It has been 18 months since UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre last stepped into the Octagon to defend his belt. The Canadian suffered an ACL tear preparing for a fight with Nick Diaz at UFC 137 and has been out of action ever since.

With St-Pierre on the shelf, former WEC champion Carlos Condit would take advantage. The New Mexico native would cruise past the aforementioned Diaz at UFC 143 to capture the promotion’s interim 170-pound strap.

Now, with St-Pierre healthy once again, the pair will lock horns in the champion’s hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to unify the two belts and alleviate the logjam created over the past year and a half.

The fight will headline UFC 154 live on pay-per-view on Nov. 17.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: St-Pierre – 10, Condit – 10

Condit (Sherdog)

The most evenly matched aspect of this fight has to be on the feet.

St-Pierre’s work with striking coach Phil Nurse over the years has turned his once karate-based attack into a full-fledged stand-up arsenal. In terms of pure technique, GSP has a clear-cut advantage. His use of the jab has been masterful against noted grapplers such as Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch—stifling their efforts to get inside. However, against Condit, it’s likely that he’ll have to counter and look to get the fight to the mat.

Condit has two big weapons on the feet: length and power. While his performance against Diaz also showcased his footwork and ability to string together combinations, he’s still a notch below the champion in a textbook application of the striking arts. But he makes up for that with his range and explosiveness, which helped him to obliterate both Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim. His aggressive nature will be a huge key in keeping St-Pierre uncomfortable while standing.

Ground Game: St-Pierre – 9, Condit – 10

Condit (James Law/Heavy MMA)

It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly five years since St-Pierre defeated Matt Hughes by armbar. That was the last time that the champion won by submission, but it’s not for lack of effort. He desperately tried to finish Dan Hardy by both armbar and kimura, but small flaws in his technique were enough to allow the Brit to escape. What may be a key aspect of this fight is the Canadian’s submission defense. He hasn’t been threatened on the mat in ages, but Condit may change that.

There’s a reason that Condit is known as “The Natural Born Killer,” he’s relentless on the feet and the mat. At one point during his WEC reign, he reeled off four straight submissions, including a first-round guillotine over BJJ black belt Carlo Prater. Much like on the feet, Condit’s length is one of his biggest assets on the ground. He is more than comfortable off his back and as evidenced in his fight with Kim, he can sweep into dominant positions. His offensive attack on the mat is not nearly as technical as some of GSP’s past foes, but his willingness to go for broke is something the champion hasn’t had to deal with recently.

Wrestling: St-Pierre – 10, Condit – 9

St-Pierre (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

It’s hard to believe that St-Pierre started his MMA career without a wrestling base. His dominance with takedowns and takedown defense is a testament to both his work ethic and natural athleticism. He has embarrassed high-level wrestlers like Koscheck, Hughes and Fitch with relative ease. His timing and positional control is the reason that he has been champion for so long.

Make no mistake, this isn’t Condit’s strength by any means. In fact, this has to be the biggest area of concern for the interim champion leading into this fight. In his pre-UFC career, he dropped fights to solid wrestlers Pat Healy and Jake Shields. Condit was repeatedly put on his back against GSP’s teammate Rory MacDonald and had it not been for a third-round barrage in that bout, this fight with St-Pierre might not be taking place. There’s a high probability that Condit will find himself on his back at some point over the course of a five-round fight, but the question is whether he’ll wilt until St-Pierre’s top control like so many before him, or attack with his submission game.

Strategy: St-Pierre – 10, Condit – 9

St-Pierre (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

If there were ever a legitimate chess match in MMA, this is the fight the epitomizes it. After all, St-Pierre has spent the better part of the past few years working with Condit’s camp and trainers from Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque. Coupled with the guidance of his TriStar MMA head trainer Firas Zahabi, St-Pierre has become the most tactful fighter in the sport. He has completely neutralized the strengths of every opponent since recapturing the UFC belt from Matt Serra at UFC 83.

The wildcard in the game plan of Condit lies in how much of St-Pierre’s success can be attributed to Greg Jackson. Condit himself executed the perfect strategy against Diaz to capture the interim belt, and if Jackson’s influence has been the difference with St-Pierre, Condit may have the chance to dethrone the champion.

Killer Instinct: St-Pierre – 9, Condit – 10

Condit (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Many have questioned whether it was a knockout loss to Serra or the tutelage of Greg Jackson that took away St-Pierre’s ability to finish fights. In all likelihood, it’s neither of those factors, as champions face the toughest level of competition in the sport. Yet, it’s hard to ignore that the only fight St-Pierre has stopped since reclaiming the belt was when B.J. Penn’s corner threw in the towel at UFC 94—a fight surrounded by a greasing controversy. While 13 of his 22 career wins have come by stoppage, the four straight decision wins have created doubt on whether the champion is playing it safe just to retain his title.

Condit, meanwhile, does not have the same problem as his opponent. In fact, his decision win over Diaz was just the fourth time in 33 career fights that he has gone the distance. While some criticized his performance that night, the fact that he has finished 26 of his 28 wins quickly erases the notion of Condit playing it safe. And the fact that he has an equal split of submissions and stoppages by strikes is clear evidence that if the opportunity to finish is there, Condit will go for it.

X-Factor

Athletes coming off major knee surgery do not always reflect the same quickness and comfort as before their injuries. As champion, St-Pierre doesn’t get a warm-up fight to ensure that he’s the same fighter he was before the injury. Instead, he’s headlining a pay-per-view event in his hometown against someone with intimate knowledge of his strengths and weaknesses. Will that spell the end of the champion’s reign? Or will he come back stronger and eager to prove that he’s still the same, dominant champion he’s always been?

Total: St-Pierre – 48, Condit – 48

Verdict: Despite the aggressive nature of Condit and his ability to finish fights, he’s facing an uphill battle against St-Pierre. The champion may be returning from a lengthy layoff, but his intelligence and athleticism have proved to be too much for fighters equally or more talented than Condit. Condit will have his moments over the course of 25 minutes, but he’ll be unable to keep the fight standing and St-Pierre will once again sit atop the welterweight division with a decision victory.

Top Photo: UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre (Brian Townsend/Sherdog)

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