Don't believe Dana White when he says that Georges St. Pierre is too small to fight Anderson Silva.
In fact, despite the fact that Silva vs. St. Pierre looks unlikely at the present, it wasn't too long ago that the potential matchup was the most anticipated fight in MMA.
Before UFC 94, it seemed like wins over BJ Penn and Thiago Alves might put St. Pierre in line for a shot at Anderson Silva's belt. Now, however, a lot of things have piled up to make such a matchup seem very unlikely.
When St. Pierre beat BJ Penn, I felt like he'd taken a giant step toward a potential fight with Silva, especially considering how dominant St. Pierre was in victory. However, though such a victory made me even more confident than before that St. Pierre would have a shot against Silva, other people actually came away wanting such a match less than before.
The reason people were less excited was because of the conventional wisdom coming out of the fight. As Joe Rogan put it, "the great big man is always going to beat the great small man."
St. Pierre's dominance over Penn seemed to have supported that idea, and so many people felt that Silva vs. St. Pierre would be just as one-sided as St. Pierre vs. Penn in favor of the larger fighter.
Still, many people felt like St. Pierre would still have a chance, and so I held some hope.
Those hopes were all but dashed when Silva moved up in weight and destroyed Forrest Griffin.
Silva's victory over Griffin made people far more excited about Silva's future at 205, and also was enough to convince Dana White that Silva was just too big for St. Pierre.
At the present time, it seems like most fans as well as Dana White have decided that St. Pierre would be do small, but I completely disagree, especially with the arguments made from the two aforementioned fights.
St. Pierre vs Penn
St. Pierre vs. Penn proved nothing to me about weight class jumping for a variety of reasons.
First of all, a contributing factor to Penn's loss is that Penn made absolutely no attempt to narrow the size gap between himself and St. Pierre. Penn chose not to attempt to gain a lot of size, and although it's unlikely that he could have eliminated St. Pierre's strength advantage completely, he could have diminished it significantly had he tried.
Unlike Penn, St. Pierre has stated that were he to move up to fight Silva at 185, he would make every effort to narrow the gap in size and strength.
Aside from that issue of effort, in St. Pierre vs Penn, many people write off St. Pierre's dominance as a simple matter of mass (or grease, if you're a more-zealous Penn fan) and ignore the talents that St. Pierre brought to the table.
St. Pierre does at least four things very well that presented significant problems for Penn.
1. Leg Kicks: As a striker, St. Pierre lacks Penn's boxing ability, but what he lacks there he makes up in versatility. St. Pierre has a good jab and good leg kicks, and he used both of those weapons very effectively against Penn. The leg kick especially was a key weapon because if Penn has any weaknesses in his striking game, it is in his defense against leg kicks.
2. Ability to Mix Attacks: Penn often is able to land clean and effective counters when people go for leg kicks, but aside from having good leg kicks, St. Pierre is also able to mix his attacks. St. Pierre's attacks were unpredictable enough that Penn was never able to feel comfortable, and thus became more vulnerable to both the leg kicks, jabs, and takedowns.
Perhaps the best example of this came at the beginning of the third round, when St. Pierre began to pick Penn apart on the feet. Penn struggled to find his timing, but just when Penn started to open up his own attack, St. Pierre ducked in and grabbed a clean double-leg.
3. Takedowns : Having some of the best takedowns and wrestling in MMA of course made it even easier for St. Pierre to take Penn to the ground, while avoiding ever being on his back against Penn.
4. Dominant Top-Position BJJ: Once Penn was on his back, St. Pierre was able to dominate using some of the best guard-passing top control in MMA.
Aside from having a size advantage, St. Pierre also has one of the best skill sets for defeating Penn.
The reason Penn is nearly invincible at lightweight but loses to GSP is as much a skill issue as it is a size issue. Penn has his own four talents that make him nearly unbeatable at lightweight, but not against GSP.
1. Boxing: The lightweight division is so stacked with wrestlers and grapplers that most of the top lightweights are grapplers. Most of these grapplers are decidedly overmatched against Penn when it comes to striking.
2. Takedown Defense: Very few lightweights, or even welterweights, can take Penn down. Leave that kind of task for the man with the best takedowns in MMA.
3. Neutralizing Bottom-game BJJ: BJ Penn doesn't usually submit people from the bottom, but most of the fighters able to take him down come from a wrestling background, and don't have the BJJ top-position game to be able to keep the fight there for extended periods. This is a skill issue, not just a size issue.
