Boxing had Muhammad Ali. Basketball had Michael Jordan. Baseball had Babe Ruth. And mixed martial arts has Georges St. Pierre, who on Saturday night cemented his legendary status as he dominated UFC lightweight champion, B.J. Penn, en route to a 4th round stoppage when the Hawaiian could no longer continue.
As fans from around the world made predictions and picked sides in the battle of two of the best fighters the sport has ever seen, St. Pierre and Penn squared off in Las Vegas to determine who truly is the best pound for pound fighter, and battle for the UFC welterweight championship.
It was apparent in the early going that St. Pierre had no intentions of letting Penn settle into any kind of rhythm as he pressed the Hawaiian against the cage, going for a takedown, while peppering him with shots whenever necessary. The first five minutes of the fight were the only time Penn was able to stop St. Pierre from getting the takedown and the remaining 15 minutes saw a dominant performance from the Canadian.
The 2nd round saw St. Pierre once again get the clinch, but this time landing the takedown on Penn and immediately the welterweight champion started chipping away at his opponent’s defense. Hitting Penn from the top with punches and elbows, St. Pierre looked strong and fast as he punished the lightweight champion, making him struggle for air with a relentless attack.
St. Pierre said his stifling style of takedowns and wrestling was all part of the master plan concocted by his coaching staff to take away Penn’s hand speed.
“B.J. Penn is a world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so my strategy was in the first two rounds to make a wrestling match with him because he’s got very quick hands and his shoulder is made for boxing,” St. Pierre explained. “So because he has small soldiers, by making him wrestle, all the blood would go into his shoulder and it would have become stiff and his hand would not come out as it is usually.”
The plan worked to perfection and Penn seemed to slump a bit between rounds, obviously winded from the attack put on him by St. Pierre throughout the fight.
The third and fourth rounds saw referee Herb Dean keep a close eye on the action as St. Pierre continuously punished Penn from the half guard and side control positions as Penn struggled to get out from under the Canadian champion. St. Pierre never seemed to stop moving as he continuously worked to pass guard and pummel his opponent with everything in his arsenal.
After the fourth round ended as B.J. Penn stood with his back to his opponent, the Hawaiian’s corner instructed the cageside physician that they were stopping the fight, declaring Georges St. Pierre the winner of this monumental match-up.
“I’ve been training for this fight since September so I had a lot of pressure. Last time I fought him I won in a decision, this time I really wanted to take him out and I’m glad that I did it,” St. Pierre said after his 2nd consecutive title defense.
Winning his 5th fight in a row overall, St. Pierre proved on Saturday night why he considered one of the best fighters ever to step into mixed martial arts, and why he can be tagged with the name “legend” already at this point in his career. While happy in his victory, St. Pierre was quick to point out that he has a very tough opponent waiting in the wings to face him in the near future.
“Thiago Alves is the #1 contender,” St. Pierre stated. “I’m world champion, I’m a proud champion so I want to fight the best guys in the sport, I think Thiago is next and it’s a fighter that I have a lot of respect for, so it’s going to be a good fight.”
With the celebration still going on, Thiago Alves entered the Octagon and spoke to the capacity crowd in attendance as well as the champion, Georges St. Pierre.
“Georges congratulations, amazing performance, I’m a big fan, you looked really great,” Alves said after shaking the champion’s hand. “I’m looking forward for this fight, I’m the #1 contender and I really want to get the title shot.”
Georges St. Pierre will relish his victory today, but the savvy champion knows that the next challenger is waiting just around the corner.