November 20, 2012

Georges St-Pierre had around 10 seconds to celebrate a glorious present moment Saturday night before an uncertain future was thrust into his face.

The welterweight champion had just returned to the octagon from an absence of nearly 19 months and beat down interim belt holder Carlos Condit over five rounds to win a lopsided unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 154 in Montreal. And while St-Pierre did manage to get in a few words about his potent performance, his raucous hometown fans, his feisty opponent and his reconstructed right knee during a post-fight interview in the cage, one of the first things he was asked was whether his next trip inside the chain-link workplace would be for a superfight against middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva.

Actually, that question did not even have the decency to wait for the Condit fight to unfold before confronting GSP. When Georges and Carlos fielded queries from reporters on a UFC conference call more than a week before their clash, Condit was an all but invisible man, as the unrelenting line of inquiry focused on if, when and where "Rush" would take on "The Spider." Even "The Natural Born Killer" was asked to weigh in on how special a GSP-Silva bout would be.

There's no denying it would be special. Silva and St-Pierre have been at the top of their sport for years. Georges has won 10 straight fights, including seven title defenses. Anderson has won 17 in a row, 10 of them defenses of his belt. They're dominant champions and all-time greats who happen to compete one weight class apart. Why not put them in the cage together?

Yeah, why not? Why not? That's the question I've been asking myself, over and over, trying to figure out what's beneath my reluctance to get on board.

Fair or unfair, here's what it is: I have a nagging suspicion that Silva is taking the easy way out. Anderson is sitting at the crossroads of two potential superfights -- with St-Pierre, the champion in a weight class 15 pounds lighter than his, and with Jon Jones, the champ in a division 20 pounds heavier. Choosing to pick on the smaller guy makes perfect sense. It makes Silva no different from the rest of us ... except he is different. The 33-4 Brazilian is widely acknowledged as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Aren't we allowed to expect more of him?

Just last month, Silva toyed with a light heavyweight, the third time in his career that he's stepped up to the 205-pound division and won with barely a sweat broken. A month earlier, Jones had a scary moment against a middleweight whom Anderson not long ago smashed, and in April "Bones" will next take on another 185-pounder who twice lost to Silva. Wouldn't all that make Anderson and Jon well matched? As for GSP, while dominant in his return, he also had a brief scare on Saturday night and emerged from the octagon pretty battered. And he's fought nothing but welterweights, except when challenged by B.J. Penn, a lightweight.

When sizing things up according to the resumes of the three potential superfighters, Jones vs. Silva simply makes more sense.

That is not to say a fight with GSP (23-2) would be easy for Anderson. Georges has the skill set to follow the Chael Sonnen blueprint for success. (Sure, success is a relative term when you're talking about a guy with an 0-2 record against Silva. But Sonnen was fully in control for nearly all of their 23-minute first fight and for the entire first round of their second.) St-Pierre isn't as big as Chael, but the speed and timing of his takedown technique surely would put Silva on his back at some point. And once the fight was on the mat, he'd put more of a hurt on Anderson than Sonnen did while being far, far less susceptible to a submission. And while Chael is a better standup fighter than he gets credit for being, Georges has a more well-rounded striking arsenal. Silva would know he was in a fight.

I guess I'm going to just have to keep reminding myself of all that, because clearly Silva vs. St-Pierre is the superfight the UFC is aiming for. Perhaps promotion president Dana White has resigned himself to not bucking Silva's resistance to a Jones fight and is putting all of his energy into making a fight he can make. Or maybe Dana is placing his bet on a parlay: Silva vs. St-Pierre first, and if the middleweight champ comes away the victor, as he surely would be favored to do, then let the money ride on Jones vs. Silva.

The money analogy is appropriate there because either superfight is going to cost the UFC some hefty purses. Of course, you can afford to pay up if you're packing fans into 100,000-seat Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas, as White has said he would like to do. A soccer stadium in Brazil is another possibility -- that was the original venue for Silva-Sonnen II until plans changed -- and so is Montreal's Bell Centre, perhaps as an added enticement for St-Pierre, who was lukewarm when asked about a Silva superfight in the aftermath of his Saturday night comeback.

Dana White isn't concerned that GSP will spoil the best-laid plans. He knows he's already done the far more difficult sell job: getting the notorious wild card Silva on board. St-Pierre is a company man. He won't stand in the way of what the UFC wants to happen. He just wasn't ready to go there immediately after a tough fight. "Ah, he's lumped up, he's sore, he feels like he just got hit by a bus, I'm sure. He hasn't fought in 18 months," White said during the UFC's postfight show on Fuel TV. "I'll make this fight."

White did leave his options open, telling reporters at the press conference late Saturday night that GSP might well take another fight before stepping in with Silva and that Anderson might squeeze in a middleweight defense. But don't hold your breath. Even though Dana insists that Silva "looks like he's 24 years old whenever he's fighting," the guy is 37 and has just two fights left on his UFC contract. The promotion is going to make the most of them.

And so Johny Hendricks, whose swift knockout of Martin Kampmann in Saturday night's co-main event put an exclamation point on his claim for a welterweight title shot, is out of luck. Same with Chris Weidman, whose KO of Mark Muñuz back in July appeared to put him at the front of the line at middleweight. With a superfight not likely to happen until May, these top contenders ought not sit and wait. Perhaps Hendricks can face Nick Diaz once the smoke clears from the Califiornian's marijuana suspension. Maybe Weidman can set his sights on the winner of the Jan. 19 Michael Bisping vs. Vitor Belfort showdown. Wouldn't it be cool if the residual effect of making one or more superfights is the creation of some great biding-time matchups?

So I'm done dragging my feet. It feels foolishly curmudgeonly to complain about a potential superfight between two of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. Especially if the next step is to pull in the third member of the sport's pound-for-pound elite trinity. If only I were confident that's going to happen. If only I could feel it in my bones.

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