Home Events Analysis: Georges St-Pierre vs Johny Hendricks

Analysis: Georges St-Pierre vs Johny Hendricks

Photo Courtesy of UFC

Was Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks a robbery? MMA leaders, fighters, and fans were very quick to make snap judgements to what appeared to be a robbery. Yet Firas Zahabi and GSP absolutely believe that they won the fight. How could something like this happen? Why is it so controversial?

This article will cover these questions and seek to answer it.

In short, the answer is: cognitive bias, logical fallacies, and forgetting how a fight is scored.

Intuition and Damage: 

I’d like to first point out that we’re highly intuitive beings, and when we see things that look good, we are inclined to favor them. In terms of MMA, this often means athleticism and damage (from real to superficial). Damage will rank highest in memory. If two men go to war in a fight with lots of output, we’ll remember the most significant strikes the best.

Recency Effect (cognitive bias): When recalling a round, events at the end of the round are more likely to be recalled.

Using the intuition, damage, and cognitive bias theories, this is what may have happened:

Going into round five, judgements could be heavily influenced by the clear cut rounds of 2 and 4 heavily favoring Hendricks. Seeing these rounds, it’s easy to forget that round 1 may be a close round squeaked out by GSP. Also, in round 3, GSP was clearly out striking Hendricks, but in the later part of the round, Hendricks got a takedown and landed some short strikes.  This means that to many people’s minds, it could very well be falsely interpreted as 3-1 or 4-0. So to them, if round 5 was given to GSP, there’s no way GSP could win- and hence the outcry of robbery.

But the whole fight ought to be remembered and judged by each and all of the round. This is an objective that’s very difficult to achieve, in particular if it’s judged on the spot. It’s without a doubt that these factors played a critical role in creating the controversy.

Influence of Authority:

Figures in authority are often knowledgeable, charismatic, and persuasive. For this reason we are inclined to believe what they say. People who watch UFC will hear Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan talk for hours. People after the fight will listen, read, and write about Dana White’s opinions. This is a huge influence on our thinking.

Commentary and media is invaluable at capturing and engaging an audience. For this reason (and their charisma), we grow to value commentator’s opinion and entertainment insight. But in the wrong light, commentators can create a very biased outlook towards a fight. Even as an analyst, I’m not free of making this mistake. I love Joe Rogan, but I’d like to note that while Joe Rogan is a masterful grappler and Taekwondo artist, he is not an expert in general striking.

Most importantly, Mr. Rogan has a tendency to favor an underdog when he is tactfully fighting (seemingly invincible) champions: cases in point Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jon Jones, Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo, Mauricio Shogun Rua vs. Lyoto Machida.

Listen to the fight again and you will see Joe Rogan display this same bias towards GSP.

Result : Favoring Hendricks through the commentary.

To stay away from commentary bias: turn off the sound or take it with a grain of salt. This is how you can judge the fight more objectively.

As for Dana White- think marketing, opinions from emotion, and power. A rematch between Hendricks and GSP is obviously something fans want to see after a war (or if you consider it a controversial decision)- Dana’s objective as CEO is to make it happen. But just like anyone else, Dana White is not free of making mistakes in judging fights, nor is he always objective.

So take out Dana White and the commentary of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, we have a few more authoritative figures to consider:

1. Opinionated Fighters:

I’ll use the words of Dana White when he was referring to Connor McGregor tweeting to Miesha and Ronda: “I don’t expect people to be rocket scientists here. We’re not gonna go out and find a cure for cancer or anything, all I ask for is a little common sense. Just a little tiny bit of common sense.”

Opinionated fighters, in my opinion, has the most legitimacy. They train and they fight, this is what they live and breath for. But when they’re not fighting, studying, or preparing for a camp, they’re most likely watching it for entertainment. They’re most likely not scrutinizing each and every movement on paper. Rather, they’re most likely listening to Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, maybe sipping some beers with friends, possibly casually viewing the fight, and in the end intuitively judging the bout.

