With the imminent return of Canadian superstar Georges “Rush” St-Pierre to competitive MMA, the time is right to revisit the best career finishes of the greatest welterweight MMA fighter of all time.
Like so many of MMA’s elite, the man known simply as “GSP” started with traditional martial arts. Bullied as a school child, GSP’s father began teaching his son Kyokushin Karate as a 7-year-old and elements of this background are still evident in his style today.
St-Pierre would also pick up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, boxing and wrestling before turning professional in 2002. With wins over skilled opponents including Ivan Menjivar and Pete Spratt, the UFC moved quickly to sign the talented Canadian. Subsequent wins against impressive professionals in Karo Parisyan and Jay Hieron meant that St-Pierre found himself in a UFC title match by only his 8th fight, and up against future Hall of Famer and Welterweight legend Matt Hughes. Disappointingly, GSP lost via armbar in the 1st round, but the fight experience was invaluable and was the catalyst in St-Pierre expanding his all round MMA game.
GSP would subsequently win 6 straight fights including wins over Jason Miller, Frank Trigg, BJ Penn and a rematch with Hughes for the Welterweight title. Amazingly, St-Pierre would subsequently lose in what is still the greatest upset in UFC history, handing his title to Matt Serra via a TKO loss at UFC 69 in April, 2007.
Again, GSP would use this loss as a catalyst, removing a large proportion of his entourage and seeking out training with various specialist martial artists. This approach paid dividends; GSP has not lost a fight since, although his last fight was a controversial decision win over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167.
The cornerstone of St-Pierre’s fighting style was his ability to change and evolve as his career progressed. St-Pierre was known for his Karate background early in his career, utilizing fast hand strikes and spinning kicks regularly. As new opponents staked their claim, GSP would showcase new elements to his game.
For example, St-Pierre worked with renowned boxing coach Freddie Roach for periods and was able to utilize an effective jab to outclass wrestler Josh Koscheck. Further, St-Pierre out wrestled both Koscheck (a College Division 1 champion) and Johny Hendricks (four time all-American), showing that he might be the best all-round fighter in MMA. Coupling this with St-Pierre’s likable, honest and humble persona soon cemented him as a fan favourite.
It was difficult lock down just 5 finishes in a career packed with outstanding performances. However we’ve managed to put together this list of George St-Pierre’s top 5 finishes and here they are in descending order…
- Vs Frank Trigg – UFC 54, August 20, 2005
- Vs BJ Penn (2) – UFC 94, January 31, 2009
- Vs Matt Hughes (3) – UFC 79, December 29, 2007
- Vs Matt Serra (2) – UFC 83, April 19, 2008
- Vs Matt Hughes (2) – UFC 65, November 18, 2006
After losing to Matt Hughes at UFC 50, St-Pierre needed to amass impressive wins. He did just that against perennial Welterweight contender Frank Trigg at UFC 54. Renowned for his wrestling, Trigg was expected to get the better of the grappling exchanges. St-Pierre however, was able to dominate the fight, first reversing a Trigg takedown, then progressing to back control. St-Pierre then applied a rear-naked choke, ending the fight just 4 minutes and 9 seconds into the first round.
The first fight between these two future Hall-of-Famers ended in a controversial split decision victory for GSP, so St-Pierre was keen to prove his superiority. Adding further pressure was the fact that the Welterweight title was on the line. While the first round was close, the subsequent 3 rounds were not, with St-Pierre consistently taking Penn down and dominating him with ground and pound. After the fourth round, Penn’s corner man had seen enough and requested the fight be stopped, handing the TKO victory to St-Pierre and effectively finishing the Penn-GSP rivalry.
Facing Hughes in the rubber match, GSP put on one of his finest performances. Taking down Hughes at will, St-Pierre showcased his underrated submission grappling skills first with a kimura attempt, then with a straight armbar. The latter forced Hughes to submit, handing St- Pierre the interim Welterweight title.
After an upset loss to Serra at UFC 69 where he relinquished his title, the pressure was mounting on a wounded St-Pierre. Adding to the strain was the fact that the event was the first in Canada, and in St- Pierre’s home town of Montreal. If he felt any anxiety before the fight, it didn’t show in his career-defining performance. GSP mixed up takedowns and standing strikes perfectly and ended a dominant display with devastating knees to a prone Serra precipitating the stoppage.
GSP was devastated after losing to Hughes at UFC 50 in what was a lackluster display. His Kyokushin Karate skills came to the fore at UFC 65 however, felling Hughes first with a superman punch in round one and then landing a left high kick in round two which effectively ended the fight. This would be St-Pierre’s first taste of UFC gold, exemplifying his dynamic striking style.
So there we have it, 5 of the best Georges St-Pierre finishes. While GSP was criticized later in his career for his lack of stoppages, his early fights were littered with amazing knockouts and submissions, making a top 5 expectedly difficult to choose. What do you think about the list, did we get it right? Let us know your fave GSP bouts below, or on Facebook or Twitter! Feel free to check out some of our other Top 5 MMA fights articles featuring Anderson Silva, Ronda Rousey and Cung Le!