MONTREAL — Another day at the office for Georges St-Pierre.
Sure, the phone in his eight-sided cubicle had been playing an “out of office” outgoing message for nearly 19 months. But GSP was back on the job Saturday night in the main event of UFC 154, and he made sure to let everyone in the Bell Centre know who’s boss in the welterweight division.
That’s not to say it was an easy night at the workplace. Although St-Pierre took down Carlos Condit at least once in every round and swarmed him with a steady beatdown of punches and elbows, one of which left the face of “The Natural Born Killer” a mask of crimson by the end of the first round, Carlos did make GSP work for it. In the third round, in fact, he threatened to tweak his nickname to “The Natural Born Buzz Kill,” landing a head kick that floored St-Pierre and stunned a boisterous crowd that was cheering, chanting and singing its support of the local hero. But St-Pierre (23-2) quickly recovered, seized back control of the fight, and rode out a lopsided unanimous decision for his 10th consecutive victory and seventh successful title defense.
Two judges gave all five rounds to St-Pierre, while the other scored a round for Condit. On GSP’s scorecard, Condit (28-6) earned much respect. “Credit to Carlos, he gave me my toughest fight,” said the champ. “Amazing martial artist.”
St-Pierre might be seeing an even more amazing one next. Middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva was in the building, and before the evening of fights even began he told reporters that he was “very excited for this fight with Georges.” The much-talked-about (and much-denied) superfight appears to be on track, with Silva going so far as to talk about possible venues: right here in the Bell Centre, perhaps, or in a soccer stadium in Brazil.
GSP, for his part, declined to commit to a fight with Silva, insisting that he needs to take some time to decide what’s next. “I’ve just been hit in the head a lot,” he said. “I need time to make a clear decision.”
If the superfight does happen, it’ll be a financial windfall for the UFC and both fighters. If it happens, though, it’ll be a shame for Johny Hendricks.
The fireplug Texan (14-1) needed just 48 seconds to flatten Martin Kampmann in the co-main event and step to the front of the line in the welterweight division. Hendricks threw a wild right hook that just missed but set the path for a straight left hand that sent the Dane stiffly to his back. It was the second under-a-minute one-punch KO for Hendricks in a year, an explosive encore of his 12-second finish of Jon Fitch last December. If anyone deserves a title shot, it’s this guy.
Long before either Hendricks or St-Pierre stepped into the octagon, the UFC’s cameras backstage caught GSP arriving at the Bell Centre. And when video of this showed on the huge screens all over the arena, a roar went up for Quebec’s native son. As soon as GSP spotted the camera, he started limping. But before the fans’ cheers could turn to gasps, the champ smiled and resumed his walk to work.
His brief hijinks showed that St-Pierre was in good spirits upon his return to fighting for the first time since April 2011. Mentally as well as physically, it appeared, he was fully back from his reconstructive knee surgery.
GALLERY: Georges St-Pierre, Outside the Octagon
And when it was time for the main event, the crowd of 17,249 at the home of the Canadiens — you remember hockey, don’t you? — was rocking as St-Pierre made his way to the octagon. When announcer Bruce Buffer began the introductions, you could barely hear his bellowing voice amid the “GSP! GSP!” chants.
“I had to compose myself,” said St-Pierre.
Then he nearly decomposed Condit, taking him to the mat within the first two minutes. And keeping him there. And punishing him. And bloodying him.
Round after round, GSP used his takedowns to control Condit for minutes at a time from top position, nailing him again and again with hard strikes, nullifying Carlos’ potent submission game while consistently improving his position. Before the second round was over, he appeared to have taken much of the spirit out of Condit. But then Carlos connected with the head kick in the third, and we had a fight.
For a few moments, at least. Until Georges St-Pierre took charge once again.
Sure, “another day at the office” might not be adequately acknowledging the mess that GSP’s face became by fight’s end — two black eyes, reddened swelling on his forehead. But how else to describe the workmanlike performance that this champion put on in his first day back on the job in more than a year and a half?
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