The main emphasis is that they are not meticulously scoring the fight as a judge would, and while they are probably more thoughtful than a casual fan, they are by no means objective (or “rocket scientists”).

2. The Fight Metric:

My number one critique: what is a significant strike? How are they able to consider a significant strike so quickly? As someone who studied striking techniques intensely, I’ll tell you that it’s very difficult for me to judge a “significant” strike over another. So what does a higher number really mean? Will a high kick weigh higher than 3 jabs? On paper, 3 medium powered jabs will appear better than an explosive high kick, and that’s a problem.

If you want to use fight metrics: round two and four was clearly for Hendricks, while three and five was in favor for GSP. Round one is the real toss up. But in any case, very few would say that Hendricks won more than three rounds. The real controversy arises from GSP’s rounds being closer while Hendrick’s rounds were clear cut, but we’d be wise to remember that the ten-point system does not consider this.

Round 1 Analysis? : 

Official Score Card

All judges gave GSP round 3 and 5, and Hendricks 2 and 4. With the argument from authority out of the way, I’ll show you just how hard round one is to judge.

1-2: GSP lands jab ; 3 Hendrick misses ; 4-5 GSP gets a take down ; 6-7 two separate attempts to submit ; 8-9 TRADES knees.

1. GSP body shot ; 2. Hendricks knee. ; 3. GSP body shot. ; 4. GSP knee. ; 5. GSP knee ; 6. GSP body Shot ; 7-8 Hendricks grapples and puts GSP to the cage. 9. GSP body shot.

1-2 Knee by Hendricks 3. Body shot by GSP ; 4. Knee by GSP 5. Knee by GSP ; 6. Knee by Hendricks ; 7. Mario breaks it up ; 8. Missed uppercut ; 9. GSP goes for a shot.

1. GSP goes for a take down. ; 2. Hendricks throws body shot ; 3. GSP strikes to the head ; 4. Hendricks throws punches ; 5-6 GSP puts Hendricks to the cage. 6. Hendricks throws powerful elbows to GSP’s head. 8. Hendrick reverses. 9. GSP knees

1-2. Hendrick knees ; 3. Hendricks take down ; 4. GSP gets back up ; 5. Hendricks knees ; 6. GSP knees ; 7.. GSP lands / almost lands a front kicks ; 8. Hendricks clips GSP with a missed knee on its way down ; 9. GSP lands jab.

1. GSP lands side kick ; 2. Hendricks Missed uppercut ; 3-4. GSP head kick flush ; 5. GSP left hook ; 6. Gsp misses jab; 7. GSP body shot ; 8. Hendricks knee ; 9. GSP knee

More exchanges.


Judge for yourself. You have the (near comprehensive) screenshots now, and all the time in the world to make a judgement. If you want, you could even go watch round one again. After hours of taking screenshots and watching the round over and over again, I can’t even clearly decide who it is that won it. Intuitively, I give it to GSP because I appreciate the diversity of his strikes, output, and movement. But I can see it being given to Hendricks because of the explosiveness exhibited. These things are entirely subjective.

So where’s the robbery?

Is it possible the robbery is towards GSP when considering his efforts?  Many have been quick to make snap judgements, similar to the oversimplification in telling Anderson Silva to keep his hands up. I welcome those who are dogmatic about how Hendricks clearly won to go ahead and display their technical explanation. Without due diligence we may be effectively robbing a great effort from one of the greatest welterweights in MMA.

On a side note, Georges St-Pierre does not deserve fickle fans nor snap judgements from logical fallacies and cognitive biases. Rather, if he retires today and now, he may well deserve to be known as a man with the greatest welterweight reign in UFC history. He may deserve to be known as the individual who defeated Johny Hendricks in a closely contested war. While it can be said he owes the fans much, we too may well owe him much more than what he got the other night.


As always, thank you for reading, and stay tuned for a discussion of the techniques we saw on Saturday.

