Georges St. Pierre suffered one of the worst upsets in UFC history, and UFC 83 was his chance for revenge against Matt Serra.
Georges St-Pierre was supposed to be the new breed of mixed martial artist. He was one of the first fighters to combine elite multi-faceted skills with impressive athleticism and used them to run through the welterweight division. A victory over Matt Serra was a foregone conclusion in 2007, but one right hand changed the course of welterweight history as “The Terror” scored what was called the “Upset of the Decade” over GSP. At UFC 83, it was St. Pierre’s shot at redemption.
The thing to remember about Georges St. Pierre’s loss to Matt Serra is that he was supposed to have learned his lesson already. In 2004, three years before the infamous upset, he faced Matt Hughes for the title in just his third UFC fight. At the end of a back-and-forth first round, Hughes caught St-Pierre with a second remaining to submit the Canadian dynamo.
At the time, it was the latest victory in Hughes’ Hall-of-Fame career. But for St. Pierre, it motivated him to go on a fantastic tear back to title contention. He would go on to reel off six straight victories including wins over Hawaiian legend BJ Penn and future lightweight champion Sean Sherk. When he rematched Hughes, St-Pierre was able to deliver a one-sided performance that culminated in a head-kick KO to win the championship.
Matt Serra was an underachiever when he won The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback. He was a talented grappler who was known more for his losses to names like Penn rather than his two victories in five tries inside the Octagon. When he delivered the knockout to St-Pierre, the MMA world turned on it’s head. GSP had already gone through the growing pains of becoming a contender and now champion, or so we thought. But the loss put him back at square one after three years of work to reach the summit.
The rematch was punctuated by bad blood between the two as they went back-and-forth in the months leading up to the fight. Regardless, it was St-Pierre’s show as the UFC arrived in his native Montreal, Quebec, Canada to challenge Serra for the title. GSP throttled Serra in workmanlike fashion, repeatedly taking down “The Terror” and removing any threat of another upset.
It restarted the legendary run St-Pierre began two years prior. He would go on to defend the title nine times. But it was noted, he fought differently for the rest of his career. He would eventually draw criticism for being “too safe” in subsequent bouts, rather than attempt to finish in dynamic fashion as he had for years previously. In that way, it was a constant reminder of the last effect of the upset that was redeemed at UFC 83.
The night played host to other long-time staples of the UFC. Former middleweight champion Rich “Ace” Franklin made his comeback after his second loss to Anderson Silva. The question was now, where was Franklin to go after definitively losing to the champion. His fight against Travis Lutter was an attempt to wait out the middleweight kingpin as an upset to Silva would leave Franklin in prime position to challenge again for the belt. He needed only two rounds to stop Lutter, with the former TUF winner outclassed in the contest.
Michael Bisping made his middleweight debut on the card after going 14-1 at light-heavyweight. Bisping finished Charles McCarthy with a barrage of knees that left him unable to continue after the first round. There would be more to come at 185, against the very best competition in the world. He would win gold in 2016, but not before many battles and setbacks at middleweight that began on this night in Canada.
The night would also be notable for the debut of future heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Velasquez debuted in the Octagon with just two wins in his pro career when he stopped Brad Morris with less than half a round. He was the second fight that night, a huge difference from two years later when he would go on to stop Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 121 to become the heavyweight champion.
UFC 83 would be the beginning of a historic run by Georges St-Pierre, one that he had to earn a second time which is a testament to his abilities. It was the definition of a successful night in the UFC, with its biggest stars shining on the brightest stage.