By the time the smoke cleared, and Georges St-Pierre was eating pizza off the floor in celebration of his eighth title defense, Nick Diaz became MMA’s equivalent of the “boy who cried wolf (tickets).” He told Joe Rogan after the fight that he was through. Done. Kaplooey. Giving up the racket. Just like he did after his loss to Carlos Condit at UFC 143.
Nobody believed him. Just like we didn’t after his loss to Condit. The difference this time was his change of heart happened quicker. Much quicker. Half an hour after retiring, Diaz was requesting a rematch with St-Pierre (using expletives for emphasis) in the bowels of Montreal’s Bell Centre. One minute he’s done, the next he’s not. You never know with Diaz (although you always know).
There are hurdles to this fantasy rematch that will never happen. His tests need to come back clean, something Diaz himself isn’t so sure about. Those metabolites can be hostile tenants. And he needs to pay his taxes. Even unpamapered fighters who have the burden of tweeting their own tweets have to pay their taxes. Uncle Sam doesn’t care about your geography.
Beyond the usual Diaz histrionics, the three focus-point fights of UFC 158 played out more or less predictably. St-Pierre continued to dominate, Johny Hendricks defended his No. 1 contender status a third time, and Jake Ellenberger continued lighting people up like a showroom gala. "People," in this case, being Nate Marquardt.
FIVE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Q: When Diaz gets taken down, can he get back up?
A: Turns out, no. Not really. Sometimes, but not often. And though Diaz was actively searching, he wasn’t particularly dangerous off his back, either. He was just on his back. And while there he was fending off incoming elbows, hammerfists and knees. Just the same as the noble optimistic fighters who went before him (Condit, Hardy, Alves, Penn, Shields). The thing is, once you get taken down by GSP, there is no takeup.
Q: Can St-Pierre get a finish?
A: All week the talk was “is Diaz in St-Pierre’s head?” If he was, surely he’d have needed a headlamp to find his way through the dark places. And as it turns out, St-Pierre treats people who get in his head the exact same way he treats people who have no in with his psyche. He dominates them thoroughly. (The answer to the question is: This isn’t 2006! Stop living in the past).
Q: Does Hendricks get the next title shot with a win?
A: At this point, if St-Pierre came out on record saying he’d like to fight Anderson Silva next -- even though Silva has a fight with Chris Weidman in July, meaning St-Pierre’s fight would be somewhere in the vicinity of November -- this would be the ultimate compliment to Hendricks. Problem is, it would feel like another slap across the bearded fellow’s face. Hendricks should be next. Under any meritocracy he should be. Should is a funny word, though. So is “merit,” which sometimes in the UFC means “LOL.”
Q: Can Diaz win a decision in Montreal?
A: Turns out Montreal had less to do with it than the tyranny he was facing with the wrestling skills. Remember when we were wondering if St-Pierre might be tempted into a dogfight with Diaz out of anger? Let me tell you something: Anger gets locked away in St-Pierre’s dark place come fight night. From cageside you could hear it banging and screaming to get out, but he is a strict disciplinarian. He just ignored it.
Q: What happens if Ellenberger/Marquardt goes to the second round?
A: We’ll never know because Ellenberger will be throwing them bombs, baby! Marquardt was hit with a mean combo in the first round and down he went. He surfaced a few moments later to protest the stoppage, but as Bellator’s Jimmy Smith pointed out on Twitter, “if somebody tells you ‘you were knocked out,’ you should generally take their word for it in my experience.” We were all witnesses, Nate.
FIVE NEW STORYLINES
Turns out Condit wins even in losses
Hendricks did everything he said he wanted to do. He threw his left hand early and often, and he connected plenty. He took Condit down and worked his ground and pound. He tied up, dirty boxed, and used his horsepower. And yet no matter what he did, Condit kept moving forward. Condit kept coming. Condit wouldn’t be put away. Condit is the spirit of the fight game.
Diaz and his taxes
Out of all the bizarre things that happened this week in Montreal centered on Nick Diaz (from his “wolf tickets” rant to the St-Pierre steroid allegations), his admission that he has never paid taxes in his life was startling. Does he wind up in jail? The future always looks like a minefield when talking about Diaz.
Ellenberger as a contender In the past three years, Ellenberger has lost once. And even in that one (a TKO loss to Martin Kampmann) he was dominating early but didn’t get the job done. If Hendricks’ injured left hand ends up sidelining him for a long period of time, it’s possible Ellenberger gets the call to see St-Pierre next. Nobody can question his credentials: 8-1 in his past nine fights, with five finishes.
MacDonald can still get his wish
Condit won’t be fighting for the title next, which means Rory MacDonald can still get his shot to avenge his only professional loss when he comes back from injury. That is, if the UFC still wants that. MacDonald is on a northbound surge up the welterweight rankings, and Condit has lost two in a row.
It’s Hendricks’ time
It’s either give Hendricks a title shot, or let him continue wrecking every contender coming up the ranks. In fact, if the UFC gives St-Pierre anybody other than Hendricks at this point, Hendricks should demand a fight with MacDonald to (A) take out a teammate of St-Pierre’s and (B) punish the UFC by batting back a hot prospect.
UFC 158 STOCK REPORT
Hendricks: The “Bigg Rigg” has been headed north for a long time now, and he’d love to finally arrive at his destination (St-Pierre). And you’ve got to love his style, too. He could have taken Condit down and kept him there for three rounds. Instead, he pursued Condit with sequences of big left hands, and absorbed more than a few head kicks in the process. When he did take Condit down, it felt like it was more for points. He wasn’t intent on keeping him there.
Ellenberger: He loves Canada. Last time he fought in Canada, it was against Sean Pierson at UFC 129. He blasted right through Ontario’s native son. This time it was veteran Marquardt who was on the wrong end of Ellenberger’s furious first-round volley. How would a fight between him and Hendricks play out? Dude.
Chris Camozzi: It was tougher than he wanted it to be, and he didn’t finish Nick Ring, but the Colorado fighter eked out his fourth consecutive victory. It might be time to test himself against a top-10 middleweight.
Darren Elkins: Somebody dubbed him the “anonymous contender.” That pretty much sums it up. He’s won five in a row at featherweight.
Diaz: The two losses in a row are somewhat justifiable, given that they were against Condit and St-Pierre. But the skipped open workouts, the question marks on his drug tests, his unpaid taxes, his inability to at least “play the game a little bit” ... this all adds up to something other than a feel-good story.
Marquardt: The loss to Tarec Saffiedine in his first title defense/last Strikeforce fight hurt more than this one. But the fact is that Marquardt is almost 34 years old and is riding a two-fight losing streak. Another loss in the division, and he might be out of the UFC.
Dan Miller: For as much as he’s a warrior (both in and outside of the cage), Miller has lost three of four. The loss to Jordan Mein hurts, too. He looked good from the gate, but things went south in a hurry when the armbar attempt came up empty.
Next for St-Pierre? A showdown with the now marketable Hendricks.
Next for Ellenberger? Demian Maia. Two guys on the verge of something who would put on a great show.
Next for Condit? At last, that rematch with MacDonald.
Next for Camozzi? To paraphrase Goethe, “Be bold, and Wanderlei Silva will come to your aid.”