  • Colin Bisson

    This is the best article I have read since the fight concerning it. I love that you took a step back, rewatched it and then wrote this article. Other journalists on sites like mmafighting.com are still calling it a blatant robbery. The more comments I read from people who rewatched the fight, the more I’m seeing people backtrack and say “wait a minute…I can see how GSP won.” Well done article, lots of thought put into it. I appreciate this as a fan and as an avid mma journalism reader.

    • Lawrence Kenshin

      Thanks Colin, really appreciate your feedback. I try to be as thoughtful as possible, especially when controversies such as this arises. Your high praise keeps me motivated to deliver more in the future, thanks again for reading.

    • Colin, thank you for the compliments. Lawrence is truly an excellent analyst. You might think I am biased in giving one of our writers a compliment, but I have to say I agree with you on many levels and even I have been (like many fans) debating the outcome of the fight. Yet Lawrence’s analysis is truly excellent and should give many pause. I still maintain that the Ten Point system is largely where the misunderstandings stem from. Whether anyone thinks that should be revised is another discussion entirely, however this analysis is “the” most complete recount of the fight to date. I stand with Lawrence in asking those who dispute his conclusions to provide their own in-depth analysis. In fact, should it be well thought out and well presented, I’d publish it. 🙂

  • ginger

    Great article. I agree about round 1 being very hard to call, I’ve watched it 3 times and it’s too close to call for me, glad I wasn’t a judge. I also agree that Rogan was being somewhat biased in favour of Hendricks in his commentary.

    • Lawrence Kenshin

      Thanks ginger :). Rogan is a great commentator, but he definitely favours underdogs when they perform against kings.

  • David

    Great article. When it comes to judging round 1 I agree it was very close to call. I have to by default give a round that close to the defending champion, because when you are the challenger you are the one that has to prove yourself. Proving yourself entails making it a clear decision, not “too close to call”.

    • Lawrence Kenshin

      Thanks David!

    • XXxxMacleodxxXX

      rules are the same for everyone …unless we are going to admit that the champion gets a handicap every fight….or we are just setting up something unfair and potentially dangerous, where someone is pummeled so badly the ref will not be able to get in before it occurs (Dan Henderson vs Bisping, or Babalu scenario)

  • K3vbot

    it’s also hard not to consider that GSP’s knees were being thrown with a quarter of the apparent force of Hendrix’s. It’s hard for me to ever tell if GSP is winning on the feet because he doesn’t ever throw with the intention of doing damage. You are completely 1000% correct that if a correct scoring system was used, in a situation like this the rounds could go 10-10 10-8 JH 10-9 GSP 10-8 JH 10-9 GSP (or something along those lines.) But then again since no other judges score that way, the first judge to start would catch major crap.

    • MarkStolzoff

      nailed it. Hendricks had bad intentions with his shots, GSP just wanted to hug a puppy with his

  • Walter D. Camacho

    I completely agree. Many were quick to judge the fight for Hendricks, when he in fact missed a lot more strikes and received much more. He was taken down more, and had at least 4 submission attempts done against his person, from which he escaped by mere brute force (not surprisingly, however, since he is a wrestler, not a submission-oriented grappler). They both fought tremendously well, but I honestly voted St. Pierre from the start. Many confuse damage vs. striking dominance or even grappling dominance by simple aesthetics. I quite enjoyed your break-down of the fight, even spotting some strikes I did not notice before. I do, however, wonder how many actually did their job rather than simply make bare contact.

    • Lawrence Kenshin

      Thanks Walter, I really like your feedback. It’s clear that you’re very detail oriented, and noticed many things I didn’t catch on to the first time seeing it. When watching it in public or with friends, it’s very easy to be influenced by surrounding and forget the details that matter. I was also influenced to a certain extent, but I’ll remember it as a lesson!

  • Mario Alvarez

    You are biased still because you’re still looking from point of view more, and that happens to be the “champ”. You are making people think they see how GSP won, but thats all wrong. Johny is the uncrowned champ and he won that fight. His strikes in the first round were more effective. GSP & Hendricks were exchanging in that clinch in the first round and all of Johny’s shots hit harder. He made GSP have a leave of absence, and not wanting to fight. He tore his face up and his was clean. Like Hendricks said, if you would of fought the fight he fought, you would of thought you won too.

