UFC 217 Recap: R.I.P., Joanna
A Great Night Of Fights With One Huge Upset
UFC 217 certainly would get my nod for the event of the year. The night as a whole had everything you could want from a UFC event. In the prelims we saw Ovince Saint Preux almost kick a guy's head into the third row:
and Mark Godbeer (best name ever) get kicked in the junk and win a fight in which his opponent was disqualified for throwing a head-kick after time was called for the aforementioned junk-kick. This was all before the main card, which had exceptional action up and down. What a time to be alive!
As for the serious business... The main card started with Johnny Hendricks getting severely outclassed by Paul Costa (or Borrachinha, he apparently doesn't like that name). From the start it was clear the younger and much bigger Costa had control of the fight. He peppered Handricks repeatedly landing at a consistently high pace. Hendricks didn't have much in terms of counter-striking and was on his heels for the duration. Costa earned the TKO victory in the second and kept his undefeated record intact. He looks to be someone worth watching in the division going forward.
Up next was Stephen Thompson in his first action after back-to-back title shots against Tyron Woodley. He took on Jorge Masvidal in a match-up of the number two and four ranked Welterweights. Thompson simply looked amazing. He was quick and clean with his striking, switching his strikes and landing effectively in every facet. Masvidal was trying to keep up with Wonderboy but Thompson was putting on a clinic, even taking a 30-26 card in his unanimous decision. I'll be interested to see where things go from here within the Welterweight division. Champion Woodley has said he wants to avoid the trilogy against Thompson but Thompson has made it clear he deserves his challenger spot. Let's see what Dana White decides to do.
The first title fight of the evening was Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk taking on Rose Namajunas. This one hurts to write. Namajunas, a 6 to 1 dog in Vegas, dropped the champ twice in the first and finished the fight when JJ was tapping to strikes. Tapping to strikes! You just don't see that every day. What a stunner.
JJ is my favorite fighter to watch and we saw Namajunas step into the Octagon and forcefully take the belt. I haven't seen anyone appear to even be a threat to JJ, and now I've seen someone absolutely destroy her. After the first few test volleys of the fight Rose just took over. She was pushing the pace and stinging JJ, never allowing her a chance to throw effectively. Fights like these are what makes the sport so exciting. Anyone can win on any given night, even against the best of the best. No one is untouchable. I enjoyed the reign and look forward to seeing Rose defend her new belt.
Continuing the apparent theme of the night, Cody Garbrandt saw his win streak snapped and his title-reign cut very short as TJ Dillashaw took a TKO victory in the second. These two were throwing bombs. Garbrandt dropped TJ in the first and appeared to have the challenger wobbled but the bell rang, saving TJ from the onslaught that was coming. In the second TJ had shaken off the cobwebs and ended the fight when he landed a kick to the head of Garbrandt and sent him to the mat. Cody was able to get back up and threw a few hay-makers, none of which landed, and TJ countered with a right that send the champ down again. TJ then took the back and went to work on some heavy ground and pound with a stoppage coming soon after. Dillashaw regains his once held title and Garbrandt heads back to the drawing board.
The main event of the night. Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping welcomed Georges St-Pierre back to the UFC after a 4 year hiatus. Georges has a strong opening round and the layoff didn't look like it would be a factor in his return. GSP landed a few take-downs but Bisping was able to scramble out. The two traded throughout the round and Georges finished it in style with a superman punch in the closing seconds.
In the second round we saw more of the same as Bisping stuffed a few GSP shoots and was able to scramble when he was taken to the mat. Bisping seemed to get the better of the exchanges and even caught a GSP leg kick before landing a big shot sending the Canadian stumbling back to the fence.
At this point I thought GSP was in trouble. He was unable to keep Bisping on the ground and visibly looked fatigued. Surprise, I was wrong again. GSP came out in the third and immediately landed another take-down. While on his back, Bisping was able to cut GSP pretty bad. The two returned to their feet with blood pouring down GSP's face. With a little over a minute left in the round the two traded strikes. As Bisping slipped right, GSP caught him with a big left sending the champ to the mat.
GSP hurried in for some big strikes on the dazed Bisping, but Bisping was able to get wrist control and defend well enough to prevent the stoppage. It was all for not, as GSP quickly took Bisping's back and submitted him via rear naked choke. Bisping didn't tap and went completely out. Going out on his shield I suppose.
This completed the card as we saw all three titles change hands. As we look to what this means for the respective fighters and their divisions we know that things are certainly blown up in the Women's Strawweight division with the fall of JJ. With Michael Bisping now out of the picture and contemplating retirement, I guess we have to see the unification of the belts in the Middleweight division. That would be a match-up between interim champ Robert Whittaker and new champ GSP.
An exciting and unpredictable night of fights. Even with the volatility I think it's safe to say that the UFC is in a good spot. Now let's get Conor back in there...