Tactical competitor vs. straight-ahead stalker. Smooth and polished vs. rough around the edges. Company man who just gets the job done vs. disgruntled employee who doesn't always show up for work. White hat vs. black hat.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz.
This study-in-contrasts matchup has been attracting attention from fans of mixed martial arts seemingly forever. Back when Diaz reigned in the Strikeforce welterweight division and was mowing down everyone put in front of him, the idea of a summit meeting with GSP seemed intriguing, even allowing for the fact that the UFC champion was facing a higher pedigree of challengers. What was it about Diaz that made even St-Pierre fans sit up and take notice? It was -- and still is -- his style of fighting.
Styles make fights, and Diaz has the style to push St-Pierre when they finally meet in the main event of UFC 158 at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET, PPV).
GSP (23-2) has made a career out of taking advantage of his opponents' weaknesses. When in the cage with a dangerous striker, he'll use his prodigious wrestling to take the guy to the mat. When facing a mat specialist, he'll put his wrestling to work in takedown defense and keep the fight standing. GSP's fights are always fought in GSP's comfort zone.
Diaz (26-8, one no contest), however, is comfortable anywhere a fight goes. He relentlessly attacks with high-volume punching, putting opponents on the defensive. If a fight goes to the canvas, his black belt jiu-jitsu virtuosity is at the ready. "You gonna take me down?" Nick says with a smile on his face in a UFC promotional video. "OK, now you have to deal with problems on the ground. So you might not want to do that."
While the fight is standing, St-Pierre might not get off as many strikes as Diaz, but his will be launched with more gusto. And unlike Nick, he'll strike from all angles and won't be a stationary target for counterstrikes. If Diaz was frustrated in his last bout by the stick-and-move mobility of Carlos Condit, wait until he tries to keep up with the fluidity of the UFC champion.
So how does Diaz push St-Pierre, then? By being there for five rounds, ready to pounce on any lapse, whenever and wherever it might occur. GSP has not finished an opponent since January 2009, when B.J. Penn's cornermen wouldn't allow the battered lightweight champ to answer the bell for the fifth round. Since then, Georges has been no less dominant, but in each of those five subsequent bouts, his dominance has been stretched out over a full 25 minutes. So Nick, he of the bottomless gas tank, should have plenty of time to do what he does.
If he's not getting beaten to a pulp.
Georges St-Pierre by the numbers
Nick Diaz by the numbers
Since numbers don't tell the whole story . . .
"I don't think Georges is hurt. I think he's scared."
"Nick is the most disrespectful human being I've ever met. And I'm going to put the worst beating you've ever seen on him in the UFC."
"Check it out, mother [expletive]: I pull up to a stop light the other day and some [expletive] 40-year-old lady, some soccer mom, sticks her head out the window and she's like, 'I hope GSP beats your [expletive].' We're in [expletive] Lodi, [expletive]. I'm like. 'Are you serious?' We are in the bull's-eye right now. You hope to beat my [expletive]? That's [expletive] wonderful. I'm living in a [expletive] small town full of people that hate me over here, and, you know, I'm trying to [expletive] -- I'm trying to [expletive] work my way up into a fight. And now I'm the most disrespectful piece of -- person that walks the earth? And I deserve to have the [expletive] beat out of me, and I'm just this disgusting person."
"If you are where you are right now and I am where I am, it's not because of me. It's not my fault. It's because of you, man. You did not succeed because of you, man. Because of you, you did not succeed."
And on the undercard ...
Marquardt is no slouch, but he's just now returning to the UFC after being released nearly two years ago for failing to get medical clearance for a fight because of his testosterone replacement therapy. Nate ended up in Strikeforce, where he won the welterweight title but then lost it on the promotion's final card. He's also a guy who's had a finger on the brass ring but was unable to come to grips with it. Someone's dreams will take another hit this weekend.