GSP-Diaz and the path of least resistance

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
2:42
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Nick DiazJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesMatching Nick Diaz's marketability with GSP is exciting news for everyone except Johny Hendricks.
In a UFC on FOX prefight media scrum, Dana White confirmed what a lot of people were thinking: that Georges St-Pierre wants to fight Nick Diaz next. And, with St-Pierre having been such a good lad this holiday season, that's the new fight they're looking at giving him.

Cool. That's a fantastic fight. It was that way before UFC 137 -- back when it was on, then off -- and it is now. But today, it's a fantastic fight with all kinds of messy side effects. It's a fantastic fight out of time and place, even if it is very fun to think about.

Diaz is coming off a suspension, a loss, an all-but-forgotten retirement and that pre-UFC 137 bit of insubordination that got him removed from his last chance at St-Pierre. Johny Hendricks is fresh off annihilations of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, with a gritty decision in between over Josh Koscheck.

These things aren't equal. That's why it's complicated.

Hendricks deserves the fight, but he's only deserving. Diaz is alluring, plus three more things: He's a softer letdown from a "superfight" not happening; he's money; and he's Nick Diaz. If he beats St-Pierre, there's no nightmare attached. The same can't be said if the anonymous bearded guy beats St-Pierre. At least not yet.

But let's try to clarify the situation as it stands: Hendricks, the active No. 1 contender in the UFC's welterweight division, joins a growing list of heavy-handed wrestlers who have Octagon control but no control outside the Octagon (along with Dan Henderson at 205 pounds, and Chris Weidman at 185). You know how it looks? Like these fighters are being asked to keep earning title shots until they lose and title shots are no longer available to them. That's a tough swallow.

Then again, these things happen. Chael Sonnen, who hasn't fought at 205 pounds in half a decade and is coming off a definitive loss at 185, is fighting Jon Jones for the title. If that's justifiable, then this is nothing.

All of this started, of course, with Anderson Silva, who called out St-Pierre. We all knew that a "superfight" was going to involve hurt feelings from people near the top of either division. That's the nature of the big inter-division superfights: the backburners need to stay lit while the champions collide. Thing is, the idea of GSP-Silva is massive enough to trump a few slights. Even Hendricks understood that.

GSP-Diaz, though, isn't a superfight. It's a blood fight, one that lots of people -- St-Pierre especially -- are impatient to make happen. Hendricks, and many others, are having a harder time understanding that.

Complicating things further was the fact that White began chirping about GSP-Silva. It was a forgone conclusion that the bout was happening at one of three fancy venues (Cowboys Stadium, the Rogers Centre in Toronto or a big soccer stadium in Brazil). Silva even flew to Montreal to watch St-Pierre defend his 170-pound belt against Carlos Condit at UFC 154, and was shown on a big screen throughout the PPV reacting to every blow. It was a lot of expectation. It was on. It had to be.

Then it wasn't.

St-Pierre won, but afterward didn't seem overly excited for a Silva bout. In fact, he seemed peeved at all the presumption going on around him. Buzzkill. Then he went on vacation to heal and not think about fighting (a fib, because he was clearly thinking about Diaz).

St-Pierre wants Diaz. Silva wants St-Pierre. Diaz wanted Silva (remember that?), but he's cool with St-Pierre. That's straightforward enough. St-Pierre went last, so his vote is newest. He picks Diaz. Diaz isn't Silva, but, with no super-clash with Silva, it's better than Hendricks. He comes equipped with anticipation from the UFC 137 moment that never happened. He comes equipped with unfinished business, which is sellable. Plus, GSP-Diaz isn't a huge departure from GSP-Silva. In fact, GSP-Diaz might be bigger when you factor in the hype and lead-up.

Does any of that make it right? No. But it's not wrong, either.

[+] EnlargeJohny Hendricks
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comSeeing Johny Hendricks miss out on a chance to challenge for Georges St-Pierre's title is a raw deal for those who trust the UFC's pecking order.
If anything, it's awkward timing coming on the heels of the whole Sonnen/Henderson/Jones "marketability versus meritocracy" blow-up, but this instance has better legs. Diaz's suspension was harsh, considering he had a medical marijuana card in the state he lived in. And his loss to Condit wasn't very definitive. It was close. St-Pierre and Diaz also belong in the same weight class, and are both are among the consensus top five in the division.

More importantly, these guys hate each other. Why prolong the inevitable?

Not that any of that matters to Hendricks, who has very politely went about his business of knocking out or beating each guy placed in front of him. This is a raw deal for him. Not to mention a raw deal for people who trust the pecking order. Or for the purists, or those who believe Hendricks is a far scarier challenge to St-Pierre than Diaz.

These people may be right. I tend to think this way, too.

But the UFC was promising GSP-Silva. And when that couldn't be made, it went to the next big thing. And that's GSP-Diaz. With so many promises floating around out there at once, the UFC chose the route of disappointing the least amount of people possible.

Now there's really only one thing left to say about it: Sorry, Johny.

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