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GSP Shuts Fitch Out at UFC 87; Is Penn Next?

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - It’s an old fight game adage that it’s harder to defend a title than win one. Tonight, in the main event of UFC 87 at Target Center, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre got things right in his second reign as champion, defending his crown for the first time with a shutout five round decision win over number one contender Jon Fitch.
By Thomas Gerbasi

MINNEAPOLIS, August 9 – It’s an old fight game adage that it’s harder to defend a title than win one. Tonight, in the main event of UFC 87 at Target Center, UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre got things right in his second reign as champion, defending his crown for the first time with a shutout five round decision win over number one contender Jon Fitch.

And no one in the crowd of 15,082 cheered louder for St-Pierre than UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn, who is now looking to move back up to 170 pounds for a shot at redemption against the man who decisioned him in March of 2006.

“Let’s put the fight together, let’s do it,” said Penn.

“I’m a proud champion and I’m ready to fight everybody who deserves a shot,” said St-Pierre. “I know BJ Penn wants a shot, and I’m ready for him. “

Scores were 50-43, and 50-44 twice for St-Pierre, whose first reign as champion ended at the hands of Matt Serra in April of 2007. St-Pierre went on to regain the belt at UFC 83 in April of this year.

The bout hit the mat immediately, with St-Pierre in Fitch’s guard, but the challenger did good work from the bottom, even though he ate his share of thudding strikes. Crowd chants of “USA” and “GSP” alternated in the crowd, drowning out St-Pierre’s increasingly dominating attack. And when Fitch was able to get back to his feet, the champion dropped him almost immediately with a right hand and followed up with a ferocious series of strikes that bruised Fitch’s face. With less than 1:30 left in the round, Fitch gamely rose again, but with his legs rubbery, St-Pierre opened fire on the feet and the ground, keeping the Indiana native in serious trouble. By the end of the round though, Fitch appeared to have cleared his head, leaving him 60 seconds to make the adjustments necessary to get back in the fight.

Fitch looked to stand with St-Pierre in round two, but the Canadian’s speed, accuracy and footwork not only bloodied the challenger, but also allowed him to scoot out of danger before any of Fitch’s wild strikes hit home. As the round progressed, Fitch stayed out of trouble and seemed to be gaining confidence as some of his punches hit home, and after he stuffed a St-Pierre takedown attempt and followed up with a knee, it looked like he was getting himself back into the fight, even though his face wasn’t showing it.

If there was any renewed confidence from Fitch, it was probably removed seconds into the third round as he got his mouthpiece knocked out by a St-Pierre right hand. The ensuing trip to the canvas saw St-Pierre try to work for a rear naked choke, but Fitch fought his way free and into the champion’s guard. While there, Fitch tried to stay busy as St-Pierre appeared to be looking to force a standup. But instead, St-Pierre reversed position and landed some ground strikes before the two stood again. St-Pierre opened up with some kicks to keep Fitch guessing, and in close range exchanges, St-Pierre’s deadly accuracy was on display, but so was Fitch’s heart as he took some hellacious shots but kept fighting.

As the championship rounds began, Fitch drew blood from over St-Pierre’s left eye, but the Montreal native was undaunted as he remained in the pocket, pecking away at Fitch and denying a takedown attempt. Fitch did land some punches of his own in retaliation, but another takedown try was rebuffed by the champion, who instead put Fitch on his back to end the round.

Fitch opened the fifth and final round with a couple of solid shots as he looked to rescue the fight for himself, but St-Pierre answered with a thudding back fist and a takedown, impressively refusing to sit on his lead. And though the pace in the final five minutes didn’t match that of the previous 20, the packed house still showed their appreciation for the champion and his courageous challenger.

With the win, St-Pierre improves to 17-2; Fitch falls to 21-3 with 1 no contest.
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