UFC 217 takes place tonight from the fighting mecca of Madison Square Garden. Featuring three title fights, none are more anticipated than the main event. George St. Pierre returns to the octagon after a four-year layoff from the sport. He is also fighting at middleweight, taking on the champion Michael Bisping. The two are the winningest fighters in UFC history — a combined 39-9 in the octagon. Bisping has won five straight fights, including finally taking the middleweight title from Luke Rockhold.
Some are not happy that GSP has walked into a title shot in a weight class he has never competed in. Most feel Bisping should be fighting interim middleweight champion Robert Whittaker instead, in order to unify the belts, which makes the most sense. Bisping is getting a bit of a reputation for ducking top guys as he fights the ranked middleweights out of order. Beating GSP will make everyone have to consider “The Count” as one of the best to ever do it.
We don’t really know what to expect form GSP, as the former UFC welterweight champion tries to become only the fourth UFC fighter to have held titles in two different weight classes (Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, and Conor McGregor being the others).
For this one, I see Bisping stuffing the takedowns of GSP, which means outpointing Bisping on the feet. We’ve all now seen where that goes. GSP hangs around, but Bisping wins the decision.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is also looking to make some history tonight, as she puts the women’s strawweight title on the line against an always-dangerous Rose Namajunas. “Joanna Champion”, as she is known, since nobody can ever say her last name correctly (Yed-zhey-chik, for the record) is looking to tie Ronda Rousey in consecutive title defenses in the women’s division at six. Joanna has the potential to go down as the greatest female fighter ever, and the odds are she will here.
Namajunas is quite possibly the most well-rounded fighter in the division — except where most important against an elite stand-up fighter like Jedrzejczyk: wrestling. Because of that, I see the fight being an exciting blow-by-blow exchange on the feet. Even though Namajunas’s strikes are lethal and come often, Joanna Champion can keep up, and Jedrzejczyk wins the decision.
In the final title fight on the card, former friends and training partners Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillishaw will fight for the UFC bantamweight title. Team Alpha Male used to host both fighters back in 2014, when Dillishaw was the champion. He left the team along with Duane Ludwig in 2015, shocking his teammates. Accusations of PED use, lots of name-calling, and genuine hurt will be settled in the cage when they swing at each other on Saturday. Just don’t expect them to touch gloves.
Garbrandt comes into this fight looking to solidify himself as the best bantamweight in the world. He looked masterful taking the belt from Dominick Cruz, and is 11-0 in the UFC. Dillishaw uses superior boxing and heavy strikes, employing both in his last two fights against Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker. This is going to be pretty back and forth. If Dillishaw takes the fight to the ground somehow, it’s his to win. I don’t see that happening, however; I think Cody wins by TKO in round three.
This is the second card from MSG for the UFC. It will be hard to top last year, with Conor McGregor in the main event and the UFC setting the all-time gate record for the mecca at $18 million. After so many years of trying to get there, it looks like whenever a card comes to MSG, we can expect fireworks.
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