March 12, 2013
Georges St-Pierre has promised to raise hell on Nick Diaz after Diaz made some bold comments.
Greg Choat/Getty Images

Opposites attract.

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."

St-Pierre probably will want to do that. He's not like anyone else Diaz has tangled with. You have to go back seven years -- to Nick's unanimous-decision loss to Sean Sherk in April 2006 -- to find an opponent with such high-level wrestling. GSP is masterful at turning his unstoppable takedowns into strong, safe positioning from which to ground-and-pound while shutting down a foe's submission tries.

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

78.1: Accuracy percentage of his takedown attempts, according to FightMetric statistics. That's the best all time in the UFC, as is St-Pierre's total of 75 takedowns landed.

1,048: Significant strikes landed in his 19-fight UFC career, the most in the promotion's history.

1.23: Strikes absorbed per minute, sixth-best in the UFC. Overall, he's successfully defended 75.6 percent of the significant strikes thrown his way. Those are key stats against a volume puncher like Diaz.

10: Decisions among his 18 UFC wins, including his last five bouts.

9: Title defenses since beating Matt Serra in December 2007 to recapture the welterweight belt.

Nick Diaz by the numbers

407: Days it will have been since his last fight when he steps into the octagon on Saturday night. He was suspended after marijuana metabolites were found in a drug test following his loss to Condit in February 2012. (It's been 505 days since Diaz' last victory, a decision over B.J. Penn in October 2011.)

11: Length of win streak that was broken by the loss to Condit.

6.03: Strikes landed per minute (compared to 3.71 for St-Pierre).

1,456: Total strikes landed, the sixth-most in UFC history. This is the only statistical category in which Diaz is listed in the promotion's Top 10. (GSP is No. 1, with 2,186, but in far more bouts.)

2: Consecutive decisions (one victory, one loss), following a run of nine finishes in 10 wins. Overall, Diaz has 21 finishes (13 knockouts, 8 submissions) in 26 career victories.

Since numbers don't tell the whole story . . .

What we should expect: Will Georges St-Pierre be a man of his word? Is the champ going to make good on the uncharacteristic threat he spat out in Diaz' direction during the vitriolic pre-fight buildup? (See below.) My guess is that Georges won't allow his contempt for Nick to get in the way of following a game plan. He'll fight like he always fights, utilizing explosive brawn and brainy poise. And that'll be enough for him to be dominant because Diaz also will fight like he always fights. As the challenger's trainer, Cesar Gracie, puts it, "Nick, he's not the smartest tactician in there. But that's why a lot of fans love him, too, 'cause he truly tries to fight you at what you're good at." Know whom that'll please even more than the fans? It'll please Georges St-Pierre, who'll turn Nick's headgames against him.

Why we should care: Aside from this being for the UFC belt, there's much more on the line. A GSP victory, particularly a dominant one, will ramp up the calls for a superfight with Anderson Silva (particularly if Condit knocks Johny Hendricks off track in the co-main event). If Diaz wins, well, the whole welterweight division will explode with possibilities. Even if Nick is competitive in a loss, things will get interesting.

Fighting words

"I don't think Georges is hurt. I think he's scared." -- Nick Diaz, addressing the crowd from the octagon (with St-Pierre at cageside) following his UFC 137 victory.

"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." -- Georges St-Pierre reacting to Diaz' verbal assault, as related afterward by UFC president Dana White.

"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." -- Diaz during last week's UFC 158 fighter conference call with the media.

"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." -- St-Pierre during the same conference call. (For more of the fighters' 45 minutes of back-and-forth vitriol that day, check out this audio recording. It starts getting heated at around the 22-minute mark.)

And on the undercard ...

Johny be good: Johny Hendricks belongs in the main event. He's 10-1 and riding a five-fight winning streak, with his last three conquests being Top 10 figthters, two of whom (Jon Fitch, Martin Kampmann) he knocked out in less than a minute. But he was passed over for the title shot by Diaz, despite Nick coming off a loss and a year-long suspension for failing a drug test. Money talks, and the UFC views GSP vs. Diaz as a big-money fight. Hendricks gets his chance to impress in the co-main event, however, taking on Condit. If Hendricks can beat up the man who defeated Diaz and then gave St-Pierre a good fight, he'll be hard to overlook again.

Redemption song: The main card's third-billed welterweight bout is not going to produce a title challenger -- not yet, at least. Both Nate Marquardt and Jake Ellenberger are reclamation projects. That's less the case for Jake, who has won seven of eight but twice has fallen when a title shot seemed within grasp. He was originally scheduled to face Hendricks, and a win over Johny might have propelled him squarely into the championship picture.

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.

DOYLE: Georges St.-Pierre can't wait to hit the mouthy NickDiaz

WAGENHEIM: If St.-Pierre vs. Diaz call was any indication, we're in for a great fight

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