The Wait is Over...

The Wait is Over:
Hughes vs. St. Pierre

by Brady Crytzer

As it’s most productive year to date winds to a close The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to California, this time to Sacramento, to present UFC 65: Bad Intentions on Saturday November 18th.

The headlining bout of the evening features Matt Hughes battling a healthy Georges St. Pierre for the UFC welterweight championship. Also on the card, world heavyweight titlist Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia defends his crown against world submission wrestling champion Jeff “The Snowman” Monson. The battle for the 170-pound title, originally scheduled for September, is one of the most highly anticipated matches of the year.

Unquestionably, Matt Hughes is the most dominate champion the UFC has ever seen, defeating some of the best names in the business. He defends his title for the third time in six months, against the man some consider the heir apparent in French Canadian George “Rush” St. Pierre.

UFC Welterweight Title Bout: Georges “Rush” St. Pierre vs. Matt Hughes

Hughes: Arguably one of the strongest fighters in the world today, Matt Hughes has built a legendary reputation as a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense champion who’s defeated all challengers with thunderous slams, takedowns and a brutal ground n’ pound.

Hughes, who lives and trains in Iowa at the now infamous Miletich Camp, is a former All American wrestler who is well versed in both stand-up and submissions. Since winning his title at UFC 34, against Canadian submission wiz Carlos “The Ronin” Newton, Hughes has racked up impressive victories over fighters like Hayoto Sakurai, Gil Castillo, Sean Sherk and Frank Trigg. Despite a shocking upset by Hawaiian Superstar BJ Penn, Hughes quickly rebounded by soundly defeating Renato “Charuto” Verissimo, St. Pierre, in a welterweight title bout, and Frank Trigg, in a rematch at UFC 52. In that fight, Hughes displayed outstanding recovery and resiliency when, after nearly being knocked out by a Trigg left hand, he amazingly slammed his game opponent to the mat and submitted him via rear naked choke.

After gaining some fame from The Ultimate Fighter Season 2, Hughes made quick work of challenger Joe “Diesel” Riggs in November of 2005, submitting him in less than 3:30 with a well executed kimura armlock. Now, after dominating the division for most of career, Hughes looked to cement his legacy by defeating a living legend when he took on Royce Gracie on May 27th. Hughes displayed his absolute dominance by successfully destroying the MMA pioneer in front of an energetic Staples Center.

In his latest outing, Hughes was in the fight of his life against former conqueror BJ Penn nearly being submitted in the second round but coming back to TKO the Hawaiian in the third. A busy schedule for the champion leads him directly into the path of what will be his toughest challenge to date with Georges St. Pierre.

St. Pierre: The future is now. A phrase that is often thrown around in the world of new millennium technologies and has become nothing more than a sales pitch. Georges St. Pierre is the future.

After making his UFC debut on the very same show which BJ Penn won his world title, St. Pierre wowed fans around the world with his dominate victory over a very tough Karo Parysian to earn a three-round unanimous decision. Despite being unable to finish his opponent, any and everyone who saw that fight could all agree that “this guy is gonna be good.” It was hard to deny that a man that beat fighters like Ivan Menjivar, Thomas “The Wildman” Denny and Pete Spratt, all before even making his UFC debut, would have one of the most promising careers in the history of MMA. After a successful debut, St. Pierre returned in June of 2004 at UFC 48: Payback only to make waves again by brutally defeating newcomer Jay Hieron in a highlight reel first round knockout. St. Pierre was on the fast track to a title shot, but after it was announced the question was raised . . . was it too soon?

The fight itself with Hughes was a classic, while it lasted. The young Quebecois gave the champion all he could handle, and in the minds of some viewers, many thought he was winning. But, showing veteran cunning and taking advantage of an opponent with only seven fights, Hughes snapped in a lightening-fast armbar forcing the tap with less than one second left in the round. It was a rookie mistake that most certainly wont be made again. With redemption on his mind, an overjoyed St. Pierre successfully and impressively dismantled newcomer Jason Miller and nasty veteran Frank Trigg. With a title shot rematch on his mind, St. Pierre did the unthinkable by dissecting a returning Sean Sherk in a match that many thought would much closer than it actually turned out to be.

In March of 2005, “Rush” went to war with former champion BJ Penn, earning a three round decision. After being sidelined for nearly seven months with an injury,  St. Pierre returns as one of the best pure athletes in the world today and could be a major player in the sport of MMA for a very long time.

How They Match Up: What can be said about this match up but “What a fight!”

Since his loss to Hughes in October of 2004, St. Pierre has been on a tear defeating Miller, Trigg, Sherk and Penn. That being said, since their meeting at UFC 50, Matt Hughes has run down some of the best in the world in Trigg, Riggs, Gracie and Penn. What we are left with is a battle between two of the strongest athletes in the welterweight division.

It will be an interesting contrast to see how Hughes’ incredible strength matches with St. Pierre’s lightening-fast athleticism. With his injury aside, look for St. Pierre to push the action in this fight. One has to believe that the constant training with little rest has left the champion a bit burnt out and after his latest outing, against Penn, he will definitely be more cautious. Keep an eye on Hughes to let the youngster make the first mistake and attempt to capitalize on it.

This appears to be the most reasonable time for the challenger to take this title away from Hughes. As mentioned before, Hughes has been training hard since the Gracie fight in May and he has to be showing signs of wear and tear. But, after seeing the way Hughes survived nearly being KO’d and choked out by Trigg and then outlasted the deep triangle by Penn, it is obvious you can never count the champion out. Look for an exciting chess match with a sudden ending.

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