One king has lost his crown. Come November will another follow suit, and if he does, is that necessarily a bad thing?
The kings I am referring to are the recently vanquished Anderson Silva and the soon to compete Georges St-Pierre. That’s not to disrespect Alexander Gustafsson who will face another UFC king in the near future, but the truth is not many people are giving Gustafsson much of a chance to defeat light heavyweight champion Jon Jones when they meet on September 21. The same cannot be said about Johny Hendricks, who will face welterweight champion St-Pierre on November 16.
To illustrate the point a little clearer, the oddmakers at Bovada have Jones listed at -700 and Gustafsson at +450. For the St-Pierre versus Hendricks bout, St-Pierre is coming in at -225 and Hendricks +175, making St-Pierre far less of a favorite than Jones.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the St-Pierre versus Hendricks fight and exactly what’s on the line.
For Hendricks (15-1), there are two things at stake. First, his six-fight winning streak, which began with a Knockout of the Night victory over TJ Waldburger on March 26, 2011 will be at risk. Second, the UFC welterweight title will be hanging out there, one big left handed bungalow away from being strapped around his waist.
Things are a lot more complicated for the champion. St-Pierre (24-2) has held the UFC welterweight title continuously since defeating Matt Serra to become the undisputed champion on April 19, 2008. Since then he has racked up eight consecutive title defenses, a record in the 170-pound division.
With a win over Hendricks, St-Pierre will pass Matt Hughes for most victories in UFC history with 19. A victory will also give St-Pierre the most wins in UFC title fights with 12. Oh, and as far as cage time goes, if St-Pierre can last more than 39-seconds inside the Octagon, he will pass B.J. Penn’s record of 5:03:51.
There’s also the fact that St-Pierre told Sports Illustrated, “My goal is to become the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. That has been my goal since the first day I got into the sport and that hasn’t changed.” A loss to Hendricks, and that title will be very hard to attain.
In addition to considering what’s at stake for the fighters, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a look at what the promotion that will be staging the fight, the UFC will have on the line.
This is where things get a little cloudy, and a lot more interesting.
The kneejerk reaction will be that the UFC will want St-Pierre triumph. He’s money in the bank. He’s the king of pay-per-views. He’s the most recognizable face the organization has beside president Dana White, and he is the biggest worldwide star the promotion has to offer.
That being said, he has also been saddled with the reputation of being a boring fighter who fails to pursue the finish when he steps into the Octagon. The fact that St-Pierre has gone the five round distance in each of his last six title defenses may have something to do with that reputation.
That’s part of the problem for the UFC.
If things go as expected in Las Vegas, St-Pierre will walk into the Octagon with a game plan that has been drilled into his head by the team he works with at the Tri Star gym in Montreal. St-Pierre has an almost “if x then y” type of plan for all of his opponents, something that Nick Diaz noticed when he faced the champion at UFC 158, “I don’t know how [St-Pierre] knew what I was gonna do…I don’t want to make excuses…He blocked the kneebar, he blocked the roll…I don’t know how he saw that coming. It was kind of funny.”
I’m not saying that’s boring or wrong. In fact, for me, I find St-Pierre’s preparation and planning quite the opposite. I will always tune in to see what St-Pierre and his team has devised to allow him to successfully defend his title one more time. However, I am saying that sometimes having a dominant champion isn’t always the best thing for the promoter.
Case in point, Anderson Silva’s title reign. Silva took possession of the UFC middleweight title in October 2006. During his reign over the 185-pound division, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he was going to leave the Octagon in the same manner he entered it, as champion. When Chris Weidman ended that reign on July 6, 2013 doors opened for the UFC.
You can bet that the UFC will put its full promotional muscle behind the upcoming rematch between new champion Weidman and Silva. You can also bet that the pay-per-view buys for that rematch will exceed the buys for the first fight and almost any other opponent the UFC would have lined up for Silva had he defeated Weidman in July.
In short, a St-Pierre loss to Hendricks would be bad for St-Pierre, but quite possibly excellent for the UFC.
I’m not saying the UFC is going to root against its long time champion, but a new champion and a guaranteed rematch? Well, there are worse things that could happen.