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Cesar Gracie on GSP: “He’s a great hammer. Let’s see him when he’s the nail.”

By Zach Arnold | April 26, 2011

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It’s the biggest fight in the history of Jake Shields’ impressive MMA career. It’s the largest live event ever in the history of the UFC. Firas Zahabi, trainer extraordinaire for GSP, says that once the fight starts you forget about counting the heads of 55,000 spectators in the venue. Kenny Florian, friend of the Tri-Star Gym in Montreal, knows differently.

“This is unlike anything any fighter will have experienced unless they’ve fought over in PRIDE,” he stated to Josh Gross on his Monday ESPN radio show. “You (have) the Rampage Jacksons and those guys who had the honor of fighting over in Japan with that big crowd. But even then, just the loudness of it and the fact that it is a UFC event and it’s North America is huge. How do you prepare for 55,000 lunatic Canadian fans? It’s going to be phenomenal, a ton of great fights, and you know I said it before, this is something that will go down in a fighter’s career, something that they will always remember.”

If there was ever a radio show to go out of your way to listen to, it would most certainly be Monday’s GPB ESPN podcast. Josh Gross interviewed the two trainers in Saturday’s mega-fight, Firas Zahabi & Cesar Gracie. The attitude both men carry into the fight is confident, but the way their address their respective opponents is certainly different. Cesar Gracie is extremely confident that his man is the favorite to win Saturday’s fight and that the momentum is on their side.

“GSP’s never fought someone on this kind of level in his life. He just hasn’t. A lot of people will point out to the guys GSP has fought, Matt Serra, BJ Penn, but those are 155-pounders that are fighting GSP at 170. Those are guys that can make 155. I mean, Jake cannot make 155 unless you cut his legs off or something, it’s not going to happen. Jake, I think, like Joe Rogan said, I think he’s the best grappler (GSP) has ever encountered. So if it gets into grappling and scrambling, I feel really good about that.”

I don’t think there’s any question that the grappling battle will be fascinating, but that’s not where this fight will likely be won or lost. It’s in the stand-up game and the clear-cut advantage favors St. Pierre. Ask Josh Koscheck what makes St. Pierre such a great stand-up fighter. As Mr. Gracie pointed out to Josh, it’s his speed.

“I’m not as concerned about his strength as Jake can deal with enormous strength. I’m not concerned with, you know, anything like that. But the biggest thing in this fight, I think, is the speed that GSP brings to the table. He throws a jab, he drops his other hand, he throws a right hand Superman punch whatever you want to call it, he does a lot of things that you’re not going to do in traditional boxing where someone will make you pay for it. But because he’s so quick at it, it works for him and so his explosiveness and his speed are the biggest attributes that he’s bringing to the table for this fight. And, accordingly, we’re trying to, you know, have Jake deal with that.”

By far, the most intriguing comments of the interview came when Josh asked Cesar the way he sees this fight turning out. He all but labels GSP as a front-runner, in the sense that St. Pierre is a guy who once he starts to dominate never lets up but may react quite differently when on the other end of the attack.

“I’d say tapout, I really do. I think that the best way for Jake to do it is to… of course… I’m not impressed with… I’ve never seen anything from GSP’s toughness in regards to taking a beating. He’s a great hammer. Let’s see him when he’s the nail. And that’s the biggest thing, you know, I did see him tap out to Serra from strikes and, you know, could you imagine Nick Diaz tapping out to strikes? I can’t. It wouldn’t happen. You’d have to kill him and it still wouldn’t happen. So, you know, Jake has to put GSP in some deep water like that and really see what he’s made out because GSP is such a phenomenal athlete. He doesn’t have to, he can always be the hammer in his fights, he can always punish people and punish them. I want to see what happens when he’s getting punished, also. When it’s, you know, when you got to come back from that punishment. When BJ Penn in their very first fight, BJ was starting to punish him, first round it was all BJ, lighting him up on his feet. So what did GSP second round said, hey, I don’t like this, I’m going to clinch, I’m going to take you down, I’m going to win on points and that’s exactly what he did. If he happens to take Jake to the mat, you cannot hold Jake down. I’ll be surprised if GSP can hold Jake down. I think he’ll get up, I think he’ll get up on top of him, you know, so that’s just what I think. So, this is a great match-up.”

