Georges St-Pierre Was Given The Easiest Big-Name Opponent Available
Georges St-Pierre is coming back to the UFC and that’s a pretty big deal. He’s arguably the greatest welterweight in history and a legitimate superstar in a sport that only has a handful of people on that level.
Artwork: Brian Mazique [UFC.com]
However, make no mistake about it, GSP’s return opponent is a soft touch and his easiest path to a large payday and a return to glory. Per OddsShark, GSP is already the minus-130 favorite to win.
We all knew that if and when GSP made his return to the Octagon, he’d be facing an opponent of note. It would have to be someone with a resume, a current title and some pay-per-view appeal. He wasn’t going to end a four-year hiatus from the sport to fight the 10th-ranked 170 or 185-pounder in the promotion.
Bisping checks all of those boxes, and another one too. He doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of any opponent. GSP is a business as much as he’s a fighter, and he wasn’t going to put himself in a position where he couldn’t have some leverage.
The powers that be in the UFC were probably happy to match him with Bisping. The UFC needs GSP right now, probably more than he needs them. The outlook on pay-per-views looks a little murky for 2017. There’s a question mark behind the name of every proven pay-per-view draw in the promotion.
Ronda Rousey is only hinting at a return. Jon Jones’ status is up in the air, Anderson Silva is no longer the same Spider, and Conor McGregor is chasing Floyd Mayweather Jr. There’s a void for a legitimate draw in the promotion and GSP could at least help to fill that hole.
MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 12: MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre arrives at the Official F1 Heineken Party After The Canadian Grand Prix, on June 12, 2016 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images for Heineken)
Throwing him out there against someone like Yoel Romero (if GSP is determined to compete at middleweight) or even Demian Maia at 170 pounds, is a high-risk, low-reward affair for both GSP and the UFC. If he’s mauled, the story is less tantalizing and some of his shine gets dulled.
GSP almost certainly wants to be handsomely compensated for his efforts, but he probably also wants to fight for a championship and make history by becoming the fourth fighter to win UFC titles in two weight classes.
Facing the winner of Saturday’s Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson bout could have been an option, but that’s his old weight class, and winning that title again wouldn’t be as historic. Also, both of them are younger and stronger opponents.
As a matter of fact, if either of them were moving up to face Bisping, I’d be willing to bet both of them would be favorites heading into the fight. While the money could be more attractive for that fight than a GSP vs. Romero or Maia bout, it still doesn’t maximize his return the way the match with Bisping does.
INGLEWOOD, CA – JUNE 04: Michael Bisping raises his arms to the crowd as he enters the cage for his middleweight championship bout at UFC 199 at The Forum on June 4, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
I don’t mean to disrespect Bisping. He is a good fighter, but if you power ranked all 11 UFC champs, he wouldn’t be close to the top of the list. To be exact, I’d have him at nine or 10. Even with that modest assessment of his formidability in the Octagon, I must acknowledge, he’s relatively well-known and he understands how to sell a fight.
Bisping’s trash talk and desire to prove people like me wrong will drive the promotion of this fight. However, that doesn’t change the fact that GSP’s athleticism, ground game and defense are likely to be too much for Bisping.
Is it totally impossible to fathom Bisping pulling an upset? No, he’s done it before. He shocked the world when he won the title by knocking out Luke Rockhold in their rematch in June 2016. It could happen again, but the odds are literally and figuratively in GSP’s favor.
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