MONTREAL, November 17 – As Carlos Condit entered the Octagon at the Bell Centre Saturday night for the biggest fight of his career, he was accompanied by Rage Against The Machine’s version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Unfortunately for the interim welterweight champion, he wasn’t facing the ghost of Georges St-Pierre in the UFC 154 main event.
Instead, he was facing the same dominant champion that last appeared in April of 2011, one who got punched, kicked, knocked down, bloodied, and bruised, but who also came through with flying colors in his first fight since an injury to his right ACL kept him out for nearly 19 months.
“People talk about ring rust and I definitely know what it is now,” said St-Pierre, who won the unanimous decision by scores of 50-45 twice and 49-46. “Carlos gave me my toughest fight.”
“I’m so disappointed,” said Condit. “His top game was very good and he was able to hold me down very, very well. Maybe I’ll get him next time.”
Entering the Octagon with a sprint and two cartwheels as if to show the world that his knee was fine, St-Pierre was greeted with cheers that nearly drowned out announcer Bruce Buffer’s introductions, not surprising considering the long-awaited return of Montreal’s favorite son.
And at the bell, it was St-Pierre out to the middle of the Octagon first as he aggressively went after his opponent. Condit calmly lay in wait, just missing with an overhand right as St-Pierre moved in. The bout progressed this way until 3:18 remained in the opening round and GSP got his first takedown. Condit tried to stay active from the bottom, but St-Pierre was landing with solid strikes from the top as he attempted to improve his position. And while he wasn’t able to transition into the mount or side control, his busy attack piled up the points, leaving Condit with a nasty cut above his right eyebrow as the round ended.
Condit tried to stick and move as the second round began, but his timing was way off as St-Pierre either blocked or got out of the way of the punches and kicks. With 2:52 left, St-Pierre landed his best strike of the fight, a hard right that Condit took well. But just when Condit looked like he was comfortably starting to get his rhythm, St-Pierre took him to the mat with two minutes remaining, again unleashing a torrent of blows. Condit never stopped moving, using elbows and punches to stay in the fight while his legs would shoot up periodically in the hopes of catching a submission. With seconds remaining in the round, Condit rose to his feet and tried to trade with the Montrealer, and as the bell sounded, he raised his hands to the crowd as if to ask if they were entertained.
They were, but not in the way they expected or wanted to be in the opening minute of the third round, as Condit dropped St-Pierre with a left kick to the head and put him in trouble for the first time in the fight. A barrage of ground strikes followed, bloodying and bruising St-Pierre’s face, but the courageous champion gathered himself, made it to his feet, and after a flurry of punches was able to score the takedown. Proceeding to push Condit to the fence, St-Pierre regained control of the action, even as Condit rose with 90 seconds remaining, only to be sent back down moments later.
By round four, takedowns – expected to be Condit’s Achilles heel heading into the bout – were St-Pierre’s most dominant weapon, and he quickly used his strikes to put “The Natural Born Killer” on his back early in the round. Yet what was most impressive was St-Pierre’s busy attack, as he put himself in harm’s way to land thudding strikes and try to improve his position. With 1:15 left, Condit was briefly able to get the top spot on GSP, but within seconds, the Canadian had his opponent pinned once again, locking up another round on the scorecards.
Looking winded for the first time in the fight, St-Pierre kept taking the lead as the final round began, and for the first time Condit emerged from a takedown attempt unscathed. And the Albuquerque native didn’t let this moment pass without him opening up his striking in order to turn the fight around. Yet it was St-Pierre whose punches made Condit stumble briefly, giving him the opportunity to get the takedown midway through the round. And though St-Pierre could have sat on the lead, he didn’t, trying to take Condit’s back and then pounding away with strikes as the crowd stood, roared, and celebrated their hero’s return.
As for the talk of a potential Superfight with Octagonside guest and middleweight champion Anderson Silva, the 31-year-old St-Pierre said, “I was focused on Carlos Condit 100 percent. I need to take a vacation and think about it.”
He earned it.
With the win, St-Pierre improves to 23-2 and ties UFC Hall of Famer for most successful welterweight title defenses with seven. The 28-year-old Condit falls to 28-6.
No Kneed to Worry, GSP is Back in Business - UFC 154 Main Event Results
By Thomas Gerbasi November 17, 2012