Mr. Zahabi doesn’t think that it would be a mistake for GSP to get into a ground battle with Mr. Shields.

“I would think it would be a mistake to show too much respect for Jake Shields’ grappling. He’s a great grappler, he’s a phenomenal grappler. But I don’t think he’s been with a grappler as good as Georges as well. Georges never had faced such a good grappler and neither has Shields. Georges’ jiu-jitsu is extremely well-developed, extremely well put together. Georges for this camp has rolled with 20 different black belts, literally over 20 different guys with their own specialties on the ground. So, he has plenty of experience on the ground, plenty.”

The tone from the GSP camp about facing Jake Shields is their traditional cautious, but confident attitude.

“Shields is a pressure fighter, he just keeps, he doesn’t stop, you never see a lull in the action. He’s always pressing the fight and Georges is the same way, Georges is very active and that’s why we call him ‘Rush’ because he presses the fight, puts the rush on you. And it’s going to be interesting to see which guy backs up first, which guy steps back to take a breath and which is the guy who is trying to slow the rhythm down because I really feel that the first guy to slow down is the guy who’s going to lose the match and it’s going to be interesting to see who that is.

“All these jiu-jitsu guys, they’re very smart. Jiu-jitsu is a thinking man’s game and he’s definitely a jiu-jitsu specialist and he’s definitely a smart guy. Most guys who are very good at jiu-jitsu are very, very smart and that’s definitely one of his best (attributes).”

A key point of philosophy in big fights involving GSP is to get his opponents to mentally break down and make critical mistakes. That philosophy will be in effect here with plans on GSP continuing to be the hammer and Shields getting pounded as the nail.

“If somebody’s holding an Ace, he’s holding an Ace and you take that away from him, his whole game is going to collapse. But at the same time you want to attack his strength, you want to beat him at his own strength but at the right time, on your own circumstance and if the guy’s good at jiu-jitsu and you pass his guard, believe me, it’s going to hurt his confidence for the rest of the fight. If he’s a striking guy and you knock him down, it’s not going to go well for him in his mind, you just took away his Ace. George is always looking to do that, but again, at the right time. If you just jump on a guy and his strength, it’s not necessarily a good strength. You want to avoid the strengths early on and attack the weakness and then kind of want to turn the tables. It’s very important that Georges doesn’t over-respect his opponent’s strength because, you know, as good as your stand-up is, as good as your jiu-jitsu can be, there’s always something there to capitalize on and Georges has proved that time and time again. He’s taken down the wrestlers. He’s exchanged standing with the best strikers. He knocked down Thiago Alves in his fight, he’s taken down Matt Hughes and he’s beaten guys at their game as well.”

It’s one of GSP’s most intriguing tests to date as champion and it’s on the biggest stage this Saturday night in Toronto. Win and retain the championship while officially cleaning out your division or go home to Montreal without the belt and ponder what’s next for your career. Wonder what outcome Anderson Silva is rooting for?

Topics: Canada, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 27 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

27 Responses to “Cesar Gracie on GSP: “He’s a great hammer. Let’s see him when he’s the nail.””

  1. David m says:

    This fight is really not compelling to people who have seen them both fight a lot. GSP is the best mma striker in the division and Shields is the worst. Shields also isn’t that amazing of a grappler; he got a gift against Kampmann and couldn’t hurt him at all. Mayhem is the only common opponent off the top of my head. Gsp beat him savagely, shields did no damage at all to him.

    The only compelling fight at 170 is diaz against gsp.

    • IceMuncher says:

      I don’t see either posing much threat, but I think Shields has the better chance at an upset. Diaz doesn’t have one punch KO power, he uses accumulated damage from a lot of strikes to get the TKO. Diaz is on the ground the second GSP wants it there, that doesn’t give him long to work his striking.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Shields had zero chance of beating Henderson.

      That turned out well for Henderson.

    • Light23 says:

      I keep on saying this, but Shields is the toughest test GSP has had for a while.

      GSP’s dominates by taking guys down and controlling them. He’ll have a hard time doing that to Shields and will have to worry about sweeps and subs.

      He’s never had a guy as tenacious as Shields try to continuously take him down for 25 minutes. He’s rarely (if ever) been underneath a top level grappler.

