Even if you’re not a fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, by now you’ve probably heard about the ease with which Georges St-Pierre systematically dismantled opponents such as B.J. Penn at the UFC 94. That victory was just part of a five-bout winning streak for the recently retired Canadian karateka and MMA fighter.
Georges St-Pierre won the UFC welterweight championship twice — once in 2006 and again in 2008, as well as the interim title in 2007. In December 2013, St-Pierre vacated the title and decided to take some time off from the sport, though he left the door open for a return.
In case you don’t have enough time to dissect his whole record and go through each fight, we thought we’d give you a breakdown of how he does it and how you can apply the lessons the champ has learned the hard way.
Georges St-Pierre’s Athleticism
Observation: “Georges St-Pierre is a gifted athlete,” says Lito Angeles, author of Fight Night! The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Mixed Martial Arts. “He was blessed with exceptional athleticism.”
Explanation: That includes balance and an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibers, Lito Angeles says. “You see his superior balance in the way he’s able to thwart takedowns. In his fight with Josh Koscheck, Koscheck tried to take him down. Georges St-Pierre did a cat-like movement and managed to land on his feet. It was spectacular. No matter who he’s fighting, he’s always in a good position to do what he wants, whether he’s standing, in a clinch, doing a takedown, neutralizing a takedown or getting to side control. “Fast-twitch muscle fibers give him the capacity for explosive movements.”
Action: “For the most part, you’re born with a certain amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers, but you can enhance what you have to some degree,” Lito Angeles says. “It’s the same for balance: You’re born with it, but it can be honed through hard training in the various disciplines that cover stand-up fighting, the clinch and the ground.”
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GSP’s Work Ethic
Observation: “GSP has a work ethic that’s second to none,” Lito Angeles says. “He trains hard in a number of fighting disciplines with world-class people, and he doesn’t mind if he gets his butt kicked. Then he takes techniques from those disciplines and fits them into the MMA framework.”
Explanation: Everybody he trains with is better than he is at that particular martial art, Lito Angeles says. “For example, he works out with Otis Grant, who’s a world boxing champion. If Georges St-Pierre fought Otis Grant in a boxing match, he’d lose, but if he fought Otis Grant or any of his other training partners in MMA, Georges St-Pierre would win because he combines the skills better.”
Action: Don’t limit your training partners to just people you can beat. Spar with students who have a good chance of beating you, and when they do, learn from them. It’s the only way to get better.
Georges St-Pierre’s Deadly Hands
Observation: Georges St-Pierre has deadly hands.
Explanation: “He trains in boxing, but he doesn’t use conventional boxing in the octagon,” Lito Angeles says. “He modifies it so his stance is a little wider, which enables him to counter takedowns better. And his distancing is a little farther away, which means his opponent doesn’t know if he’s going to punch or kick.”
Action: If you’re into MMA, study conventional boxing but don’t plan on using it as is in competition because you’ll be taken down, Lito Angeles says. “The best place to learn MMA-modified boxing is in an MMA gym. It’s not a bad thing to study conventional boxing because it will teach you the mechanics needed to throw hard punches.
“If you’re more into self-defense than MMA and you had to pick one established system to learn, it should be boxing. I’d modify it to use the palms instead of the fists because the palms have more structural integrity. Anything you can do with your fists, you can do with your palms.”
GSP’s Kicking Techniques
Observation: Georges St-Pierre can kick like a mule.
Explanation: “He has great kicking skills because of his karate background,” Lito Angeles says. “His lead-leg round kick shows a kyokushin and muay Thai influence, but it’s not pure kyokushin or pure muay Thai. He makes his kicks fast and snappy. He doesn’t try to put full power into each one and blast his opponent to death. He uses mostly round kicks, often delivered from the lead leg. They’re very effective even though they were considered worthless in the early days of MMA. In his second fight with Matt Hughes, he TKO’d him with …