By CagePotato Guest Contributor Brian Knapp
Matt Serra had never finished a fight with his fists until April 7, 2007. Talk about perfect timing. On that night, Serra shook the mixed martial arts world to its foundation, as he overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to topple a man who had been universally received as the planet’s premiere 170-pound fighter.
A full year has passed since the 33-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native clubbed Georges St. Pierre and stopped the favored French Canadian by first-round TKO to capture the welterweight championship at UFC 69 in Houston. Goliath had met his match inside the hallowed Octagon, and the sport sat in stunned silence.
With less than a week to go before their rematch at UFC 83 on Saturday night at Montreal’s Bell Centre, pundits lend little credence to Serra’s flawless performance 12 months ago. Many consider it a fluke, a stroke of luck, a hiccup in the space-time continuum. A coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter and a back injury have kept Serra out of the eight-sided cage since his historic upset, and St. Pierre has been nothing shy of impeccable in back-to-back wins over welterweight contender Josh Koscheck and future Hall-of-Famer Matt Hughes. Serra’s odds are long, but he embraces them nonetheless.
“They can look at it any way they want,” he says. “I know I’m the underdog, and I feel very comfortable in that role.”
St. Pierre, the thoroughbred who had all but cleaned out the UFC’s 170-pound division, never got out of the gate the first time the two met. Rocked repeatedly by Serra’s heavy hands, he wound up on his back, where he ate punches in jackhammer-like succession and was unable to mount a defense. Even so, Serra’s respect for St. Pierre’s physical capabilities runs deep.
“He’s dangerous on all fronts,” Serra says. “Georges is very well-rounded. He’s got very good wrestling besides the striking. Standing up, off my back … everywhere, basically, I have to be on my A-game.”
Having long compared himself to the lead character in the Rocky series, Serra figures to be confronted by the most hostile of crowds as he ventures into St. Pierre’s backyard in Montreal. His support will likely be limited to his cornermen.
“I don’t expect to get cheered walking out,” Serra says. “It’s not a problem. I think I’m finally going to feel what Tim Sylvia feels when he fights anywhere.”