      GSP will have a hard time KOing Shields (ask Hendo) and will need to be careful when throwing strikes because Shields will often shoot.

      Shields gets underestimated because he’s sorta like the Nog of 170lbs. He never goes out there and dominates, and rarely wins fights easily. Instead he goes in, takes a bit of a pounding, before scratching together a tough win. The thing is, he always seems to get it done.

  2. EJ says:

    Clearly Cesar needs to put down the drugs because they are affecting his thought process. Shields simply isn’t talented enough to put GSP in danger even when he dominates guys he doesn’t punish them. GSP would have killed the gassed out Hendo that Shields had mounted and couldn’t deliver ground and pound to come close to stopping the fight.

    He wants to talk about him beating up on LW’s while ignoring how he’s manhandled huge WW’s like Alves and superior grapplers like Hughes and Fitch. GSP will have his way with Jake on the feet and he’ll dominate him on the ground also he won’t gas like his previous opponents. Once that reality hits Jake after the first and second round it’ll be a wrap and another dominant title defense for GSP.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    1) Gracie is annoying. He also can’t get into Canada. Real winner there. Can’t even corner his own teammates because he doesn’t have his own life in check.

    2) I think GSP will win, but he is ripe for an upset. GSP can be taken down. We saw it at the end of the first round with Koscheck. And he doesn’t have a great game from his back. So while conventional wisdom would tell people that Shields is going to get KO’d, don’t be surprised to see GSP completely grinded out for 5 rounds and look foolish at the end of the fight. The potential is absolutely there for that to happen. I was one of the VERY FEW who picked Jake Shields to beat Dan Henderson. I could see it happening again.

    3) At the end of the day, I as a fan could care less how this is promoted. It has already done a huge gate and is a success. This is a fight between what I consider the #1 P4P fighter in the world against a top contender who is Top 5 and an absolutely worthy contender. On top of that, there is a great style fight for the Featherweight Title. The PPV will be great.

    • Light23 says:

      When was the last time GSP KO’d anybody standing? Shields has a good chin and great recovery time too.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “2) I think GSP will win, but he is ripe for an upset. GSP can be taken down. We saw it at the end of the first round with Koscheck. And he doesn’t have a great game from his back.”

      I like that you take the contrarian view on fights like this where people give someone “0% chance” (don’t get me started on how foolish it is to think that…), especially because you’ve picked correctly a number of times but …. C’MON MAN!!!

      Yes, GSP can be taken down. By the absolute best of the best wrestlers. Not to mention those wrestlers had dangerous striking that he actually had to game plan for, while Shields has some absolutely pitiful stand-up. Let’s not forget that Shields doesn’t possess the explosiveness or athletic ability of a Koscheck (*that’s racist .gif*) and is really, really plodding, so he’s not going to be able to shoot in deep for a power double or run the corner on GSP. Koscheck and GSP are about equals as mma wrestlers, and GSP is a far better mma wrestler than Shields…if anything GSP will be taking Shields down.

      Also, don’t forget a big part of Shields winning the Hendo fight was that Hendo gassed the hell out and Shields was able to takeover and dominate a guy that couldn’t do much but suck wind and lay on his back. GSP DOES NOT gas out.

      GSP might not be great on his back but he’s much better than say, Hendo is, and he’s able to scramble and sweep well. If anything this is the real window I see for Shields to win – catching GSP in a scramble and latching on tight. But (a) GSP is likely going to dictate where 95% of the fight takes place and (b) he does not take any (unnecessary) risks.

      Regardless, I am super pumped for this card and this fight…I do think Shields is a good opponent and will pose some interesting challenges to GSP, but ultimately I think GSP wins in dominating fashion in front of his hometown. As I’ve told you ham’n’eggers I am going to see this card live in Toronto, and I am really excited to see how 55,000 fans for a UFC card comes off.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I hardly care what other people think.

        I’ve picked some huge upsets in MMA. I do very good at predicting high level MMA fights. Some of the undercard fights I don’t predict good, but a lot of that is because I haven’t seen them enough.

        I didn’t pick Shields to beat Henderson because it was just the opposite of what others were saying. I knew Henderson was easy to take down and didn’t have much of a bottom game. And unlike most of his other opponents, Shields wasn’t going to stay around long enough on the feet to test Henderson’s punches.

