Georges St. Pierre’s first showdown with Matt Hughes was a classic UFC clash. GSP vs. Hughes I took place at UFC 50 in Atlantic City, New Jersey on October 22, 2004.
The showdown with Hughes was just the second fight of GSP’s UFC career. In his UFC debut, St. Pierre upended the highly rated Karo Parisyan by unanimous decision. Meanwhile, Hughes enjoyed near-legendary status in mixed martial arts circles.
Hughes entered the match still stinging from his loss of the UFC welterweight championship to BJ Penn. However, Penn vacated the title when he left the UFC to join the K-1 MMA promotion, and his fight against GSP would determine a new champion.
While the match itself lasted only one round, it was an extremely competitive bout, with both fighters landing heavy blows. The upper hand passed back and forth between the two fighters, but Hughes was at the absolute top of his game and would not be denied. With just one second remaining in the first round, Hughes forced GSP into submission when he applied a devastating arm bar. The moment ranks as one of the greatest submission moves in UFC history.
GSP later claimed that he was in “awe” of Hughes, who was one of the sport’s most revered figures. Though he refused to use stage fright as an excuse, St. Pierre did admit after the fight that he was not as mentally focused as he should have been.
GSP and Hughes went on to meet on two subsequent occasions, and many MMA fans consider all three of their confrontations to be classics. GSP vs. Hughes II was a particularly charged confrontation, with a great deal of hype leading up to the title rematch. Held at UFC 65, St. Pierre vs. Hughes II saw GSP come out with his guns blazing in the first round, nearly scoring a knockout against the stunned Hughes. St. Pierre won the bout with a second-round TKO, avenging his loss to Hughes at UFC 50 and winning his first UFC welterweight title.