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Fortunes changed for five at UFC 158

A lot was made on Saturday night of the ending in the ring of the Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz fight. After a grueling 25-minute fight, a victorious St-Pierre asked his hometown crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal to cheer the man they paid $3.7 million to see get smashed into oblivion. (He did) a great job of promoting the fight, said St-Pierre. He’s a good guy. Please give him hands (applause). More Coverage: UFC 158 Results | UFC newsDownload MMA Fighting iPhone App To a crowd where their champion can do almost no wrong, that was met with resounding boos. Fans at home had similar reactions. They had paid somewhere in the range of $35 million or more, based on commercials that led them to believe Diaz was a brooding, disrespectful outlaw who was finally going to get what was coming to him by one of the most talented fighters the sport will ever see. Instead, they were left in some cases with frustrations and mixed feelings. Sure, they had witnessed one of the year’s best fights, a battle between Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks that only emphasized the consensus going in, that Hendricks was the legitimate No. 1 contender for St-Pierre. But Hendricks had to settle for the co-main event slot because Diaz has a unique ability to make people gravitate toward him and be compelled to watch and follow everything he does and says. Diaz is the company’s most unpredictable fighter both in and out of the cage. He’s a sound bite machine. Unlike so many others who have attempted to master the art of pre-show promotion, Diaz outsells almost all of them while not even thinking about it. And then, many felt slapped in the face. They bought the show based on hatred, dark music, and seeing a different St-Pierre than they’d ever seen before. Worse, Diaz had told them two days earlier, talking about wolf tickets, that they were buying tickets based on fake hype. In St-Pierre’s mind, the idea of the fight is you battle for 25 minutes, and when it’s over, the grudge is over and you thank the guy. It’s the sportsman’s way to do things, and St-Pierre is the squeaky-clean white hat of the promotion. For Diaz, you never know. After ending Frank Shamrock’s career in what really was a personal grudge since Shamrock had knocked out Diaz’s mentor, Cesar Gracie, years earlier. It was the classic young student garnering revenge for his Sensei story filled with trash talk. Diaz, however, reacted with nothing but sportsmanship, helping Shamrock to his feet and saying, Get up. You’re a legend. Usually, for the crowd at the end of the fight, that’s what they want to see. Two guys fighting to see who is the best. And when it’s over, both showing respect and embracing. It makes you feel good about yourself and the sport. The Hendricks vs. Condit fight was the perfect example of this. But there were no illusions going past the hopes that these two would provide an entertaining match and we would see who truly deserves to be the top contender. When it was over, fans got that, and even more than they expected. But it’s those few times a year when that isn’t the case, those are the night the cash registers jingle more than any other. And this was one of them, likely UFC’s biggest money fight since last year’s similarly-promoted Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen battle. People didn’t want St-Pierre to ask the fans who truly hated Diaz to give him hands when it was over. To them, the movie was still on and the closing credits hadn’t played, and nobody wanted to see the fourth wall broken. It’s what made the finish of the Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate fight last year far more palatable to fans. After similar hype, when it was over, neither woman told the audience that bought into their fight, that they had really been taken for a ride. But as far as whose fortunes changed, before getting into the five, the one person whose situation remained the same was St-Pierre. He’s long since surpassed any standards as a Hall of Famer. At this point, the only question is which spot in top five fighters of all-time that he deserves. His beating Diaz tied him with the retired Matt Hughes for the all-time record for most UFC wins with 18. It tied him with Royce Gracie for the second spot for most consecutive wins, with 11, behind Anderson Silva’s 16. It tied him with Silva for most title match wins, with 11. He moved past Matt Hughes for most successful title defenses, with 8, behind only Silva with 11. His next test won’t be sold on hatred. It’ll be sold on the idea that Hendricks won’t be taken down as easily and as often as Diaz was, and while not the technical stand-up fighter St-Pierre is, Hendricks has far more firepower in both hands. As far as Fortunes changed for Five, on a night built around welterweights, we’ll look at five people to keep our eyes on going forward. NICK DIAZ – A seeming mass of contradictions, Diaz’s mouth and actions made him among the most compelling figures the sport has ever seen. He can’t be put back into a rematch, nor matched…

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