MONTREAL -- A relentless Georges St-Pierre celebrated his comeback by winning a five-round decision over Carlos (Natural Born Killer) Condit to unify the welterweight title in a bloody battle at UFC 154 on Saturday night.
It was a high-tempo, take-no-prisoners fight with St-Pierre pushing the pace. The first two rounds went to GSP but Condit threatened briefly in the third. St-Pierre consolidated his lead with takedowns as the fight wore on.
Ultimately GSP's wrestling skills and ability to resist Condit's submission attempts on the ground won the day in what was an entertaining fight. St-Pierre controlled the contest.
The two battered fighters shook hands and embraced when the fight ended. The judges scored it almost a shutout for St-Pierre: 49-46, 50-45, 50-45.
St-Pierre had not fought since April 2011 as the result of reconstructive knee surgery following an injury suffered in training. Condit won the interim title during his absence, defeating Nick Diaz in February.
There were questions going into the fight. Would it be business as usual for St-Pierre in his seventh title defence? Or was the returning 170-pound champ ripe for the taking from a difficult opponent who seemed to be peaking at the right time. St-Pierre (23-2) proved willing and able.
"People talk about ring rust. I definitely know what it is now," said St-Pierre. "Credit to Carlos, he definitely gave me my toughest fight."
He said his knee was fine throughout the fight.
The GSP win likely means a super-fight showdown with middleweight (185-pound) champion Anderson Silva. The 37-year-old Brazilian met the media before the card started, declaring his interest in meeting GSP somewhere between their two weight classes.
"I need to take some vacation and think about it," St-Pierre said of the super-fight.
Said Condit: "His top game was very, very good. He was able to hold me down better than I expected. I feel like I did pretty well ... but I need to go back to the drawing board."
Silva was watching cageside, next to former light-heavyweight champion Lyota (The Dragon) Machida.
Condit walked to the cage to boos and the harsh sound of Rage Against the Machine.
St. Pierre followed in his traditional martial arts gear and headband, accompanied by a tsunami of cheers from the Bell Centre crowd and booming music of French rapper Fababy. The Maple Leaf flashed on the arena video screens.
The arena went wild as he entered the cage, with St-Pierre celebrating his return to action with a cartwheel. The chants of GSP started before the fighters were introduced.
GSP stalked the taller Condit from the get-go as the crowd sang "Ole, Ole, Ole." The first takedown came within two minutes, with St-Pierre looking to score from above in Condit's guard. Condit, comfortable fighting off his back, looked cool but took some damage.
Condit (28-6) was cut above the right eye by an elbow near the end of the round.
St-Pierre opened with strikes and kicks in the second, calmly cutting down the cage as he closed on Condit. He greeted an attempted flying knee with a punch to the face.
Condit swung away, trying a spinning backfist that missed. St-Pierre fired with the jab then took him down again with two minutes remaining. He passed guard and went to work, bloodying Condit up some more.
Condit tried to fight back from the bottom but was taking punishment. The two got up and exchanged blows as the round ended, with a bloody Condit raising his arms. GSP's face was also showing signs of wear.
Condit knocked St-Pierre down with a head kick early in the third and swarmed him. GSP weathered a dangerous storm and finally got back up, his face leaking blood. He then dumped Condit on the ground and won the rest of the round.
"I thought I had him there," Condit said of the kick.
Both men needed work by the cutmen after the round.
Another GSP takedown opened the fourth round as the two wrestled on a bloody canvas that looked like something from CSI: Las Vegas. Condit tried for a submission off his back, but St-Pierre fought him off and started hitting him again.
Condit came forward in the final round, in search of some answers. St-Pierre stood back and counter-punched. Then he took Condit down again, and the fight ended with GSP on top amidst the din of the Bell Centre.
In the co-main event, Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks knocked out Martin (The Hitman) Kampmann in 46 seconds in a battle of welterweight contenders.
-- The Canadian Press