Georges St-Pierre Has No Killer Instinct

with UFC welterweight title belt

UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre

Is the welterweight champion too cautious?

Jake Ellenberger needed 53 seconds to finish Jake Shields on Saturday night. Both Chris Lytle and Carlos Condit have put away Dan Hardy in the last 12 months, one by knockout, the other by submission.

UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre spent a combined 50 minutes collecting wins over Shields and Hardy. It took Ellenberger, Condit, and Lytle a shade under 20 minutes to achieve the same thing—victory.

St-Pierre is one of the best athletes in the sport and, when all is said and done, may be the best ever. But the recent finishes of his previous challengers are causing some to question the champion.

If St-Pierre is the best in the welterweight division, why isn’t he delivering the same results Ellenberger, Condit, and Lytle have delivered in the last 12 months?

No one would argue that the French-Canadian superstar isn’t the best of the group. But while he’s racking up decisions, his contemporaries are putting away the men that he hasn’t.

You will never hear me argue that fighters need to focus on entertaining more than winning; I simply don’t believe that to be the case at all, but that isn’t what we’re talking about here. This is St-Pierre fighting to protect his legacy, to protect his championship, and his complete unwillingness to do anything in the cage that might possibly put those things in jeopardy.

When Matt Serra stopped him at UFC 69, it flipped a switch in St-Pierre. “Never again,” he told himself. “Never again will I put myself in a position where that could happen again.” He stayed true to those words ever since.

What is becoming increasingly frustrating for people with St-Pierre is that, even in situations where the risk is minimal, he still chooses the safest, more protective path. Seeing Ellenberger shrug off Shields’ early takedown attempt and blast away with a crushing knee to the face made me and many others wonder why St-Pierre couldn’t have taken the same approach.

The honest answer is what makes all of this so frustrating: he could have. St-Pierre could have pressed forward behind his hands, used his superior athleticism, and delivered the same conclusive finish Ellenberger did Saturday night in New Orleans.

He just won’t risk it.

When you have a granite jaw like Lytle, you can stand and trade with anybody knowing full well that it’s going to take them hitting you with a Mack truck right on the button to put you down. St-Pierre doesn’t have that; he has the replay of his first fight with Serra playing over and over in his head, and it stops him from taking even the slightest chance.

This is going to sound strange to some, but there’s a part of me that thinks St-Pierre doesn’t think he’s that good. He knows he’s talented, a gifted athlete and the hardest worker of the two men in the cage come fight night, but he doesn’t have the invincible swagger of Anderson Silva.

Where Silva stands opposite Yushin Okami with his hands below his waist, knowing he can dip and dodge whatever his opponent throws, St-Pierre stays on the outside, hands at the ready, jab pumping out in front of him with expert marksmanship.

He doesn’t have the belief in himself that allows guys like Silva to create memorable finishes inside the cage. The only way St-Pierre knows for sure that he can win is by playing it safe, sticking to the fundamentals, and not leaving any of the openings that come from taking a chance or two over the course of five rounds.

St-Pierre knows he can win. It’s just that in the back of his mind, there’s a picture of Matt Serra, hand raised, welterweight title around his waist reminding him that he could lose, and that keeps him from trying to do what Ellenberger did on Saturday night.

I’m not going to sit here and say that St-Pierre needs to change his approach and start taking more chances. He’s fighting to keep his title and build his legacy, and this is the way he wants to go about it.

The ironic thing is that as St-Pierre fights to protect what is his and cobble together the most impressive resume in the history of the sport, his legacy suffers. St-Pierre could end his career with the most impressive resume in the history of MMA; he’s already pretty damn close and he’s just 30-years-old. But sometimes the guy with the best resume doesn’t get the job.

Sometimes you want the guy who is willing to take a chance, even if it means he makes a mistake or two along the way.