St-Pierre fights perception in addition to Koscheck at UFC 124
It sounds slightly crazy now, but maybe Georges St-Pierre has been too dominant for his own good.
Maybe the thing to do would have been to lose a round here or there, make the victories look a little tougher to come by. If he had done that, maybe he could go into his title defense against Josh Koscheck at UFC 124 on Saturday night knowing that simply winning would be enough.
Maybe, but it's too late for that now.
The last time St-Pierre and Koscheck met in the cage was Aug. 25, 2007. It was also the last time GSP looked even somewhat vulnerable in a fight, seeing as how he lost all of one round on two of the three judges' scorecards.
Since then, he's trounced every challenger the UFC could come up with, winning unanimous-decision shutouts over the likes of Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves and Dan Hardy. He also found time to punish former UFC lightweight champ B.J. Penn until Penn's corner called it off. Before that, he schooled two former champs in Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, stopping both of them in the second round.
But in dispatching all those marquee fighters, St-Pierre might have made it look too easy. That's why when fans see him winning every second of every fight, they don't think "dominant." They think "boring."
They think: If it's so easy for him, why doesn't he just finish off this guy and get it over with?
In this way, GSP has become a little like a tightrope walker who never wobbles. He simply walks from one end to the other and back again like a man going down to the corner store to get a newspaper -- and before long the audience forgets that there is any risk involved at all.
So what does that mean for his bout with Koscheck? It means that in addition to defeating one of the world's best welterweights -- and his many personality defects aside, Koscheck is most certainly that -- St-Pierre faces the daunting prospect of having to also make a show out of it in one way or another, lest his legacy suffer.
In other words, if GSP can't either finish Koscheck inside of five rounds or produce the kind of back-and-forth shootout that leaves fans breathless and hoarse by the end of the night, he risks getting stuck with the reputation as a fighter who plays it too safe.
Is it fair? Not in the slightest. But who said this business was fair, anyway?
St-Pierre isn't just fighting Koscheck on Saturday in Montreal; he's also fighting a perception. He's fighting the vague impression that his one-sided victories are less a sign of dominance than of overly conservative complacence.
Again, nobody said it was justified, or even a defensible position, but that doesn't mean it's not still an oddly popular position.
For GSP, such are the penalties for success. He's been making it look effortless for so long that he's inadvertently fooled people into thinking it is. Now he has to show them something else, or risk making his legacy into a casualty of his own greatness.
And, oh yeah, he has to win, too. Still think it's easy being the champ? Not even close. St-Pierre just makes it look that way, for better or worse.