UFC 217 Preview: Georges St-Pierre Returns To Fight Bisping
The UFC is returning to Pay-Per-View in a very big way on Saturday, November 4th. After consecutive lackluster cards, fight fans can look forward to what may be the biggest card of the year, including three (three!) title fights.
Before we get to the preview in earnest, let's look back at some headlines from the UFC over the past month or so. In last months delayed main event, Demetrious Johnson submitted Ray Borg with one of the craziest moves you'll ever see in the Octagon. In doing so, he took hold of the record for the longest reign in UFC history. If you haven't seen it I suggest you check it out.
While Demetrious was making headlines in the ring, main event participant Michael Bisping was allegedly choking out a guy at a popular national chain gym. That lawsuit is pending.
Popular Heavyweight Mark Hunt was pulled from an upcoming card in New Zealand after making comments about his loss of memory. Dana White removed him due to safety and health concerns for a fighter, Hunt has said he's passed the physical and should be able to fight. Mark Hunt can't be accused of being a Dana White fan.
In terms of fights, there were a few cards in which no one of real note did anything of real consequence. However, there was a reason for the recent lull in action. The UFC tends to stock up for it's November promotion which is the anniversary month of the company's first event. Couple that with another foray into the newly opened New York City market, and you can understand why the UFC is going with such a stacked card here. Let's get to it:
Johnny “Big Rig” Hendricks vs Paolo Borrachinha
The opener to the main card festivities will see UFC veteran Johnny Hendricks face off against undefeated Paolo Borrachinha. Hendricks comes in a loser of four of his last five fights, his only win in that span coming via decision against an aging Hector Lombard. This will be Hendricks' 2nd official fight at Middleweight, moving up from Welterweight where he spent the majority of his UFC career.
Borrachinha will be facing his first “household name” opponent in the UFC where he has gone 2-0 since joining the promotion, winning both of his fights via TKO. Both men are powerful punchers and if this fight stays on the feet, look for Borrachinha to utilize his reach advantage to land on Hendricks. To counter the younger striker, watch to see if Hendricks wants to take the fight to the ground. Big Rig can wrestle effectively and it may suit him to go that route in this one against the up-and-coming Borrachinha.
All that being said, I think Hendricks in the decline of his career. Vegas puts Borrachinha as a -225 favorite and I like him to win here.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson vs Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal
Thompson will be in his first action since whiffing on two shots to take the Welterweight title from Tyron Woodley. Woodley and Thompson fought to a draw in their first bout and Woodley took a decision om the rematch. Here's to Masvidal winning this so we don't have to see what would be the worst trilogy fight in UFC history!
Thompson's motor and conditioning are second to none and he will look to put those tools on display against the high volume Masvidal. Gamebred comes in off of a loss against ground specialist Demian Maia after taking his previous two fights by KO, including a Performance of the Night bonus for his handling of fan favorite Donald Cerone.
Viewing this one I can't quite give either fighter the edge on skill alone. Both are UFC veterans and both have recent notable victories. Wonderboy has spent the last year fighting Tyron Woodley to no avail. That could have him at the top of his game or it could have him mentally fatigued.
Vegas has Thompson the -175 favorite. I like the underdog in this one.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Rose “Thug” Namajunas
Our first title fight of the night will be for the Women's Strawweight championship. Words cannot describe how much I look forward to watching JJ. She is just so technically sound it is hard to imagine any scenario outside of a lucky shot where she doesn't get the job done. Joanna has been at the top of her game for nearly three years now and it's approaching a Demetrious Johnson level of dominance. She'll be looking to make her sixth consecutive title defense when she takes on the rising Rose Namajunas. Watching Rose Namajunas you can see why she has the nickname, “Thug”. She does what she needs to do to win. She'll box, she'll scrap, she'll take it to the ground. She will fight anywhere. A fight against JJ will surely test her will and determination.
Rose's most recent loss was to Karolina Kowalkiewicz which propelled the latter to a championship fight against JJ. After dismissing Michelle Waterson via submission, Rose put herself in line to take a shot at Joanna. Vegas has Joanna a -500 favorite. Obviously, it's Joanna.
Cody “No Love” Garbrandt vs TJ Dillashaw
Garbrandt makes his first Bantamweight title defense as he puts his undefeated record on the line against division mainstay and former champion TJ Dillashaw. Both fighters combine to throw over 80% of their strikes from the standing position and we may be in for an entertaining finish if one of these guys gets their way.
Cody Garbrandt was riding a streak of three first round finishes before taking the division title from Dominic Cruz via decision last year. While his opponents in that stretch weren't world-beaters, it's an impressive feat none-the-less.
TJ Dillashaw is coming in as a winner of two straight unanimous decisions over top-5 division contenders. His last loss was when he relinquished the belt to the aforementioned Dominic Cruz via split decision almost two years ago.
Both men are entertaining to watch and if the fight goes the way I hope it goes, it's a definite candidate for fight of the night. Here's to hoping.
Vegas has Garbrandt a -185 favorite. Cody is definitely on a hot streak and has been improving at a meteoric pace. At 26 years old, he has set himself up for a storied UFC career if he can keep things rolling. I think he'll do so here.
Michael “The Count” Bisping vs Georges “Rush” St-Pierre
The main event and third title fight of the night pits the often derided Bisping against UFC legend Georges St-Pierre. GSP is making his return to the Octagon at the Middleweight division after a four year retirement which saw him vacate his long held Welterweight title. Bisping is looking to make his second title defense and hope that somebody somewhere finally gives him some recognition.
This is a fight that I think could spoil the evening. We've seen what can happen when a fighter returns from a long layoff, most recently with Jon Jones vs Ovince Saint Preux (Worst. Fight. Ever.). We know that GSP is moving up in weight and after this fight was delayed once, GSP mentioned he was having difficulty in the move up.
When you take the long lay off, reported difficulty in moving up in weight, and the injury history with these two guys, you begin to see some issues. Now, these alone would be an indication for better chances on the side of Bisping to defend his belt. However, as the saying goes, styles make fights. Bisping wants to stand and throw. GSP wants to grind it out on mat. There will be the interesting cat and mouse game between the fighters as we watch to see if GSP can land a take-down against a Bisping who will be looking to stuff them while landing shots. Bisping doesn't want to be on the ground and GSP has all the skills to keep him there for 5 full rounds.
Looking at the line on this fight, Vegas has it at a near pick 'em with GSP the slight favorite. I think that speaks volumes as to the interesting nature of this bout. You've got a fighter coming back from a four year retirement to take on an older fighter in a new weight class.
When I look to put some (hypothetical) money on this one, I'm leaning to the side of Michael Bisping. I have no real conviction in this but as I play out the fight in my mind I see fatigue setting in on GSP as it has so many other fighters after layoffs. If Bisping is able to defend the take-downs I think he could break GSP early. If GSP lands a take-down and Bisping can scramble out, which he does very well, then we'll see just how the layoff has affected GSP. If GSP has his wind and his wrestling hasn't fallen off, it'll be a long grind to a GSP decision. It's a toss up, but I'll take Bisping.