Montreal’s Georges St. Pierre has been here before and made the biggest mistake of his life.
A world champion and overwhelming favourite to retain his UFC welterweight belt, St. Pierre walked into the cage three years ago and lost his belt in less than four minutes.
That UFC 69 loss to Matt Serra forced St. Pierre to change everything from his entourage to the way he trains. He sought out the help of a sports psychologist and leads a rigid, almost scripted, pre-fight existence. He doesn’t get caught in the pre-fight hype or trash talk. He always refers to each fight as the “toughest of my career” and, when asked about his strategy, serves up the well-rehearsed answer of how a poker player never shows his cards.
He avenged that loss to Serra at UFC 83 and recaptured his belt.
But unlike his three title defences since, his fight Saturday against 4-1 underdog Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy has eerie similarities to the devastating loss that changed his life.
In the eyes of many fans and pundits, the English slugger hasn’t earned the right to fight for the title yet — the same criticism that Serra heard before he shocked the MMA world.
That’s what makes him so dangerous, says St. Pierre.
“For me, it’s a great chance to redeem myself because I’m in a little bit of that same situation that I was when I fought Serra the first time,” he says.
St. Pierre (19-2) says Hardy — whose last two fights have been decision wins over journeymen Mike Swick and Marcus Davis — has nothing to lose.
“I believe I have more — a lot more — pressure than Dan,” says the 28-year-old.
St. Pierre has chewed through all the top contenders in his 170-lb. class, with title wins over Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves.
At 23-6, Hardy is not new to the sport, though his level of competition pales in comparison with St. Pierre’s.
The brash-talking Hardy is hoping that by drawing on St. Pierre’s darkest moment, he can find a way to beat him.
Hardy has been training with Serra during his camp.
“I came out to New Jersey to finish up the camp because I didn’t want to be flying out too close to the fight,” he says.
“I put a few feelers out to see if there was an opportunity to train with Matt. I was able to get in contact with him and he was very welcoming. I’m spending a lot of time working with him and I’m learning a hell of a lot.”
St. Pierre says he can’t lose any sleep over Hardy’s training partners and reverts to his well-rehearsed answers.
“I learned from my mistake before and I never want to do this again,” he says. “Nobody’s invincible, of course, but right now I’m the best Georges St. Pierre I have ever been and I train myself to fight an army of men, so one guy will not be able to break me.”
The stacked card also features an interim heavyweight title bout between Shane Carwin and Frank Mir. UFC 111, in Newark, N.J., is available in Canada on pay-per-view.
Here are the Scrapyard’s predictions for the pay-per-view part of tonight’s UFC 111.
Welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre vs. Dan Hardy — St. Pierre’s wrestling should rule the day. Hardy has a puncher’s chance, but St. Pierre will look to neutralize the Brit slugger early with relentless takedowns, then stay busy once he has him on the mat. Prediction: St. Pierre by third-round stoppage due to ground and pound.
Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir for interim heavyweight title — As much as Mir wants to win to get another shot at Brock Lesnar, much like Lesnar, Carwin is too big and strong. Carwin is 11-0 with all of his fights ending in the first round. Prediction: Carwin by first-round TKO.
Jon Fitch vs. Ben Saunders — You’ve gotta give Saunders props for stepping in for an injured Thiago Alves at the last minute. But despite the UFC being able to save the fight for Fitch, it is a bit of a mismatch. Prediction: Fitch by decision.
Mark Bocek vs. Jim Miller — Toronto’s Bocek is a gamer. He is relentless. But if a common opponent can be an indicator of this fight, Miller has beaten Mac Danzig and Bocek has lost to him. These lightweights will put on a show. Prediction: Miller by decision.
Fabricio Camoes vs. Kurt Pellegrino — Battle of lightweight submission experts. Expect fight to go to the ground and stay there. Prediction: Pellegrino by decision.