    • Markus

      Where’s the objectivity in your point? You don’t have any details to present.

    • BeeWee

      It has not got anything to do with a bloody bruised face, some fighters bruise quicker.
      The absence you’re talking about has to do with some issues like his old manager wanting to sue him for millions of dollars.

      Ofcourse he is messed up now, but he looked the same after the Condit fight.
      You cannot judge someone his appearence in the fight because some fighters will bleed earlier or get bruised faster.

  • Jeeemmo

    You also have to consider that a Championship fight is judged (Possibly unfairly) on a different metric than non-Championship fights. The Champ will always get the benefit of the doubt in a close contest. To be the champ you have to BEAT the champ not fight him close and put it in the hands of the judges.

    • It certainly would be nice for those metrics to be more clear 🙂 Fair or unfair, at least a fighter knows what they are walking into… Of course, most cynics would agree, they should already know by now…

  • MarkStolzoff

    He’d go down as the guy who Never Finished a fight as champion

  • tk11

    That was a great article and a true analysis of the fight. Well done Lawrence.

    • Lawrence Kenshin

      Thanks TK =)

  • Venus Chan

    Love the analysis here as it covers a wide spectrum of how perception affects judgment. Of the people crying out it was a robbery, prolly 75% do not even understand how a fight is scored.

    The only thing I thought of that would add to the perception bias is the fact that GSP dominates fights. Period. The fact that wasn’t the case in this fight would have influenced how people viewed the outcome. I think lots of fans and pundits expected the usual from both fighters. A KO from JH or a dominant albeit no finish UD for GSP. Since neither happened, I think it was enough for people to feel FOR JH because GSP wasn’t able to dominate the way he usually does.

    In spite of the damage GSP took, I think he actually proved something too. People say his chin is suspect. I saw him EAT punches. Damage taken definitely but he was willing to engage in spite of.

    • Lawrence Kenshin

      Wow. I didn’t think (totally forgot) about the general false dichotomy / binary people used when approaching the fight. Unanimous decision vs. getting KOed and losing decision vs. KO. That’s how they sold the fight! Brilliant, Miss. Chan :), I’ll be keeping your comment as a constant reminder for the future.

      As for proving something- GSP got his best dogfight. Less willingness to engage in the past though, in my opinion, was due to technical reasons. His opponents did not know how to deal with the jab, and thus more risky strikes were not particularly necessary. Hendricks is a southpaw (inherently harder to jab against) that also knows well on how to deal with (punish/defend) the jab.

      This alone makes him a nightmarish matchup for GSP (oddly a champion that has mechanically weird rear-hands), as he’s taking a rather minimalist approach throughout his career (after the Serra fight). So in my view, it’s not so much that he was willing to engage as he was forced to engage. In other words, he needed the riskier strikes to win, as the jab would not win him the fight. Mr. Jack Slack did an excellent piece on some (or all) these factors I mentioned, if you’re interested you ought to give it a read :).

      • Venus Chan

        Thanks, sir! Can I have the link? I was watching the fight in a bar where the folks beside me were expecting GSP to keep taking the fight to the ground when he was getting hit. I guess that was what I meant by willing to engage. Great TD def by JH too by the way.

        GSP hasn’t lost a rematch. Any thoughts how he CAN overcome this nightmare? (Forgetting what happened after the match for the moment).

  • Zach

    Round 1 was not that close. Their takedowns canceled each others out, Hendricks landed cleaner strikes, pushed the pace, and landed the much harder shots. Those elbows against the cage were the most significant strikes of the round. Add in Hendricks' knee, those punches toward the end of the rd that backed st Pierre up, and those repeated knees to the thigh, and that's clearly a win over a 2 second sub attempt and two deflected head kicks.