        I predicted the way BJ Penn would lose a long time before he got beat by Edgar. I actually predicted Sanchez to do it, but I overestimated his skill level. But I knew a guy who could push the pace against Penn would beat him easily. People constantly said I was wrong, but I wasn’t.

        Heck, if you want to go old school enough, I predicted Tra Telligman to beat Igor Vovchanchin way back in the older Pride’s. And it’s not like I predict major upsets all of the time and got lucky on a few. They were sold predictions based not on hype but on what the fighters can actually do (and their weaknesses).

        GSP is not great off his back. He doesn’t have much of a submission game from there. He can be smothered and look foolish for 5 rounds. The potential is there. And one thing that Shields has that even Koscheck doesn’t is great MMA Wrestling. Koscheck has a great double but really has a hard time finishing.

        Shields can pick a leg on a low single or high crotch, get his opponent to their hip, and go for a long drawn scramble until he obtains dominant position. This is something only Askren does better in MMA.

        You have to analyize the fights based on the two fighters competing. It makes it much easier to predict the outcome. Somebody doesn’t get as lucky as I do by just going by popular opinion.

        Now, as for the other title fight, I have no clue how it will go. Too many unanswered questions. How good is Aldo on the ground? If he is very good, Hominick doesn’t hav a chance. How good is Aldo against a higher level striker? We don’t know. The division is to new and undeveloped to really make the predictions easy on fights like this one.

        • Nepal says:

          45, you are saying GSP isn’t great off his back??? …. and how did you come to this determination?

          Was it his 2 minutes total on his back over 2 fights with Koscheck and his maybe a minute or less with Fitch? Oh yeah briefly against Daley too. In total he received zero punishment during that time.

          Agreed, he didn’t show any submission savy from his back during those less-than 3 minutes but saying his back-game isn’t good is and he can be smoothered for 5 minutes is just silly.

          BTW, saying you have a good track record at picking upsets is very very easy in hindsight. I thought I did too, I then joined one of those betting sites and over 3 years, I am down 50% of my money. I thought I was so smart, I even did 3 months of practice betting, kept strict records in an excel spread sheet and everything was looking good. Once I started real betting, all that went out the window. I only put in $500 and 3 years later, I still have $250 but still, I thought I was going to make real money doing this. The point is, it is very easy to have a selective memory on which fights you picked the winners on in hindsight.

        • The Gaijin says:

          Sorry, didn’t mean to infer that you only picked the “contrary view” for the sake of being a contrarian…obviously you’re picking it for what you perceive to be the match-up of skills between the two fighters, and as I said, you’ve done pretty well.

          However, I’m saying here, that I think you’re wayy off in:

          (a) your assessment of GSP being “bad off his back” – there’s just not much of a sample size to assess here in making that determination.

          (b) That Shields can take him down and control him when much better wrestlers, with much more diverse skills sets tried and utterly failed. Shields poses literally no threat of being able to strike with GSP so GSP will be able to run a clinic on him in the striking department while being free to keep his hands and body in position to anticipate and stop any takedown attempts. Without striking Shields would have to have a great double or the speed and ability to get deep on GSP – that’s most likely not going to happen.

          Watch the Kampmann fight and look at all the difficulties Shields had, he barely eked out of that one alive, and now “analyze the fight based on the two fighters competing” when one of those fighters is far and away the best WW in the universe (and not a fringe top 10 fighter) and the other is Jake Shields with piss poor striking, little athleticism and an overrated takedown game.

        • 45 Huddle says:


          Last year, I didn’t pick a PPV main event or title fight wrong in the UFC or Strikeforce until the 2nd half of the year.

          I’ve cooled off a little since then…. But you don’t get a streak like that with upsets like Shields/Henderson & Penn/Edgar happening during that same time frame.

          There is no hindsight.

        • Michael Rome says:

          GSP is in fact quite good off his back. Jon Fitch has fought a lot of talented grapplers, including BJ Penn, Paulo Thiago, Diego Sanchez, and many others. The only guy I’ve ever seen reverse Jon Fitch from his back was St. Pierre. And he did it in about 30 seconds, and with ease.

