Nick Diaz challenges Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight title tonight at UFC 158 – but coming in off a loss and a drug suspension, can the former Strikeforce champion beat the long-time UFC title holder?
St-Pierre is the huge odds-on favourite to retain his belt tonight. GSP will be fighting in front of a partisan Canadian crowd, who will be hoping their man can keep his 100 per cent record by making it 11 victories on home soil.
The champion has an impressive UFC record – 23-2-0 – and hasn’t been defeated since 2007, ten fights ago. Of course, that period includes a long layover between in 2011 and 2012 due to a knee injury.
The 31-year-old will enter the cage with a one inch height disadvantage over the man he called “the most disrespectful human being I’ve ever met”, but he’ll still possess a two inch reach advantage.
Last time out, GSP returned from a year-long injury layoff to beat interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 154 via unanimous decision. In fact, six of his last seven fights have gone the distance with the judges ruling in the Canadian’s favour.
Diaz is returning from a year-long drug ban and is understandably an underdog. However, with 11 wins in succession – including wins over over Paul Daley, BJ Penn and KJ Noons, before losing to Condit last time out at UFC 143 – he will be no pushover.
If Diaz is to cause the upset tonight, there is a good chance a strike will cause the damage. The challenger is known for the amount of strikes he throws, which sees him land almost double GSP's strikes per minute, albeit with a lesser degree of accuracy (43% to 54%).
Diaz couples his workload with the ability to hit hard – due to his solid boxing technique – and possesses the natural instinct to knock out his opponents.
The American has an impressive 13 knockout victories on his resume, compared to the eight of St-Pierre.
Diaz’ southpaw status will also provide an advantage – St Pierre has only fought two southpaws in his time in the UFC, Frank Trigg in 2005 (submission) and Pete Spratt (submission).
Another interesting statistic is that the champion absorbs just 1.19 strikes per minute due to his 75% defence success rate. Compare this to Diaz, who gets tagged roughly 3.45 times a minute – however, Diaz is likely to be more open to counter-attacks as he is usually the aggressor.
That’s not to say the champion can’t strike – he is one of the most technical and efficient strikers in the UFC – but Diaz’s aggressive brawling style is more likely to end a fight compared to St-Pierre’s measured approach. Six of the American’s last 11 wins have been TKOs.
Both fighters are black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, however Diaz is considered to have more craft when it comes to submissions.
The American has won eight bouts via submission, including three of his last seven victories, while the champion has five submission victories in 22 wins and hasn’t made an opponent tap out since 2007.
The stats show that St-Pierre averages 1.23 submission attempts every 15 minutes, which is slightly more than the 1.13 of Diaz. Therefore the American appears to be more efficient in his subs, using them more sparingly but to more deadly effect.
Both fighters will enter the cage in good condition, despite just one fight in 12 months for St-Pierre and none for Diaz.
St-Pierre is a brute of a fighter and is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. The champion’s ability to both defend and initiate takedowns is testament to this, while his top control is second-to-none.
Diaz will be constantly engaged in a battle of strength for the duration and how much this will affect him could be key to determining the winner.
With his last five fights ending in decision wins, it is no surprise that St-Pierre’s fights average 12.09 minutes, while the longer the fight goes the more difficult it will become for Diaz who has lost six of his eight defeats by decision.
Both fighters endurance levels are amongst the best in the UFC, so if the fight reaches the latter stages, it will be interesting to see who will prevail, as GSP hasn’t fought anyone with an engine as good as Diaz in the Championship rounds.