Sports is like politics. People can twist the facts to fit whichever narrative they wish to be true. It is a branch of confirmation bias and general biases toward our favorite fighters and against those we dislike. Yes. The Greatest of All Time in any sport will always be debatable since it is in fact a matter of opinion. But this seven part series presents as lucid an argument for the best MMA fighter of all time that you will find anywhere on the Internet. And if you disagree, jump right in and let’s have an open debate. But just remember one thing….sports, like politics, may boil down to what one wants to believe….but it also does contain cold hard facts. This list is not about favorite or media darlings or the most popular fighters, it’s about objective facts. And by the end of this series, the evidence will show who is as factually close to being the greatest fighter of all time as possible. The seven parts of this series are as follows:
Part 1: The Honorable Mentions
Part 2: The Notorious Mention
Part 3: Fedor Emelianenko vs. The UFC
Part 4: Down Came the Rain and Washed the Spider Out
Part 5: The Meteoric Rise of Mighty Mouse
Part 6:Explanation of the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Part 7: Explanation of the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Let’s begin part 6.
Part 6: No Rush to be the GOAT
Can it actually be possible that Georges St. Pierre is underrated? This may be hard to believe, but the answer to that question seems to be YES. Ask yourself how often have you heard an MMA pundit from the media or even within the MMA community give GSP the nod as being the GOAT? When GSP was dominating opponents at the same time as Anderson Silva, the entire MMA media from the UFC broadcasters, journalists, and even the officials such as Dana White himself all proclaimed Anderson Silva as the greatest of all time during his reign of dominance over the middleweight division. Back then, I dreamt of seeing a GSP/Anderson Silva megafight. And it was completely doable, but the UFC dropped the ball. Instead, the only “mega fights” we get is Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez. But I digress. Had this fight happened, my placement of GSP over Anderson Silva would be much more palatable for the Anderson Silva GOAT arguers, because stylistically, GSP should be favored to win that fight in my opinion. GSP is one of the hardest-to-hit fighters of all time and has one of the highest takedown accuracy percentages to complement his intelligent and cautious fighting style. At the risk of applying the proven-to-be-faulty MMA math, I still must believe that if Chael Sonnen can keep Silva down for nearly the entire fight, GSP would not only do the same, but not make such a critical mistake at the end of the fight. But, rest easy, my argument for GSP over Silva is not founded on this hypothetical matchup. It’s founded on ACTUAL math that supports it.
Anderson Silva has the longest streak of world title defenses and most of those decisions were finishes. The combination of Silva’s length of victims and his fan-friendly style is what grants him superiority over GSP (and everyone else for that matter), in the minds of the apparent majority of the MMA audience. Here’s the problem with that: finishes are not the only way to be dominant. One dominating and finishing most of his opponents inside of two rounds does not necessarily make one more dominant than a fighter who consistently dominates opponents for the entire fight. Also, there is a misconception that GSP was strictly a wrestler who just controlled opponents from top position the entire fight. At the tail end of GSP’s career, eight of his last nine fights went to a decision—with all but one being unanimous. When you look at the clean-sweep scorecards against opponents like Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, and Jon Fitch….fighters with differing styles, but equally dominated by GSP, we have to appreciate the fact that dominance comes in different forms. But the misconception that GSP was only a decision fighter for his entire career is not true. 14 of GSP’s 25 victories are from finishes. Not only does GSP have more UFC victories than Anderson Silva (18 vs. 16) but he has a higher winning percentage both in the Octagon and decisively in their MMA careers. Is the only argument for Anderson Silva being better that he had more finishes? Is this not the logic of a casual MMA fan and not a pundit of the sport?
You may be asking yourself why am I continuing to compare fighters like GSP and Demetrious Johnson to Anderson Silva, especially if I am convinced they rank higher than the Spider. The answer to that is because Anderson Silva IS the standard for what GOAT’s must be measured. The question is what has a fighter done to put himself above Anderson Silva, especially since Silva appears to be the consensus pick for the GOAT. For that reason, I am taking pains to specifically answer that question as thoroughly as possible.
And I’m not done. GSP has never been clearly outfought in his entire MMA career. There are arguments that he was outfought by Jonny Hendricks, but that was not a fight where GSP was CLEARLY outfought. It was a controversial decision, yes, but a justifiable one. For the longest time, I thought that the GSP/Hendricks decision was the worst that I have ever seen in MMA. I was convinced that Hendricks was robbed. Watching it live, I couldn’t understand how anyone could argue otherwise. Recently, I rewatched the fight blow for blow, round for round. In doing so, you should see that rounds 3 and 5 go to GSP and Round 1 was so close that it has to fall prey to the “Do enough to beat the champ” theory. The only clear round for Hendricks was round 4. Round 2 was a case of volume (GSP) vs. effectiveness (Hendricks) so that was a very close round as well. The scorecards reflect how close the fight was: 48-47, 48-47, 47-48), but even if you believe Hendricks won, which is completely understandable, one would have to admit upon rewatching the fight, that GSP’s victory, especially being the champ, was understandable and thus he was not clearly outfought. GSP’s two losses both came from being “caught.” One in a submission by Hughes after GSP was ahead in the fight, and the other via Serra bomb in the biggest upset in UFC history. I’m not writing off those losses as “unlucky” defeats, but it fits the narrative that GSP was never outfought through an entire match. And even if one did want to claim that Hughes and Serra got lucky, GSP’s decisive finishes over both men (Hughes twice) would lend some credence to that argument. That is the difference between a GSP and a José Aldo or a Fedor as of 2016: GSP has been able to prove his superiority over the opponents he lost to, while Aldo and Fedor have yet to do so.
So then, why is GSP not number one? Well, as you can expect, the primary reason is quite simple: GSP has loss twice, and the man at #1 has not. GSP’s résumé as is could still turn out to be the best of all time. Even though he loss to arguably his toughest opponent (Matt Hughes), the fact that he would go on to defeat Hughes not once, but twice, makes up for this. And when we look at Matt Serra’s career, and the way GSP avenged that loss, I think it’s safe to say that his loss to Serra was indeed a fluke.And although he loss twice, GSP could still have been #1 on this very list had he been active in the time since his victory over Hendricks and thus widening the gap of victories between himself and the #1 man on this list. Unfortunately, from the looks of the ongoing stalemate between the UFC and GSP, it seems that GSP is in no rush to return and cement his status as the potential GOAT. But even if GSP never picks up his gloves to fight again, his résumé could still end up placing him at the top of the GOAT heap. But he will need men like Demetrious Johnson, Dominick Cruz, and even Khabib Nurmagomedov to slip on the rise their legacies each seem to be going, and most of all, he will need the man at #1 to show that he can be imperfect inside the cage, and not just outside of it.
Part 7 Next.