          Shields’ “mma wrestling” is hit and miss. It’s looked good in some fights (against guys with less than stellar takedown defense), and less impressive in others, such as the Paul Daley fight. St. Pierre has fought a large number of MMA wrestlers every bit as talented in the wrestling department as Shields. Shields cannot say the same about St. Pierre.

          This fight looks like a one-sided beatdown to me. Most of it will be GSP crushing Shields from top position while stacking him and landing punches and elbows until it’s stopped or 25 minutes expires.

        • Nepal says:

          45, you very well may have nailed some great upsets. I’m just saying that I’ll bet you had predictions on a lot of other fights too that are forgotten and simply not counted. The only way to determine if you truly can pick winners well is by putting your money where your mouth is – so to speak.

          Actually it is a really fun exercise. I only make $10 bets now max. Previously I was making $50 and $100 bets. You only have to lose 3 or 4 of those before you realize, “shit, maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was”.

  4. edub says:

    Jake Shields is a terrible match up with GSP. Georges will destroy him, and if Diaz gets a shot somewhere down the line he will look even worse.

    Hopefully GSP moves up to MW after this fight. There simply is no one left at WW that poses a threat to GSPs reign.

  5. Michael Rome says:

    GSP has by far the best takedown defense in the sport. Can he be taken down? Of course, anyone can. But Koscheck had to work like crazy and get in super deep just to get one takedown, and guess what: Shields isn’t close to the wrestler Koscheck is.

    The big problem for Shields is going to be speed. He is just not the athlete St. Pierre is, he is lumbering by comparison.

    People expecting sprawl and brawl obviously have not been watching St. Pierre closely. If Shields closes in Georges will take him down and pound him with elbows from guard. I fully expect St. Pierre to break Shields from top position in this fight–it’s his modus operandi against jiu-jitsu guys. He is obsessed with controlling the pace of the fight, constantly trying to shrug off takedowns puts Shields in control of the pace. He won’t do that. If Jake is going to win, he will have to do it with a sub from his back. It’s possible, but very, very unlikely.

  6. David m says:

    Did anyone picking Shields to be anything but dominated see him fight Kampmann? He has no speed and no striking. His grappling is good but gsp is a much better wrestler. This will be like gsp v fitch except shields is nowhere near as tough as fitch.

    • Light23 says:

      I’m by no means picking Shields (I just wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if he won) but he says he cut 20lbs in a day to fight Kampmann. He was a shell of himself in that fight and it’s probably wiser to look at his fight vs Hendo.

      Hendo technically should be a worse fight for Shields than GSP, but Shields did really well. He’s freakin’ huge and fights at 205, has insane KO power which he unleashes a lot, and has amazing wrestling. GSP is much more explosive, and well rounded, but not as dangerous.

      • edub says:

        But once Dan unleashes that early storm he fades at 185. He did it against Kazuo Misaki, and to a lesser extent Bustamante the second fight and Palhares. If he doesn’t finish you early he can be frustrated and worn down.

  7. Nepal says:

    Shields isn’t a great take down artist. Only Kos has been able to do that to GSP and even he with great effort. I doubt he’ll even get close to GSP. GSP ofter employs new stategies in his fights to stifle opponents. I wouldn’t be surprised to see GSP try a Frankie Edgar “dance and prance” technique to inflict punishment and run away. After frustrating Shields for a while, then take him down whenever he decides to and then just beat him with elbows and strikes.

  8. david m says:

    45 Edgar didn’t “easily” beat BJ the first time. That was a horrible decision; BJ probably won 4 rounds.

    What the hell are you doing telling us you picked a fight 10 years ago? Who cares and who knows either way if you picked Tra to beat Rizzo? Look, Shields is a horrible striker and not a good enough wrestler to take GSP down, and we have seen against Mayhem and Kampmann that he struggles to do any damage to people anywhere near his skill level on the ground.

    How on Earth will Shields even get past GSP’s jab? I think the only way Jake makes it out of the first round is if GSP takes him down. Otherwise, he is going to get lit up beyond recognition. He has no speed and no head movement and no striking acumen at all; GSP is going to make Shields look like he is moving in slow motion.

    Shields is a slower, stronger, less tough, less-skilled on the feet version of Jon Fitch. He will be decimated.

