Georges St-Pierre introduced his retirement from combined martial arts on Thursday. St-Pierre, who defended the UFC’s welterweight belt 9 straight occasions from 2008 to 2013, will go down as one of many biggest fighters in historical past. However the one factor that might have saved him from making this determination? A combat with present UFC light-weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I knew [Nurmagomedov] needed to combat me, and his message excited me,” St-Pierre stated at a information convention in Montreal. “Sadly, it takes two fighters and in addition a corporation to make that combat occur. The UFC has different plans for Khabib, and I want him one of the best of luck.”
But when that matchup have been to return collectively, who would come out on prime? We posed that query to our ESPN MMA contributors — Brett Okamoto, Jeff Wagenheim, Phil Murphy, Chamatkar Sandhu, Eric Tamiso and Andrew Davis — to seek out out.
Georges St-Pierre introduced his retirement from MMA on Thursday afternoon. For ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim, GSP will go down because the all-time finest.
Georges St-Pierre is the rationale Ariel Helwani began masking combined martial arts. As GSP retires, Helwani explains the fighter’s significance to his life.
Okamoto: I am mainly compelled to go along with youth right here. St-Pierre is seven years older than Nurmagomedov, and he has logged practically six hours of precise competitors within the Octagon. That takes a toll. Nurmagomedov has by no means misplaced. I am unable to predict a person who’s previous the prime of his profession could be the primary to beat him — even when that man is the best welterweight of all time.
Now, GSP in his prime vs. Nurmagomedov? I will lean St-Pierre on that one, how about that? And yet one more factor, for the report, I cannot be dissatisfied if St-Pierre does, actually, stays retired and this matchup by no means occurs. He’s the proprietor of one among, if not the best résumés in MMA historical past. He has achieved sufficient. And Nurmagomedov has about 82 reputable title contenders ready in line at light-weight. I do know the combat could be enjoyable, however I do not want it. St-Pierre driving off into the sundown, on prime, is not the worst factor.
Wagenheim: On Wednesday, minutes after information broke of St-Pierre’s imminent retirement, I used to be placed on the spot throughout our taping of “The MMA Reporters” podcast. Requested who’d win this hypothetical matchup, I danced across the query a bit earlier than lastly going with St-Pierre. I imply, how do you decide in opposition to the GOAT?
I will reverse course right here, although. This isn’t merely my wishy-washy approach of masking all of my bases. I simply received to fascinated by what we have seen over the previous few weeks: older, inactive legends getting outgunned by youthful stars. It occurred to Cain Velasquez. It occurred to Anderson Silva.
If we have been matching GSP within the prime of his profession in opposition to as we speak’s Khabib, I might shout my prediction from the rooftop. That model of Georges had wrestling sharp sufficient to maintain the combat standing, the place he’d decide the Dagestan aside. However now? St-Pierre has fought as soon as within the final 5½ years. In two months, he’ll flip 38. Nurmagomedov has by no means been crushed.
You realize who else is undefeated? Father Time.
Georges St-Pierre has proven curiosity in combating UFC light-weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC by way of Getty Photographs
Sandhu: I by no means decide in opposition to an undefeated fighter and would not achieve this on this potential state of affairs both. Khabib Nurmagomedov is youthful and really a lot in his prime. If we have been speaking a few St-Pierre from seven or eight years in the past, then I could be inclined to select the Canadian.
One other factor to consider could be the load class. In his Instagram submit, Khabib indicated a combat happening at 155 or 160 kilos. Georges has by no means fought at that weight earlier than and though he has been wanting very svelte of late, I might need to assume chopping that a lot weight would have a detrimental influence on his efficiency.
Khabib all day lengthy.
Murphy: First, we have to set up whether or not that is GSP as we speak or GSP at his peak within the late aughts. The latter is among the many all-time MMA greats (No. 2, for me, for what it is price). That St-Pierre comfortably beats the smaller Nurmagomedov.
Assuming we’re predicting a possible GSP-Khabib for this fall, profession arcs make issues way more aggressive, although I doubt the consequence differs too enormously.
There is a worn-out adage: Kinds make fights. I am left questioning how Khabib beats GSP. GSP has a six-inch attain benefit, in all probability would carry extra weight on combat night time and has confirmed far sharper on the toes — although Khabib’s placing did look incredible whereas beating Conor McGregor.
Khabib’s “lead blanket of demise” offense requires he take down an opponent. GSP allowed 10 takedowns in 28 profession fights, many in opposition to very adorned grapplers.
I believe St-Pierre’s calculated motion, exact placing and a Firas Zahabi sport plan would result in a win, very similar to when he beat Jake Shields at UFC 129: not terribly attractive however environment friendly sufficient to get his hand raised.
Tamiso: With all due respect to GSP, Khabib would dominate this combat and it would not be shut. There could be too many questions on St-Pierre going right into a combat later in 2019. How would he have a look at age 38? How would he take care of 2 years away, and one combat within the final 6? What would chopping right down to 155/160 kilos do to him? Given the problems he had attending to his final combat vs. Michael Bisping, I might take the unbeaten fighter that we have seen only a few points with.
If there was some alternate universe the place you could possibly see this model of Nurmagomedov vs. GSP circa 2010, I could have a unique reply. A major GSP and his teaching may have the important thing to unlock the Khabib code, however we’ll by no means know.
Davis: If the UFC had made this matchup for the light-weight title, I believe we might be wanting on the first three-division champion in firm historical past in St-Pierre. This combat is intriguing within the sense that these guys put nearly each UFC fighter they’ve confronted on their again. In response to UFC Stats, St-Pierre scored a takedown in all however two UFC fights and the identical goes for Khabib. On the subject of takedown protection, St-Pierre has an 84 p.c takedown protection (eight takedowns allowed), and Khabib is at 83 p.c (two takedowns allowed).
Eliminating the bottom sport, the combat strikes to the arise and championship spherical expertise in figuring out the winner for me. St-Pierre landed 65 p.c of his whole offense from distance or the clinch. From his spotlight reel, we have come to see these strikes come within the easiest kind with jabs (UFC 124 vs. Josh Koscheck), in addition to extra advanced strikes like spin kicks (UFC 129 vs. Jake Shields) and superman punches (UFC 167 vs. Johny Hendricks).
I do not see Khabib having sufficient consciousness to cease these strikes and be capable to counter together with his personal. Regardless of that, I might see this combat going to the championship rounds, a spot GSP has been 9 occasions in his UFC profession. Khabib has been there as nicely in his previous two fights, however I consider that championship-round expertise coupled with the competitors St-Pierre confronted in his profession could be the distinction on this dream bout.