The first Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn fight was a number one contender’s match in the welterweight division. Matt Hughes was the top dog and each guy wanted another shot. Penn beat Hughes to win the welterweight title at UFC 46, but would sign a contract with K-1, forfeiting his title. In a match to claim the vacant welterweight title that Penn forfeited, the UFC pitted Hughes and St. Pierre. Hughes beat St. Pierre by catching him an arm bar just seconds before the first round was over.
At UFC 58, St. Pierre faced a returning Penn for a shot at Hughes. The card had a USA vs. Canada theme with Rich Franklin vs. David Loiseau as the main event. The match is mostly famous because it was a true battle, but also because of the scoring. It was only a three round fight. Penn clearly won the first round while St. Pierre clearly won the third round. It’s the second round that’s debatable and two judges gave St. Pierre the round while one gave Penn the round, thus giving the fight to St. Pierre by split decision. Many people actually think Penn won the fight, including Cactus Jim who said so during our preview for UFC 94. I thought St. Pierre won the closest of decisions when I originally watched it. I’m going to watch it again and see if I come to the same conclusion.
St. Pierre came out the aggressor with his leg kicks and right hands, but Penn was able to pretty much walk through them and counter St. Pierre. He caught him in the eye with one punch and it shook up St. Pierre just a little bit, but he also bloodied his nose. St. Pierre stayed with his game plan which seemed to be to soften up Penn’s legs with the kicks and stay active and out of range of Penn’s power punches. Penn was calm and was able to score with punches. For some reason, and I think it’s probably because of the blood, it was in my head that Penn completely dominated St. Pierre in the round, but that wasn’t the case. He won the round. But St. Pierre wasn’t dominated. St. Pierre clearly looked frustrated at the end of the round and even walked to the wrong corner.
10-9 for Penn
Watching this again, I think Penn’s natural calmness worked against him. There were two times in the round where St. Pierre was able to take him down and Penn didn’t really fight the takedown or try to get off his back. Was he in trouble at any moment? No. But when the fight is a stalemate on the feet, the guy who scores two takedowns is going to get the round. You could also see where St. Pierre’s strength was starting to be a factor because he pushed Penn into the cage a couple of times. But again, Penn didn’t really fight it, so you could say that he kind of gave away the round.
10-9 for St. Pierre
Penn looked much more tired in between rounds two and three than St. Pierre did. My memory lied to me a little bit again as I thought St. Pierre dominated the third round, but watching it back, I would definitely score it for him, but it wasn’t by domination. A couple of things were clear watching this third round. One, Penn wasn’t in the shape he needed to be in. The pace was ok, but it wasn’t at breakneck speed or anything and Penn gassed. The second was that St. Pierre was just physically stronger and when he needed to reach down into his second tank, he was able to out-muscle Penn. With about a minute to go, you could have scored the round even. But when St. Pierre got that second takedown, you had to score it for him. I know that Penn tried to submit him from his back, but he didn’t have enough time, and it might’ve been just for show for the scorecards.
10-9 St. Pierre
The way I’d score the fight today is exactly the same as I scored it the first time. St. Pierre won a very close fight by winning two rounds to Penn’s one.
By winning this fight, St. Pierre would become the number one contender for Matt Hughes’ welterweight championship. However, he’d have to wait his turn because Dana White had a bigger match on the table. Royce Gracie would return for one fight against Matt Hughes at UFC 60. It was at a catch weight and non-title, but it broke the UFC PPV record for the time being until Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz had their rematch. St. Pierre was supposed to get his title match at UFC 63, but had to bow out because of a groin injury. Penn stepped in and had Hughes reeling in the first and second round. But he suffered an injury late in the second round and was dead on his feet in the third. Hughes would say that it was Penn’s cardio that went out, but it was obvious that it was at least a combination of an injury and the cardio issues that caused Penn to not be able to defend himself. St. Pierre would beat Hughes for the title in decisive fashion at UFC 65, lose to Matt Serra, regain the belt, and then beat Hughes again.
You can watch the fight below.