    • Light23 says:

      Shields is not THAT bad standing. Seriously. Kos isn’t much better, he just has a knockout punch. From all the talk you’d think Matt Hughes was fighting this weekend.

      Shields survived Hendo’s power so I doubt GSP will finish him at all, never mind in the first. If he manages to get Shields out of there before the 25 mins is up it’ll be hugely impressive.

      Did GSP ever say he was “pissed” that people were underestimating Koscheck or Hardy? No. But he’s saying that about Shields. Come on people! Aside from a shaky first round he dominated DAN HENDERSON. For some reason everyone concludes that this means Hendo has lost it or was rusty/injured/had a ragnail, rather than it meaning Shields is AWESOME.

    • Light23 says:

      On the topic of Hughes, he was a guy who dominated for ages (and once beat GSP) with nowhere near the wrestling, BJJ, or striking of Shields.

      Shields stands in the pocket with Robbie Lawler, throws tons of good kicks and is actually willing to trade. Hughes looks like he’s terrified any time a fighter feints in his general direction.

      All the “this is a horrible matchup” arguments were brought out with Hendo too. Shields has no standup. His wrestling isn’t good enough to get Hendo down. He doesn’t damage people from the mount. Mayhem was competitive with him.

      He still won. Stop counting him out!

      • Nepal says:

        ok ok dude. Enough with the Shields nuthugging already.

        Shields did land some good kicks on Lawler, he did because it’s not like Lawler was going to take him down. Other than those kicks, Shields’ stand up looked bad…. really bad, Shields looked just horrendous vs. Lawler in the stand up. Sorry man, you can try to justify Shields all you want but you’re grasping at straws here.

        Your Matt Hughes comment is just as retarded. So Hughes was dominant in his day, GSP was a raw 23 year old who was arguably winning the round up until the armbar. Regardless of all that, we saw what GSP did to Hughes in their 2nd and 3rd fights…………total domination. So Shields has better jitz than Hughes…. honestly, his stand up isn’t better and neither is his wrestling.

        “nowhere near the wrestling, BJJ, or striking of Shields” You must be experiencing a “Doh, did I really type that” moment.

        Shields is a one-trick pony and that doesn’t work in today’s MMA. His one trick is very good but it’s not good enough against a much better fighter like GSP. Shields top control is very good but honestly his jitz isn’t even that dominant. He’s never subbed a good BJJ guy (Well Pyle’s jitz is quite good I’ll admit). People talk about his BJJ. WTF??? He showed fantastic top control vs Hendo but wasn’t close to subbing him. I’m sure GSP knows Shields can threaten him with an RNC or a guillietine but elsewhere there is zero submission threat.

        Can you really see Shields “Hendo’ing” GSP??? I mean laying on GSP for 5 rounds?? No chance.

        If Shields can get by GSP’s standup, which is questionable, can he take GSP down? Doubtfully, Shields just isn’t that dominant a take down guy. If he does get him down, can he sub him? No way! Shields has never shown submission savy…. ever.

        GSP always dictates the pace and utterly dominates his competitors. There is zero reason to think Shields can be the one to do something different.

        To me, building Shields up as a true challenge to GSP is like the UFC justifying Matyushenko as a stiff test for Jon Jones. It was just a fabrication to sell that fight. Just as these suggestions that Shields is a legit threat to GSP.

        • Light23 says:

          People like you are making me hope Shields does pull off the upset. Refusing to write off an incredibly talented fighter near the top of his division != nuthugging.

          I’m not even saying he’s going to win. GSP is a definite favourite and has most things in his favour.

          You’ll be the same guy who is screaming on Sherdog that GSP is done if he loses. HOW COULD HE LOSE TO SHIELDS?!? OMG GSP SUCKS NOW!!

        • Nepal says:

          You can get mad at me and say unrelated and unsubstantiated stuff like “you will say GSP sucks if he loses” if you like. That only shows that you have nothing to say to my logic and you’re grasping at insults to make your point, alas you failed sadly.

  9. david m says:

    Light23: Shields isn’t better than GSP at anything and not nearly as athletic as he is. He can’t win. Matchups make fights. Shields would have a better shot against Anderson than GSP because at least he can outwrestle Silva.

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