MONTREAL -- Nick Diaz got into Georges St-Pierre's head, all right.
Over the months leading up to Saturday night's UFC welterweight title fight, the surly wildman baited the champion into his bizarre world of acrimony, and GSP, who's typically as tight-reined a human being as there is in the fight game, couldn't hold himself back from engaging in an unprecedented (for him, not Nick) war of words. Georges was pissed off. You could hear it in his tone of voice. You could see it in his body language. He took on the demeanor of a goaded animal who couldn't wait to be unleashed. Naturally, fans used to watching Gentleman Georges couldn't wait.
When it finally was time for the main event of UFC 158, out walked St-Pierre, bathed in the Bell Centre's bright lights and the deafening adulation of his hometown fans. He wore a look of grim determination as he charged into the cage --because in this sport the animal instincts kick in after one has stepped into the cage, not out of it --and ... and ... and ...
It was business as usual.
OK, not exactly. St-Pierre did put a little extra gusto into his attack out of the gate, cracking the challenger with a couple of leg kicks before putting him on his back before the fight was half a minute old, then battering him with fists and elbows for the better part of the opening round. And when Diaz did manage to get back to his feet, the champion viciously tossed him on his head to elicit a roof-raising roar from the crowd.
But ultimately, the fight settled into a dominant but methodical beatdown, just like all of GSP's fights have in recent years. St-Pierre outmuscled, outmaneuvered, outstruck, out-everythinged Diaz for the full 25 minutes -- which is to say, for the sixth bout in a row, he did everything but produce a stoppage. The matter of who'd be walking out of the octagon with the shiny brass-and-leather belt was never in doubt, though, as St-Pierre won every round on every judge's scorecard in a unanimous-decision victory before a wholeheartedly animated 20,145.
Afterward, the theatre of the absurd that had encapsulated the buildup to this fight reappeared, as St-Pierre (24-2) stood in the center of the cage and, while shooting a gaze over at the man he'd not long ago called "the most disrespectful human being I've ever met," implored his adoring public, which had been chanting vulgar insults at Diaz throughout the fight, to give the challenger some applause. "I'm actually a big fan of Nick Diaz," said the champ, who won for the 11th-straight time.
And when Diaz (26-9, one no contest) had his turn at the microphone, he proclaimed -- as he's done before -- that he's finished with MMA. "I don't think I got it anymore," he said.
Later, however, he told an interviewer backstage that GSP "hits like a girl" -- although he used an offensive slang word for "girl" -- and added, "I am trying to retire, but I want a rematch."
Diaz reiterated that sentiment at the post-fight press conference -- eventually. As the session began, Nick was a no-show and UFC president Dana White told the assembled media, "Nick Diaz said, 'I'm done. My job is over. I'm outta here.'" But a good half hour into the festivities, Diaz walked in, took a seat at the dais, picked up a microphone and went on one of his rants. "I want a rematch," he said, looking over at St-Pierre. "I think I can beat you. I may be a better match for Anderson Silva as well."
With two straight losses, Diaz isn't likely to get the middleweight champion. And he's definitely not next for GSP. That honor goes to Johny Hendricks.
Hendricks (15-1) set up that showdown with a tight -- but-unanimous decision win over former interim champ Carlos Condit (28-7) in an invigoratingly nonstop co-main event. Afterward, Johny asked -- no, begged -- GSP for the title shot he believes he'd earned even before Saturday night. "If not," Hendricks said, "I'll fly to your house, I'll hire a ref, and we'll do something about it."
No need to book that airfare. One of the first questions White was asked at the press conference regarded the possibility of Hendricks being next for St-Pierre, and the UFC poobah didn't hesitate. "He's the No. 1 contender," said Dana. "Done."
No date on that title bout, but it'll have to wait until St-Pierre returns from a vacation "away from Montreal, in an exotic place." The champ spoke like someone worn down, not so much from the fight with Diaz -- he dominated every aspect from standup to the canvas -- but from the mind games that began more than a year ago with Diaz's "I think he's scared" callout and continued right up until minutes before the fight, when Diaz's guys tried to persuade the athletic commission to unwrap GSP's gloved hands even after they'd given their approval of those wraps. "It was very stressful," St-Pierre said, summing up the entire Diaz ordeal. "It was quite uncomfortable. It was something else."