Last Thursday, UFC legend and former two-division champion Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement from MMA competition, likely marking the career-end of one of the greatest to ever do it, if not THE greatest.
Unlike many other aging legends who don’t know when to hang ’em up, St-Pierre, who’s 37 now, went out at the top of his game after going up to middleweight and winning the title there versus Michael Bisping back in November of 2017. While there have been rumors and speculation recently of a potential super-fight versus lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov being in the works, it couldn’t be put together so GSP decided to retire.
Looking back at his career, GSP has had numerous incredible performances, including utterly dominating wins versus dangerous opponents including fellow legends like BJ Penn and Matt Hughes.
But what was his most impressive performance?
In my opinion, it was his title defense versus Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November of 2013.
Now, many will disagree with this assessment and argue that of all the dominant fights that GSP had, that was the LEAST impressive and one he should’ve lost. You can argue that the decision was a robbery and if it was a street fight, Hendricks would be the clear winner.
Well, it wasn’t a street fight. It was a sport – a gentleman’s sport. And the best man won.
Under the 10-point must system, which I admit has some issues, the winner of each round gets 10 points and the loser 9 or less. Breaking down the fight, pretty much everybody agrees that Hendricks won the 2nd and 4th rounds and GSP got the 3rd and 5th rounds, clearly. Now, the argument is – did Hendricks do enough in the second or fourth for a 10-8? And the answer is no.
GSP took some shots those rounds, no doubt, particularly the 2nd, but he also rallied back and landed some shots of his own, showing his true championship form, especially in the fifth and final round. While nowadays they are much more liberal with the 10-8’s, in those days, you pretty much had a kill a guy in there to get one and that’s not how those rounds went down. So when there are two clear rounds for one guy and two clear rounds for the other, you cannot call that a robbery.
That fight really comes down to how you saw that first round, and it was about as close as it gets. According to FightMetric, GSP very slightly out-landed Hendricks in significant strikes that 1st round 19-18, and Hendricks got the very slight edge in total strikes 27-26. In grappling, they were almost equal too with each fighter landing a takedown. But, there was one difference. GSP attempted a submission – a guillotine choke. No, he wasn’t close to getting it. But he still attempted to end the fight with it which in my opinion earned him that first round, but just barely.
You can argue and bitch and moan (much like Hendricks did ever since) about what a bad decision that was. But, in my opinion, that was one that the judges got right. Well, 2 out of 3 of them.
But there was another layer to that Hendricks fight that needs to be addressed. Hendricks never looked the same ever since that fight – both physically as well as his performances inside the cage. And this was a guy who was knocking everybody out prior – he would hit guys and they’d go flying. After the GSP fight, he never knocked anyone out again and went 3-6 before retiring not too long ago.
While Hendricks never tested positive for anything, it does make some sense to suspect that USADA coming onboard with the UFC not long after that fight had something to do with his downward career trajectory.
So just imagine the possibility that GSP was fighting a juiced Hendricks in that fight and he still managed to win, however close it was. Even prior to the fight, GSP talked about how he wanted enhanced testing for that fight which Hendricks refused, which, again, is now very suspicious in retrospect.
Recently after announcing his retirement, GSP sat down with Ariel Helwani where he remarked that his one regret from his career was taking that Johny Hendricks fight with all of his PED suspicions. GSP also remarked in that interview that his crusade against PED use in MMA and his efforts to help clean up the sport is something that he wants to be remembered by.
It’s very possible that his fight with Hendricks at UFC 167 was the physical embodiment of that battle taking place inside the cage.
And the better man won.