We’re just hours away from Georges St. Pierre finally getting to face Nick Diaz. It’s going to be a fascinating battle but is it one that Nick Diaz can win? Will Cooling outlines the Stockton fighter’s three keys to victory.
Key One: The Hardest Shots Are The Ones You Don’t See
Across here in the UK there was in the nineties a much-loved video games program called Gamesmaster that was built around people competing on one of the latest games. One edition that stuck in my mind was when they brought a renowned arcade (younger readers ask your parents what they were!) tournament champion to square off against average joes in the latest beat ‘em up. The champion explained that he hated playing against people who were shit at a game because you never knew what they’d do – he knew the game so well that if someone was technically excellent he’d be able to predict what they’d do and so be ready with a counter. Only someone who did the wrong things had a chance of catching him off guard.
Georges St. Pierre is that arcade tournament champion. He thoroughly researches the game and knows exactly how to best someone who comes in with an orthodox gameplan. Nick Diaz however is anything but orthodox. This is a man with wordclass jijitsu who chooses to stand with Paul Daley and keep his hands by his waist against KJ Noons and who chose not to check leg kicks against (the male) Cyborg. You never quite know what to expect from him, something anyone who’s listen to his recent media appearances can attest to. This unpredictability makes him dangerous to a champion whose so orthodox he’s almost robotic.
Key Two: He Can Go All Night
Matt Hughes called on Diaz to push the pace against the champion, advice that surely points to a great strength of the challenger and a growing weakness of the champion. Diaz’s conditioning is second to none, as would be expected from somebody who competes in triathlon races in his spare time. His fighting style makes the most of this with Diaz adopting the unorthodox boxing style of a Joe Calzaghe that compromises technique and power in favour of raw volume. GSP on the other hand has bulked up so much in the past few years that his once fearsome cardio seems to be slipping; against both Jake Shields and Carlos Condit he was clearly slowing down towards the end of the fight. If Diaz can wear down the champion he might just be able to force the mistake that wins him the title.
Key Three: Double Jepodary
I’m in the rare group that actually thinks Nick Diaz poses a greater threat to Georges St. Pierre than Johnny Hendricks. Against Hendricks, GSP’s route to victory is clear; get the bearded knockout monster down to the ground as quickly as possible, something that judging by Hendrick’s performance against Rick Story is by no means impossible. Against Diaz he faces a trickier proposition. Diaz can beat him on the feet him on the feet with his Joe Calzaghe tribute act but also submit on the ground thanks to a dangerously lethal guard. For a fighter that likes to play the percentages there’s no safe option – if he stands he risks being knocked out, if he takes Diaz then he risks being submitted. For a man who likes to play the percentages this twin threat risks leaving St. Pierre in no man’s land…just as he was when he last went up against a big puncher with a dangerous guard – Matt Serra! And with Diaz’s unpredictability and boundless energy he’s a much more dangerous threat to GSP than the last man to beat him ever should have been.
St. Pierre is the bookmakers favourite and rightly so – you don’t go 10-2 in championship fights and six years undefeated for no reason. And on balance I’m picking St. Pierre; he’s beaten better fighters than Diaz has and given the challenger’s previous weakness to wrestlers there’s always the danger that the champion is able to control him from top position for five rounds. Equally if Diaz hasn’t learnt the lessons of his fight against Carlos Condit then Greg Jackson may send GSP out to win with the same gameplan. All that said, I honestly believe that Diaz is the greatest threat to St Pierre outside of the Tri-Star gym. There is no risk-free safe option for the Canadian to take against the native of Stockton, California. He has to choose – does he risk being hurt standing or being submitted on the ground. And that risk is magnified by how Diaz’s unpredictability is tailor-made to exploit St. Pierre’s robotic tendencies while his superb conditioning can expose the strain the champion is putting his body through by being overly heavy.