Despite inactivity, St-Pierre holds at No. 3 on pound-for-pound list
I'm paraphrasing, because I don't feel like sifting through six months of e-mails and tweets to locate the exact words. And besides, the many readers who've reached out have expressed their disapproval in many ways. But that's the general tenor of the responses I've seen over the last six months each time the MMA fighter rankings have appeared on SI.com.
The discontent surrounds the continued presence in the rankings of a fighter who has not set foot inside a cage in 18 months. Once a year of fistic inactivity had passed, I started hearing from readers who were initially just a tad troubled but at this point seem fully outraged that the guy hasn't been dropped.
Of course, I'm being a bit impish by characterizing the outcry by use of a French phrase. I'm pretty sure that not a word of criticism has come from French-Canadian fans. After all, the whole hullabaloo centers on one of their own, Georges St-Pierre.
The UFC welterweight champion, who owing to a knee injury has not fought since a unanimous decision victory over Jake Shields on the last day of April 2011, remains at the top of the heap in our 170-pound rankings and also still owns a spot in our pound-for-pound Top 3.
When he finally, finally, finally makes his return by taking on interim champion Carlos Condit on Nov. 17 in the main event of UFC 154 in Montreal, GSP will have his chance to earn his keep and quiet the critics -- his and mine.
"The clock is ticking, and Strikeforce still does not have an opponent for Cormier, whose Nov. 3 bout ..." was the way this heavyweight section began last month. That now seems like such a naïve take. I mean, Strikeforce has become a roller-coaster ride on a rickety amusement park attraction whose nuts and bolts are loosening and falling off by the minute. It's more of an adventure outside the cage than in. Indeed, the fight card slated for this weekend ended up being canceled, leaving Cormier to wait until January to prove his mettle. Why January? At the same time as the promotion made its latest cancellation public, it also announced that it would be putting together "a stacked card for January." That announcement came three weeks ago, and we've yet to see a stack begin to materialize.
No, there's not something wrong with your computer monitor. The three names you see above are the ones that are supposed to be there. (Well, some might dispute who is supposed to be in any division's Top 3, but let's just say that these are the names I intended to list.) There's been no mistake -- unless you want to count the one inflicted upon the MMA public by the UFC in handing a 205-pound title shot to a guy whose 185 pounds are at least 80 percent mouth. What I'm getting around to saying: Henderson has lost out on the title challenge he earned and was in line for before injuring his knee over the summer, and Evans is no closer to another shot at Jones than is Mauricio Rua or Lyoto Machida. But all of those guys and perhaps a couple of others (Alexander Gustafsson? Phil Davis?) rank ahead of the guy who'll next take on the champ.
For a few days, all we heard from the Silva camp was that Anderson would very much like to swing from fighting a semi-retired light heavyweight to taking on a long-inactive welterweight. Then there were murmurs that instead of GSP, maybe "The Spider" would be open to the superfight everyone seems more interested in -- against Jon Jones. Meanwhile, Weidman, Bisping and the rest of the middleweight division have had to just stand around waving their arms in the air and screaming, "Hey, we're over here!" Weidman has a Dec. 29 date with another contender, Tim Boetsch, and there's talk that Bisping and Vitor Belfort will tangle in February. If the UFC turns those fights into a four-man elimination tournament, the survivor surely would loom larger in front of Silva.
The last time GSP fought, Cain Velasquez and Frankie Edgar were still UFC champions, Jon Jones was barely a month into a reign that's seen four title defenses, and there was no such thing as a flyweight champ in the organization. The champ had better shake off the rust in a hurry come Nov. 17, though, because Condit is on a roll. He's won five straight bouts and 13 of his last 14, moist recently a masterful matador job on Nick Diaz. Actually, both guys are going to need to be sharp moving forward, because the winner of that same evening's fight between Hendricks and Martin Kampmann will be waiting. And Jon Fitch and Demian Maia looked like contenders at UFC 153 last month in Rio de Janeiro.
The year-end heavyweight title fight is getting the most juice because, well, it's a heavyweight title fight. This month's return of GSP is drawing a lot of attention, too. But in between those two big events, the top-billed fight on the Dec. 8 UFC on Fox event is a bout with no less appeal. Henderson vs. Diaz promises to deliver something special ... unless the champ is able to expose Nate's wrestling deficiencies to nullify the aggressive standup and submission games that make him so exciting to watch.
Whew. When word came down that Aldo had pulled out of his title defense against Edgar, scheduled for this past month, the natural first thought was, "Uh oh." How many times has an appealing championship bout postponed by injury ended up not happening? (Can you think of an example, Dan Henderson?) But fear not. This past week the UFC made it official: Aldo vs. Edgar has been rescheduled for the promotion's Super Bowl weekend event, Feb. 2 in Las Vegas. That leaves three full months for the optimists among us to bask in eager anticipation and the pessimists to worry about injuries.
Just as the welterweight division became a traffic jam in St-Pierre's absence, the bantam contenders are going to start to pile up as Cruz heals from ACL surgery. The champ is hoping to return in early 2013 to take on Barão. Will McDonald wait around for his shot? A fight with Brad Pickett would be something to see, but the Brit is scheduled to face ex-champ Eddie Wineland on Dec. 29. So McDonald -- and those of us who like to watch him fight -- are going to have to exercise patience.
John Dodson earned the first shot at Johnson's belt with an impressive finish of Jussier da Silva. And he might deserve to be in this Top 3, too. But at whose expense?
Just in case you're wondering, if I