Think back. Way back to March 4, 2006, when B.J. Penn and GSP met for the first time in the Octagon at UFC 58.
As stated by B.J. Penn during UFC Primetime, he was the better fighter that night in round one. Georges St. Pierre on the other hand, looked like he had just finished a five round title fight with a world class striker. What BJ often fails to realize is how St. Pierre looked when the fight ended and his arm was raised in victory.
Over the years MMA has developed into a sport of game planning and winning rounds, not just how much damage you do in one. It is not street fighting, or a hockey fight, where less bumps/bruises/blood determines the unofficial winner. It’s Mixed Martial Arts, where there is so many ways to win and lose and often times it is the fighter with the better overall execution of his game plan that determines the winner.
If we consider the first round where GSP failed miserably in his attempt to strike with B.J, we clearly see a failed strategy. George quickly became a wrestle again and took the next 2 rounds. But that first round along with the end result of their first meeting begs two questions heading into their January 31st rematch.
1) How come B.J. did not finish St. Pierre in the fight?
2) What did GSP do to eek out the split decision victory?
I suggest the latter of the two is the most important of these questions in the 2006 meeting and will again be the difference Super Bowl weekend.
Nothing should be taken away from the Prodigy, as he did not let the fight slip away by any means. He was simply the victim of a fighter who drastically changed his game plan between rounds the only way possible for St. Pierre to earn his victory. Your average fan saw a battered and bloody St. Pierre and concluded that there was no way he would have won. It may have appeared that way, but from a judging perspective it was a legitimate “W” for both GSP and Canadian MMA fans.
Despite B.J’s work ethic and cardio being questioned in the past and further magnified with some careful editing during UFC Primetime, this will not play a factor in this rematch. Penn will be ready.
Penn is at the top of his game and is the best 155 pound fighter in the world without question. The problem for Penn will be that he is fighting the best 170 pound fighter in the world, who is also one of the strongest 170 pound fighters. B.J. may have walked through the “Muscle Shark” but at this point he is not physically strong enough to control where a fight with GSP goes. Sean Sherk gave himself no opportunity (other than a punchers chance) to beat B.J. which Sherk admitted was his game plan in his post fight interview. I am not suggesting that Sherk would have beaten B.J. but he would have game him more of a challenge if he used his physical strength and wrestling to put B.J. on his back, instead of standing and trading with one of the best in MMA. Georges is smarter than that.
Penn will have more than a punchers chance to win against “Rush”, but GSP will no doubt have a phenomenal game plan coming out of Greg Jackson’s camp.
Penn submitting GSP is not out of the question but unlikely. He will need to hurt GSP with his striking to weaken him before a submission would be effective since Georges is too strong when he is fresh and focused.
The game plan may look very similar to rounds two and three of their first fight with some minor adjustments. GSP will work the takedown and nullify B.J.’s jiu jitsu with his wrestling and physical strength which will lead to a ground and pound victory sometime around the third or fourth round.
St. Pierre will once again prove that fights aren’t won and lost in round 1 and that a superior game plan usually wins out.