GSP vs Thiago Alves Betting Analysis, UFC 100
George St-Pierre (-270, Sportsbook) vs Thiago Alves (+260, BetCRIS)
This welterweight title fight is a very interesting matchup. We have a striker turned wrestler taking on a devastating Muay Thai practitioner with a great takedown defense.
George St-Pierre has been a dominating figure in the UFC’s welterweight division since his arrival at UFC 46 in 2004 where he defeated Karo Parisyan. He has had some great battles against the likes of Matt Hughes (twice), BJ Penn (twice), Matt Serra, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk, and Jason Miller. Now GSP originally came into the sport as a very dangerous striker. He comes from a Kyokushin karate background and has a very stick-and-move standup style. His trademark move, which we missed in the most recent Penn fight, was his spinning back-kick. That being said, his evolution as a wrestler is what has really defined his career.
GSP trains with the Canadian Olympic Wrestling Team and his takedown ability shows just that. In fact, he has made his career out of out-wrestling wrestlers. This really became evident in his dismantling of Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, two fighters with extremely impressive wrestling pedigrees. I believe GSP’s main wrestling advantage has come from the additional threat that he has in the standup. Since he is unafraid to stand and trade with a guy, they have to constantly defend both his hands and takedown attempts. This makes it very tough for an opponent to effectively sprawl, and GSP does a great job mixing up his attacks. He will even stand and kick box for an entire round and then immediately go into a wrestling strategy the very next round (see Fitch rounds 2 and 3). This unpredictability has made him very dangerous and a real nightmare for other wrestlers.
Currently, GSP trains out of Greg Jackson’s camp and therefore has a lot of great fighters to train with. This includes the likes of Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Nate Marquart, and Donald Cerrone. However, with the recent loss of Evans and Jardine, we have seen that the Jackson X-factor may be losing a bit of its luster.
It also should be noted that GSP is a very large welterweight. He even made Jon Fitch look small. Yet, some his last few fights have been against natural lightweights in the form of Matt Serra and BJ Penn. This size advantage allowed GSP to use his wrestling and clinch work to smother his opponents for the first couple rounds, wear them down, and then put them away in the later rounds. His current MO is to use the clinch to wear his opponents out in the first round, kick box in the second, and then really GnP in the later rounds. So be very careful in assuming that he will immediately go to the ground, since that has not been his normal game plan in the past.
Thiago Alves is an interesting fighter that has taken a somewhat similar route as GSP in his fighter evolution. Thiago comes from a decorated Brazilian Muay Thai background. He then moved to the US when he was 19 to train specifically with the American Top Team. Since then, he has improved leaps and bounds with his takedown defense. He was able to prevent being taken down by Josh Koscheck and brutally KO Matt Hughes with a flying knee while Matt went for a takedown.
That being said, Thiago really has a two-tier wrestling defense. To begin with, he has a great sprawl to prevent the takedown in the first place. However, even if he does get taken down, he doesn’t really bother with submission attempts from the bottom (like Fitch, Serra, and Penn attempted on GSP), but just ties up his opponents and waits for the standup. He effectively neutralized Hughes’s GnP and I have little doubt that he should be able to do the same to GSP. Thiago’s method is to tie up the arms with over-hooks and GSP usually uses his elbows to push off his opponent’s chest to create his space for his GnP. If Thiago is able to tie up GSP’s arms, then he will be able to neutralize GSP’s ground game.
On the feet, I feel that Thiago definitely has the edge. He has very powerful hands with a very tight stance. He has no problem standing in the pocket, unlike GSP’s stick-and-move style. His leg-kicks are also a thing of pure beauty. He snaps his kicks with great hip-rotation and with such ferocity that it is just awe-inspiring. They are also extremely fast with very little telegraphing. In my opinion, it is Thiago’s kicks that are going to be the deciding factor in this fight. Due to GSP’s propensity to stand for the first couple rounds before he really starts wrestling his opponents, Thiago should be able to do enough damage to GSP’s lead leg to prevent the takedowns later. It should also be noted that GSP has a very wide stance that plays into his wrestling strategy, but will make him very susceptible to Thiago’s kicks.
In summary, I have the nagging feeling that people think that GSP is just going to take this fight to the ground and GnP Thaigo to victory. However, with his past game plans calling for initial standup and clinch work, I think Thiago has a great chance to neutralize GSP’s wrestling with his leg kicks. After a few of those land, GSP will be unable to take Thiago down. After that, Thiago will be able to stalk GSP down and let his hands and feet really fly. If GSP is able to take him down, Thiago should be able to tie his up and get the ref to stand them back up.
Another very big issue in this fight is the fact that GSP will most likely be the smaller fighter. He has usually had a good size advantage and was able to use that to smother his past opponents. However, Thiago is notorious for cutting from as high as 195lbs down to 170lbs. This will give him a great advantage in preventing GSP’s typical initial game plan. If they clinch up, Thiago can shrug him off and won’t just be thrown around like many of GSP’s past opponents.
Final Prediction: Thiago Alves at +260 risking 2.5 units to win 6.5 units. I am a huge fan of GSP, but this looks like a very bad matchup for the current champ and after a few title defenses, lines start getting a little out of whack as people start thinking the champ can walk on water.