tazmma Flashback: Why St-Pierre vs. Diaz Doesn’t Excite Me

Georges St Pierre21 months ago, a fight between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz was announced. MMA fans seemed to explode with joy at the announcement.

“Diaz will bring the fight to GSP!”
“Don’t be scared Georges!”
“Finally! A new champion at welterweight!”

These are some of the responses that were characteristic of MMA fans at the time. St-Pierre was coming off of decisions against Jake Shields, Josh Koscheck, Dan Hardy and Thiago Alves. Nick Diaz had just come over to the UFC after what many considered the ‘Round of the Year’ against Paul Daley. In many fans’ eyes, Diaz’s stock had never been higher and St-Pierre’s had never been lower. People were jacked. I was not. Why?

As I’ve said many times before, and will continue to, I watch MMA for the fights. Not for the hype, not for the characters and not for the stories. Those things can all add to a fight, but they can’t make it. To me, St-Pierre and Diaz is not an interesting fight. That is not to say both are not good fighters, because Georges St-Pierre is probably one of the three greatest fighters in MMA history and Nick Diaz is a proven top 10 welterweight who is one of the most exciting fighters in MMA when faced with the right opponent. St-Pierre is not that opponent. Diaz has always struggled against strong grapplers due to a combination of his mediocre takedown defence and his inability to make adjustments in the middle of fights. St-Pierre is perhaps the most stifling top position grappler MMA has ever seen, and the most effective wrestler in the sport today. That does not bode well for Diaz, whose four losses in his first UFC stint were all by decision, and all due in large part to his opponents being able to obtain top position against him.

Anyways, enough about me stealing my own thunder. Here is the full version of the article I posted, with square parentheses added to make the context of 2011 make sense:

UFC 137Today [June 2, 2011] it was announced that “Business as usual” really means “We’re going to do whatever the hell we want with Strikeforce, deal with it.” This announcement came right about the same time that the Georges St-Pierre-Nick Diaz bout was officially booked for UFC 137 this October [how did that work out, anyways?]. I’ve read and heard many people get extremely excited about this fight, but I’m not one of them. I’ve been asked why, and the answer is simple; Nick Diaz isn’t a threat to St-Pierre’s title. Keep reading to find out why.

The first thing I should make clear is that this is no way, shape, or form a bad fight. St-Pierre is either the best or second best fighter on the planet, depending on who you ask [remember, this is prior to Jon Jones completing his amazing 2011 campaign]. Diaz is a legitimate top 5 Welterweight [although I now have him ranked #6] who brings a new stylistic challenge to GSP [this was also prior to Condit, who I felt, even at the time, brought a similar but more dangerous style for St-Pierre]. The problem is that the style Nick brings isn’t one that is likely to trouble the UFC champion. Despite having a dangerous striking game and a dangerous guard, Diaz will be limited by what has always limited him, his wrestling game and inability to adapt. Part of Diaz’s wrestling issues stem from the fact that he’s not a good wrestler to begin with, but a bigger issue is that there are times when Nick resigns himself to the fate that he’s not a stellar wrestler and is too willing to fight off of his back. If Diaz gives Georges the opportunity to take him down with ease and then makes no effort to get up, he’ll spend 90% of this fight on his back. We just saw once again at UFC 130 that regardless of what a fighter does from his back, it’s miraculous if he wins a decision [this reference is to the Miguel Torres/Demetrious Johnson bout], and with a grappler as skilled as St-Pierre in top position, it will be difficult to get anything going.

This dynamic will likely lead to Diaz pandering to the referee and crowd for stand ups that he will be unlikely to get. It will also serve to further alienate St-Pierre from fans who are already beginning to tire of his style of dominance [with St-Pierre’s injury absence, and the reception to the Condit bout this isn’t such a big concern anymore]. With Brock Lesnar out of action for the foreseeable future [i.e. forever], the UFC does not need their biggest active star turned into a villain. Especially not by a fighter viewed by them as a loose cannon, and someone who has been difficult to deal with in the past [based on recent history and the UFC 137 incident, probably an accurate assessment].

Nick Diaz is an entertaining character in his own right, and many MMA fans love him (many hate him as well), but the fact remains that St-Pierre is a better champion to have for the UFC to continue to grow into the mainstream. Diaz’s crass attitude and willingness to step away from the sport at any given time mean that the UFC would constantly have to be walking on eggshells with him, something they historically have been unable to do. Furthermore, Diaz’s persona would not go over well with mainstream media outlets like St-Pierre’s does. While fans have made a running joke out of Georges’ pre-fight interviews [people has no idea how dark he is in his head sometimes], those are the types of superficial responses many media outlets clamour for.

Nick DiazWhile I know that many fans – whether they like Diaz or not – want to see the [former] Strikeforce champion win, I believe his wrestling and tactical limitations will cause him to lose a rather tepid decision. It is also likely a better scenario for the sport’s long-term growth for GSP to retain his title, regardless of the fashion or the resulting stagnancy in the Welterweight division [not such a big issue with Johny Hendricks on the horizon] simply due to what he brings to the table in terms of marketability. More people will tune in to watch a boring St-Pierre fight for $60 than are willing to watch Diaz for free [a reference to GSP’s PPV buys compared to Diaz’s Strikeforce ratings]. That is very telling, and while the UFC has made this fight out of an absence of challengers at 170 [back in 2011 this was the case… in 2013 they made it because the organization no longer cares about the sporting aspect of MMA and instead is focused on pure entertainment], you can bet that they would prefer to see their champion’s hand raised at the end of the night.

I feel like I can already see the entire buildup and this actual fight playing out in my head. Diaz will try to provoke in interviews and pre-fight showdowns, St-Pierre will not respond [although Dana White will make unsubstantiated claims about Georges “flipping out”], other than claiming he is the best he’s ever been, Diaz is his most dangerous challenger, and he guarantees that this time WILL be different, he will stop Diaz. Then we’ll see five rounds of the durable Diaz being unable to do anything to St-Pierre, and at the end of the night there will be renewed discussion about how boring Georges is, and how the sport is being ruined by wrestlers.

Honestly, can’t say I’m excited for it.

So there you have it. While people may be bitching about this fight because Diaz doesn’t deserve it (he doesn’t) or because it’s the fashionable thing to do, some of us have been singing the same tune for nearly two years now. This fight, as a fight, isn’t interesting. If Diaz comes out and puts a beating on St-Pierre, I’ll be happy to say I was wrong, but I seriously doubt that’s what is going to take place next Saturday night.

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About bradtaschuk

An MMA enthusiast who also fancies himself a writer, I've been following the sport in depth since moving off to University in the fall of 2004 allowed me more free time than I knew what to do with. Quickly, an obsession with watching as much MMA as possible developed, which has continued to this day in the form of writing and editing articles for various MMA sites, and now to my own blog about my views on the sport.
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