by Matt Hill – MMAWeekly.com
“He will be a champion someday, just not today,” is along the lines of what Pat Miletich and Matt Hughes both believed leading into Hughes’s first meeting with talented Ultimate Fighting Championship up-and-comer Georges St-Pierre.
Both Hughes and Miletich were right… that time.
At the end of a round that saw neither fighter take obvious control, St-Pierre went for a keylock from his back and Hughes reversed it with a textbook armbar. And with one second left on the clock, it was over.
However, when these same two fighters met again in Sacramento, Calif., in November 2006, the outcome was spectacularly different. St-Pierre did not look like the same timid, “green” fighter. He instead looked like a man who respected his opponent, but at the same time was going to respectfully take his head off… and that is almost what he did.
Shortly into the second round, St-Pierre caught Hughes trying to block a low kick and instead went upper deck to Hughes’s head. The champion was down and St-Pierre went in for the finish. Hughes could no longer intelligently defend himself and ‘Big’ John McCarthy stepped in and called a stop to the contest. St-Pierre was the new UFC welterweight champion of the world and the arena burst into ovation.
In his new autobiography “Made in America,” Hughes comments on his second fight with St-Pierre. He says, “Georges kept kicking me with those low kicks, and I dropped my hands to block. Then he kicked high, faking me out, and caught me.”
He continued, “I fell and he was on me immediately, throwing down fists and elbows. I felt nothing, not a thing. I wasn’t out, but I wasn’t exactly firing on all eight cylinders. And I wasn’t exactly the welterweight champion anymore.”
St-Pierre had done it. He had beaten his UFC idol and he had done so in devastating fashion. Hughes fans were crushed, but for all of those who were in attendance that night wearing homemade shirts that said, “A country boy CAN’T survive,” it must have felt like paradise.
The “nice guy” was now the champ.
St-Pierre’s reign as champion was short-lived, though. In a fight that most critics and fans alike had him winning easily, Matt Serra had other plans. Midway through the first round, Serra caught St-Pierre with a punch that rocked the Canadian. Serra, sensing blood, bull-rushed his foe and stayed on him until the contest was stopped. Serra was crowned the new UFC welterweight champion of the world.
Of his fight with Serra, St-Pierre said, “This loss was the best thing to ever happen to me. I went through it like a man, I accept it. I made many mistakes in that fight. Like I always say, it’s not always the best team in baseball who wins, it’s the team who comes more well prepared and the team who plays the best. It’s the same thing with fighting, it’s the guy who comes more well-prepared and the guy who will fight the best that night is the guy who’s going to win the fight.”
Matt Hughes and Matt Serra were supposed to meet Saturday night, but Serra had to back out due to injury. St-Pierre heard of this and instantly wanted to jump in and face Hughes, regardless of the fact that he was not currently training for a fight, saying, “I’ve never been so pumped up about a fight and I look forward to a good show.
He continued, “I had the best training camp of my life, and even though I took the fight on short notice, I’m the best I could be and I’m the best Georges St-Pierre ever. I’m the fastest, the strongest, the best ever.”
Even though St-Pierre beat Hughes decisively his last time out, Hughes is always a tough opponent to be in the cage with, especially when he has a point to prove and St-Pierre knows it.
“Matt Hughes’s strength is his ground when he’s in top position. Matt Hughes is a very well rounded athlete. He’s very good standing up…he got caught last time. I caught him with a kick to the head, but I do believe he’s got great standup and I have to be careful on the ground and also standing up, because he can knock me out.”
With these two fighters now even at one win apiece, what does St-Pierre think will be the outcome after Saturday’s meeting?
“I’m not fighting a guy who’s only one dimensional. I’m fighting a well-rounded athlete who causes me a lot of problems, but I think I’m going to be able to solve it.”
These two men meet in the UFC’s final show of 2007. In addition to Hughes vs. St-Pierre, the card also features Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell vs. Vanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva in a match-up that