GSP faces a tough challenge in hard-hitting Thiago Alves (Part 3 of 3)

Part 3: The Match-up

GeorgesSt. Pierre has never fought someone like Thiago Alves. This also goes for Alves, who has never faced of someone St.Pierre’s caliber. Knowing their skill sets, it is easy to say that GSP must bring it to the ground and Pitbull must stay off the mat and make it a kickboxing match…. but in MMA, it is not always that straightforward.

Ever since, the champion has been fighting with a reasonably general strategy customized with few critical tweaks and fine-tuning based on his opponents’ strength and weakness. Mixing things up, strike using his quickness and technical brilliance then, with it, set up a takedown. After that, severe ground and pound while keeping an eye for submission opportunities. If it goes standing again, repeat step one. It’s rather simple and only GSP can to pull it off to perfection. But this time, against the man they call the Pitbull, he has some crucial obstacles to contend with

It is very rare and perhaps, the first time that GSP will face a bigger and maybe even stronger opposition. St. Pierre is already considered a big welterweight but Thiago Alves will probably outsize him on fight night. This size factor will somehow work in favor of Alves. Will the Canadian take him down? Can GSP control him on the ground? These are the questions that will be answered in the fight. We all know that GSP is a takedown and ground n’ pound genius but Thiago has been brilliant in his takedown defense. For sure, he has been improving this facet in his game and he will come prepared against GSP’s wrestling. Additionally, the Pitbull may be too big or strong enough to dwarf St. Pierre’s ground game. For GSP, it will all come down to technique and this will be another opportunity for him to display his superior wrestling knowledge.

Thiago Alves knows that his chances of winning are much higher if the fight will stay standing. He believes that he hits harder and he has the better kickboxing skills. Indeed, a more than 50% KO ratio strongly suggests that he’ll be better off striking. Thiago, as usual, will play the stalker, in your face pressure fighter route; a very traditional muay thai approach where he stays square and always in front the opponent. He will set-up his kicks especially the leg-kicks but he must be aware that St. Pierre is very good at catching those kicks then following up with the straight right or takedown or both. But then again, Alves does not seem to telegraph does leg kicks and he does not throw them haphazardly just to be caught by a counter. Thiago just needs to be careful with those. Although it is quite a big risk for GSP making it a stand-up fight, he just might get the better of Alves if he will use his innate quickness and footwork. A good stick–and-move, in-out-in-out, up-down-up-down, may just work against the challenger. But I repeat, BIG risk!

If Thiago avoids being taken down and if his leg kicks consistently lands even for just two rounds, the fight will most likely go his way. GSP must avoid those punishing kicks so he can still be explosive in his offense. If you take away GSP’s legs you take away the tools he heavily relies on --- footwork, takedown explosiveness, superman attacks, kicks.

Battered thighs = GSP, a sitting duck.

The safest route for Georges to take is to stay off the striking pocket of Alves by either staying on his toes in striking or by bridging the distance then do some clinching and grappling depriving Thiago sufficient distance to tee off on his attacks. The latter will be much safer and if he takes Alves down, even better for St. Pierre. GSP needs to do this for at least three rounds. No matter how excellent the conditioning of Thiago Alves, he will never outcardio St. Pierre. His large muscles will work against him; his bulky body utilizes more oxygen and without any championship round experience, it will be a big disadvantage for him. Well, as for St. Pierre, he is obviously a cardio machine. There is no doubt about that.

Entering the fourth and fifth rounds, GSP can safely gamble more in stand-up considering his legs are not battered. At that point, you may witness some flashy moves from the champion. If this is the case, in the final rounds, St. Pierre will dominate Alves in all facets of the game.

This will be their probable strategies:

Georges St. Pierre:

Rounds 1-3: Fairly defensive and low-risk; avoid the Pitbull legkicks; some striking but mainly to set-up the wrestling and takedown attempts; main purpose is to tire Alves; if fight goes to the ground…work,work,work

Rounds 4 and 5: Dominate! ; if uncertain go ground and work,work,work

Thiago Alves:

Rounds 1-3: Bully GSP on striking; Pressure effectively, land those leg kicks and if in clinch, throw those knees but be aware that one leg off the ground is 50% more susceptible for takedowns; Capitalize on openings, knock him out whenever possible; Never get on your back. If there is an opportunity, being on top of GSP is a good position; Pace yourself avoid gassing out

Rounds 4 and 5: If all goes to plan in the early rounds disposing GSP in these final rounds will be fairly easy

This match will be decided by the fighter’s successful execution of gameplan, particularly in the early rounds. The winner will be the one who effectively imposes his will and cancels the oppositions’ strengths.

My pick: St. Pierre by TKO in Round 5

Back to Part 1: The Champion

Back to Part 2: The Challenger


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