Georges St. Pierre. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Casting the ghosts of disappointing defeats aside, Georges St. Pierre flourished in his first successful UFC welterweight title defense, dominating top contender Jon Fitch over five rounds en route to a unanimous decision win in front of a sold-out crowd Saturday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
St. Pierre (17-2) set the tempo early, quickly taking down Fitch (17-3), a former standout wrestler at Purdue University. After a few more meetings with the mat, Fitch was sent there once again courtesy of a straight right from St. Pierre. The Canadian pounced on his opponent and did his best to finish the fight but Fitch, proving true to his reputation, regained his composure and fought on.
“He showed why I said that,” St. Pierre said after the fight when referring to Fitch’s toughness. “It was his first title shot and he did awesome. He’ll be back. I told him that this might be the best thing to ever happen to him.”
St. Pierre came dangerously close to finishing the fight once again in the third, where he dropped Fitch just seconds into the round. He continued to batter and hurt Fitch with an array of strikes, but the American Kickboxing Academy product refused to go down. Fitch’s made the second and fourth rounds close as he pushed St. Pierre, landing combinations and cutting the champion above the left eye with a knee. However St. Pierre used his superior wrestling to coast to the decision in his favor.
Without a clear cut contender to face next in the welterweight division, St. Pierre now looks to be heading towards an imminent rematch against UFC lightweight title holder B.J. Penn, whom St. Pierre squeezed out a close split decision over in 2006 and was greeted by following his interview with color commentator Joe Rogan.
“I’m ready to fight everybody,” St. Pierre said. “I know B.J. Penn wants it, so lets do it.”
“Let’s put the fight together,” Penn shouted while interrupting St. Pierre. “Congratulations on the win but let’s put the fight together. I want it. Do you want it?”
“I want to do it,” St. Pierre responded.
While a date has yet to be officially set, UFC President Dana White traveled to Canada this past week to discuss a potential New Year’s Eve show in the Great White North. St. Pierre, who helped the UFC sell-out the Bell Centre in record time earlier this year, will likely be the focal point of the UFC’s trip beyond the border, with a rematch against Penn being the UFC’s hard-selling point in taking their last show of the year away from Las Vegas for the first time since 2004.
Lesnar Dominates Herring
Brock Lesnar did good on his promise to silence the doubters that arose following his hard-luck defeat to Frank Mir in February, using his phenomenal wrestling skills to master a much-more experienced Heath Herring in UFC 87’s co-main event.
After missing with a wild flying knee right out of the gate, Lesnar settled in and fired away, connecting with his first punch, a straight right that sent Herring tumbling to the canvas. Herring flipped up to his feet but was quickly caught in a guillotine, albeit a non-technically sound one, that Lesnar held onto for the better part of a minute. After Herring escaped, Lesnar swiftly took him down and climbed onto his back, the first of many instances throughout the three-round bout.
Lesnar’s bullying of Herring slowed in the second and third rounds, as he was content to let by minutes fly by while punching Herring from the side and holding him down in the turtle position. Herring was able to roll to his back and try to setup a few desperate submissions, but his moments in guard only lasting for seconds each time, as Lesnar easily muscled Herring around, battering him with knees to the body throughout the final ten minutes.
The fight’s closing moments saw Herring (28-14, 1 NC) escape to his feet and catch Lesnar (2-1) with a combination only to be taken down one final time. With five seconds left on the clock, Lesnar hopped off of Herring and started to celebrate, laughing in his face before engaging in the traditional post-fight embrace. Lesnar continued the theatrics while Herring was checked on by the ringside doctors, enacting a “roping” motion with his hands much to the dismay of the mostly pro-Lesnar crowd.
“Can you see me now? Can you see me now?” Lesnar asked those in attendance. “I fell off the horse against Frank Mir and tonight I got on that stallion and rode it out of town. I’ve been trying to work on everything every single day to get better. I want to be a well rounded fighter and a contender in the UFC. I’m working towards that.”
Florian Hands Huerta First UFC Loss
In what was piped up as a fight-of-the-year candidate, Kenny Florian moved one step closer to another shot at the UFC lightweight title with a resounding win over Sports Illustrated cover boy and Minnesota native Roger Huerta.
Those that were expecting a battle between the lightweight division’s two fastest-rising stars got what they wanted, but the war went soundly in Florian’s favor. The Mark Dellagrotte-rained grappler used technical striking and improved wrestling to stifle Huerta and continually keep him off-balance throughout the bout.
Florian nearly ended things as soon as they started in the opening minute of the first round. The Boston native caught a Huerta body kick and used the momentum to take him down to the mat, where he quickly mounted Huerta. Florian began his now well-known ground-and-pound assault but Huerta was able to buck Florian off and make a fight of things. Florian’s success continued into the second, where instead of taking Huerta down, Florian used quick footwork to move in and out while picking Huerta apart with combinations.
The third stanza saw Florian land a number of strikes on Huerta (20-2-1, 1 NC) early on. Florian (10-3) landed the second of two standing upkicks, followed by a flying knee and a right cross. Huerta pressed forward and a left hook prompted him to mock Florian and let him know that his power was insufficient. With his first UFC defeat closing in, Huerta swung for the fences during the final minutes, even catching Florian during a few instances, but his cause fell short as Florian coasted to his biggest career win thus far.
“I didn’t know how hard it was to fight Roger Huerta,” Florian said after the fight. “I didn’t want to get into a brawl with him, I wanted to be technical and I think I was able to do that. It was tough fighting Roger, he’s such a likable guy but I was very surprised. He was very technical with his escapes. I definitely have to give him credit.”
While the weeks before the fight heard promises that the winner of the night’s featured lightweight bout would be next in line for B.J. Penn’s gold strap, UFC President Dana White voiced uncertainty while discussing the matter at Thursday’s pre-fight press conference. With an assumed second chance at St. Pierre next for Penn, the UFC may look to line Florian up against one of the fall’s scheduled 155 lb. affairs in the meantime.
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