4. World-Class BJJ: The term "world-class is extremely overused in MMA, but Penn is one of the few MMA fighters who truly has world class BJJ that allows him to dominate and submit the few fighters who might have any other single skill advantage.* However, in order to win this way, he usually would need to at least get the takedown, which hecouldn't do against GSP.
Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
When Silva faced off against Forrest Griffin, it became clear almost immediately that Griffin's supposed size advantage would be minimal.
However, any size advantage was meaningless because of the way the fight played out. Griffin charged in at Silva like he always does, and got lit up like a Christmas tree for his trouble.
It was a foolish game-plan, and given the gameplan, the result was about as predictable as they come.
There is almost nothing that can be learned from Silva vs. Griffin that tells me anything about how well Silva would do against St. Pierre at 185.
Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre
Because of a bigger frame, Anderson Silva can theoretically expand to a larger size than GSP can possibly go. However, as big as Silva is, his size advantage would still be limited by weight class, were he to fight St. Pierre at 185.
Silva does cut a lot of weight, but cutting much more than 20 lbs would probably take it's toll on Silva's cardio. When fighting at 185 lbs, he's unlikely to be able to get much higher than 205 lbs by the time he steps into the Octagon.* St. Pierre can get close to that number if given enough time to put on the weight.
Since St. Pierre can at least get within range of Silva's mass come fight time, we need to at least consider the kind of stylistic threats that St. Pierre would bring against Silva.
Standup: If they were to fight a K-1 match, or any type of striking-only affair, Silva would be an overwhelming favorite, and would be favored not only to win, but to pull off some highlight-reel KO.
When it comes to MMA, the striking might be at least a little bit closer than people imagine.* If Silva were to fight St. Pierre, Silva would be most concerned about St. Pierre's takedowns. Because of this, Silva might not be able to open up on the feet quite as much as usual.* Also, St. Pierre can use a little bit of strategy by faking the takedown and throwing a strike instead.
Frank Mir knocked down Chieck Kongo doing this fake shot, and while I wouldn't expect St. Pierre to drop Silva, he might just be able to have enough success in the stand-up to keep Silva honest.
Wrestling: Takedowns would be the main issue of a possible Silva vs. St. Pierre fight. Just as the threat of wrestling would make St. Pierre's striking more effective, the other side of the coin is that the threat of brain damage would make Silva's takedown defense more effective. The question is still whether or not St. Pierre's wrestling advantage is big enough to allow him to take Silva down. Obviously we can't say for certain, but I have a feeling that St. Pierre might just be able to do it.
MMA Top-Position Game: Dan Henderson was able to take Silva down, but he was never really able to do much more than hold him there and cover his mouth a little bit. The problem is that while Henderson is a good wrestler, he doesn't provide the same kind of threats on the ground like St. Pierre does.
Despite what his critics say about his supposed "wet blanket tactics," St. Pierre is far more than a lay-and-pray specialist.* St. Pierre is very good at passing guard, landing damage, and even catching submissions from the top.
St. Pierre was able to TKO Sherk, Penn, and Serra and submit Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg using his top-game.* Those who he didn't finish outright were still pretty-much mauled on the ground.
In contrast to what people say about his finishing skills, St. Pierre has never had back-to-back decisions in his career. If St. Pierre can get a takedown on Silva early in any round, I would be completely unsurprised if St. Pierre was able to finish either by TKO or submission.
Going the Distance: If St. Pierre is able to get his takedowns, but isn't able to finish Silva early, I still don't necessarily think that he is in trouble. St. Pierre can wear Silva down if he can get takedowns early and force Silva to expend energy trying to improve his position. Therefore, if St. Pierre can make Silva work on the ground for the first few rounds, I see St. Pierre being the fresher fighter in the later rounds.
If Silva can keep the fight standing, and the fight goes deep, the fight will obviously be turning towards him, but cardio will be much less of a factor if the fight remains standing, and while Silva might knock St. Pierre out, I think St. Pierre will still be dangerous if he can land just one takedown early enough into any round.
Final Analysis: * I truly feel that not only can St. Pierre get big enough to challenge Silva for the 185 lb title, but I also think that he has the skill set to possibly beat him.
If the fight happens, Silva will be favored, but I don't think he should be too big of a favorite.
I really don't think this fight will go to a decision, as either Silva will knock out St. Pierre, or St. Pierre will finish Silva on the ground.
Ultimately, I just want to see this fight, because I think it's the biggest fight the UFC could make due to the extremely high stakes and what I see as being a great stylistic matchup.
If St. Pierre and Silva keep winning I hope that enough people will share my view to convince Dana White to change his mind and make this dream fight a reality.