In 90 seconds it looked like the comeback of Georges St. Pierre was about to end in an inglorious and unglamorous way at the end of Carlos Condit’s fists. For the opening two minutes of the third round the collective MMA world held its breath; would the promise of Condit juxtaposed with GSP’s return from knee surgery would’ve made for an interesting story. GSP had shown himself to be healed completely and had looked good in the first two rounds; you couldn’t tell there had been any sort of extended layoff for the champ.
Carlos Condit came as close as humanly possible to snatching that title from GSP but couldn’t quite pull the trigger.
No excuses could’ve been made by GSP about his knee by anyone watching that fight; he looked like the GSP of old. And Condit looked every bit on top of his game as he had the current champion on the ropes but couldn’t quite finish him. We all know what happened next; GSP recovered and managed to win the fight. Condit learned the same lesson Chael Sonnen did against Anderson Silva earlier this year.
“When you come at the king, you best not miss.”
The thing is that Condit didn’t get finished and wasn’t blown out of the water by GSP, either. Condit looked like the clear #2 welterweight in the world against St. Pierre and didn’t quite have that final championship gear that GSP did. GSP’s face wore the amount of damage Condit inflicted upon him; we’ve never seen GSP this beaten up after a strong decision win as we have tonight. Normally GSP looks like he could go another 25 minutes without hesitation; tonight he looked like 25 minutes was as much as he could take.
Same with Condit, too, as both men had an absolute war of a fight that will rank as one of the best fights of 2012 and perhaps as one of the best welterweight title fights of the modern era. Condit can walk away with a loss, and a substantial check for the evening’s work, but he can also hold his head high because he didn’t get dominated like so many other opponents.
It was a masterful performance from both men; Condit may have lost in decisive fashion on the scorecards but GSP had to earn every single inch of territory he conquered. Condit has always been celebrated for having “gameness” in that he’s always ready to fight and never quits. One only has to look at his fight against Rory MacDonald, a fight he was losing in dominant fashion before coming back with a miracle TKO in the final moments of the fight, to see that particular factor. Condit left everything he had on GSP’s face, bruising and battering the champion worse than anyone has done in the Octagon before.
No one has done it that to degree … ever. Look at GSP’s resume of title defenses and no one has done to him what Condit did.
Jon Fitch was on an impressive win streak and touted as the man that GSP couldn’t take down. GSP did just that … and then beat him savagely for 25 minutes.
Thiago Alves had power that GSP had never felt in a nuanced Muay Thai based striking game … and GSP mauled him on the biggest stage of his career at UFC 100.
Matt Hughes may have defeated GSP the first time … the next two times GSP would effectively end the reign of Hughes as an elite level fighter.
BJ Penn, who famously said he was going to fight to the death, threw in the towel because of the beating GSP gave him.
Josh Koscheck got so familiar with GSP’s jab that he probably could still taste leather for six months afterward.
Dan Hardy earned massive kudos for not submitting when any reasonable measure of a man would say to do so … but GSP hit him with everything but the kitchen sink and Hardy had nothing in return to give the champ.
Frank Trigg was never the same after GSP dismantled his entire game without mercy.
Jake Shields only came close to GSP because he gave him a pro wrestling level eye rake early on.
Matt Serra defeated GSP in devastating fashion with what has become the only bad loss on GSP’s record. What did GSP do? He got better and then came back and gave Serra the beating we all thought he’d be given the first time around.
Carlos Condit gave GSP a war he’ll never forget. Condit may have lost his interim title but he really didn’t lose much. He’s the clear #2 welterweight in the world right now with wins over nearly everyone in the current UFC welterweight title picture. He just lost to the best welterweight champion in UFC annals. There’s no shame in that; if anything his stature grows with a loss like this. GSP didn’t run roughshod over him like he had done so many times before; he won perhaps the closest lopsided decision in UFC history.
It’s a consolation he may not have wanted going in but exiting UFC 154 he has nothing to be ashamed of. GSP was forced to dig deep inside himself and pull out things we’ve never seen out of him before in terms of courage and heart. Lesser fights have and would fade under Condit’s barrage. Losing to an all time great in close fashion is a moral victory.