After a four-year absence from the octagon, Georges St-Pierre returned to action at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday and beat Michael Bisping for the UFC middleweight championship. St-Pierre, 36, got the win with a rear-naked choke late in the third round.
But that only tells part of the story.
“The way we prepare ourselves, we were ready to fight bigger men who would come straight at me, try to bully me and use a tactic – sprawl and brawl, so to speak,” St-Pierre said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “But to his credit, Michael did a very good adjustment during the fight. I won the first round. He came back the second and he didn’t hold his ground as much. He was moving a lot and making me miss. I tried to counter his jab by using my overhand right, and he made me miss a few times. People thought I was tired. It’s not that I was tired; it’s just that he was moving so much that I was missing – and I knew that if I was missing, he was countering me. Because he’s a bigger man, I didn’t want to be countered. I lost the second round. I waited to the third round to make adjustments. I did, and that’s how I was able to finish the fight.”
As St-Pierre explained, a fight is very much a series of battles. It’s also a chess match.
“The guy that I fought in the first round is different than the guy I fought in the second round,” St-Pierre said. “He really did change gears. I needed to come back with a different strategy because the strategy I had for the second round was not working. Every round in mixed martial arts, I see every round like a different fight.”
Before the third round, St-Pierre got some great advice from trainer Freddie Roach.
“I knew (Bisping) was using his right hand to counter my overhand, so Freddie Roach told me, ‘When you throw your right hand, your straight, come back over the top with the left hook,’ which is the counter to the right hand,” St-Pierre recalled. “That’s what I did and that’s how I dropped him. Once I dropped him, I tried to swarm with strikes to take him out, but I didn’t want to empty my gas tank because when I tried to do that, he was covering quite well. He’s a survivor. He’s very good at coming back.”
St-Pierre also knew that Bisping likes to stand up from a four-point belly-down position.
So he took advantage of that.
“I gave him just enough space to go belly down and try to stand up, which he did, and by doing so, he made a mistake and exposed his back,” St-Pierre explained. “That was the trap that I set for him and I went with the strangulation, (a move we call) ‘killing the lion.’ He went out.”
It was an impressive showing for GSP, who didn’t seem to miss a beat. How is that possible after a four-year hiatus?
“Because of the nature of our sport, it’s a sport that has a lot of adrenaline,” St-Pierre said. “A lot of guys, when they retire or take a long break – because they miss that adrenaline, a lot of them fall into depression (and turn to substance abuse). Me, I always train. I’ve never taken a drug in my life. I keep a very (healthy) lifestyle. That’s why I was able to come back – and at 36, I feel better now than I’ve ever felt in my life. I feel like I’m in my prime right now.”