfight with Anderson Silva, that’s up to Georges St-Pierre. If Georges came out today and said he wanted to fight Anderson Silva, I won’t be upset about it.”
With Silva booked to fight Chris Weidman in July at UFC 161, Hendricks is finally the guy. He and Condit went toe-to-toe for three back and forth rounds, with Hendricks using his All-American wrestling in spots throughout to control the action. Other times he pursued Condit across the cage winging huge left hands, some of which found their mark. Each time Condit truly pressed the action, he was dumped on his back. When they stood, the exchanges were fierce.
It was good enough for "fight of the night" honors. More important, it really pushed Hendricks (15-1) over the edge as a legitimate contender for St-Pierre.
Suddenly, Hendricks’ punching power, combined with his ability to dictate the fight, looks very interesting against the champion. It feels like a battle of strong nullifying wrestlers who can throw hands. Hendricks feels like an actual threat to the throne.
“I think [Hendricks] is fantastic, and he’s a great athlete and he deserves a shot,” said St-Pierre’s coach Firas Zahabi. “I don’t make those decisions, though -- it’s the UFC, it’s the management. I’m pretty confident it’s going to happen. I think it’s going to be a great fight.”
“He’s a great wrestler, good power,” added St-Pierre, who was eating a slice of pizza and feeling good after so many weeks of animosity toward Diaz. “We’ll see what’s going to happen. Obviously I want to fight the best.”
After his eighth title defense (50-45 on all scorecards over Diaz), St-Pierre is finding himself almost too far ahead of the competition. Carlos Condit was hoping for a rematch with St-Pierre, but it never felt like the UFC was behind the idea 100 percent, even if Condit had won. Diaz, who has been the bane of St-Pierre’s existence for the last year-and-a-half, promptly ended his retirement talk by telling MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, “I want a rematch!”
That’s also highly unlikely to happen anytime soon. If ever.
The problem is, St-Pierre has handled everybody he’s faced over the last few years to the point that no rematch is ever truly coveted. Not a rematch with Condit, not with Diaz, not with anybody. St-Pierre wins too convincingly. These days you get one shot, and you had better make the most of it.
“If you look, he’s fighting all the best welterweights in the world, and continues to win,” White said. “I think Georges had a really great game plan. He went in there, and he stood up [with Diaz]. He went to the ground. The fight went everywhere, and he won again. I don’t know what else to say. It was a great fight.”
One might say, too great. So great that it looked lopsided. Did it feel that way to St-Pierre?
“Yeah, but he was dangerous the whole time,” he said. “It was one-sided but he put me in danger sometimes. So I always had to be aware of the danger.”
It didn’t appear that way. It was the same old dominant Georges St-Pierre. It turns out he fights the same when somebody is in his head as he does when they’re not.
“It was huge because it was such an emotional thing,” Zahabi said. “I’ve never seen Georges so emotional. He really wanted this fight. He wanted to fight Diaz before anybody else does, and I think he got his fill tonight. I don’t think he’s going to want to fight Diaz again. It’s over.”
It’s over for Diaz. It’s on for Hendricks.