After nearly four years away from the UFC, Georges St-Pierre is finally set to return to the Octagon.
St-Pierre, the most decorated welterweight champion in UFC history, makes his comeback this Saturday, November 4. Facing champion Michael Bisping in the UFC 217 (10 P.M. EST/7 P.M. PST, Pay Per View) main event, St-Pierre will make his first walk as a middleweight, with the title hanging in the balance.
There are so many intangibles with this version of St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC), who was in the midst of a 12-fight winning streak when he took an extended hiatus from competition. Relinquishing his belt following a controversial UFC 167 win over challenger Johny Hendricks, St-Pierre is aiming for a second title in a second weight class. The move up in weight, along with the four years on the shelf, has prompted many to question if St-Pierre can return to form.
Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) is banking that he can’t.
The UFC’s all-time leader in wins with 20, Bisping has been fair in his assessment of the fight. He readily admits that St-Pierre will have the advantage in the wrestling department when the two throw down at Madison Square Garden. But on the feet, however, “The Count” expects to rattle the former welterweight lynchpin.
Much like the way he finished Luke Rockhold at UFC 199, Bisping, a winner of five straight, will look to keep the fight standing, busting St-Pierre up with jabs, head kicks, and his signature left hook. To battle Bisping’s significant size advantage, St-Pierre is expected to use his wrestling and takedown game to out-point the champion.
And then there’s the random possibility that St-Pierre pulls guard or drops down for a leglock, surprising an unexpecting Bisping early on. The chances are slim that he’ll finish Bisping with an unorthodox technique, but St-Pierre occasionally likes pull deep from his bag of martial arts tricks early in fights just to keep the opposition guessing.
He’ll do it again on Saturday, frustrating Bisping with repeated takedowns and high-level jiu jitsu. Look for Georges St-Pierre to win via decision and claim a UFC middleweight belt to go alongside his welterweight strap.
Co-main event: Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw
There’s no shortage of drama and bad blood in the UFC 217 co-main event between bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and challenger T.J. Dillashaw. The two previously trained together at Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male before Dillashaw defected to join a different camp.
Garbrandt (11-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) seized the opportunity to become Alpha Male’s top bantamweight, claiming the title at UFC 207 with a near-perfect effort against former champion Dominick Cruz.
The book on Garbrandt is that he hits harder than any bantamweight in the division. He possesses the power to end fights with a single punch; however, he’ll need to land big shots against one of the most technical, and athletically gifted fighters in the world in Dillashaw (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC). A former champion and winner of two-straight bouts, Dillashaw is known for his footwork and elusiveness. He deftly bounces around the Octagon like a big-game cat waiting to pounce, but is remains patient during the hunt.
With Garbrandt’s hard-charging style and Dillashaw’s sprite-like quickness, this fight is, from a meritocratic, competitive, and athletic standpoint, one of the most intriguing in all of mixed martial arts, and is likely to deliver the evening’s Fight of the Night.
And after five rounds, Dillashaw reclaims the belt he lost in January 2016 by evading Garbrandt’s heavy shots early on while piecing together combinations and scoring on takedowns.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas
Get ready for another striking masterclass, as UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) returns to Madison Square Garden after dominant display in New York at UFC 205.
For her latest feat, Jedrzejczyk will attempt to tie Ronda Rousey’s title defense record by a female UFC fighter. But in order to secure the sixth consecutive defense of her strawweight belt, Jedrzejczyk must tackle a unique challenge and puzzle in fourth-ranked Rose Namajunas (6-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC).
Namajunas, who will challenge for the UFC title for the second time, is an unorthodox fighter who uses her long frame, in particular her taekwondo kicks, to dictate distance and pace. She also has a crafty submission game, recording three of her four UFC wins via rear-naked choke.
Much like her last fight against Jessica Andrade, Jedrzejczyk will need to weather an early storm, as Namajunas is full of technical tricks and surprises that can stun anyone on the feet. And once she’s sured up her defensive game, Jedrzejczyk will start to unload low kicks, which will be followed up by technical punching combinations.
While this fight will start off as a back-and-forth affair early, Jedrzejczyk will ultimately break Namajunas down and earn a TKO victory in the championship rounds.
Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal
What a time to be at the top of the welterweight division.
Consistently one of the most talent-stacked weight classes in the UFC, welterweight has experienced a recent resurgence with an influx of young talent, making this striking battle between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Jorge Masvidal a must win for both fighters, should they have aspirations of a title shot in the near future.
For Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC), a master of karate kicks and numerous spinning techniques, UFC 217 represents an opportunity to notch his first win at Madison Square Garden, after going to a draw against Tyron Woodley at UFC 205.
Losing the rematch to Woodley at UFC 209, Thompson now finds himself in unfamiliary territory, on the outside of the title picture looking in. Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC), who is coming off a loss to Demian Maia, seems to have a brighter upside moving forward, as he’s yet to face the champion.
Moving forward is a hallmark of Masvidal’s boxing-centric game. He pressures with his hands and matches up particularly well against kickboxers who fight off the back foot.
With Thompson, who’s delivered some spectacular highlight-reel finishes during his tenure with the UFC, there’s always the possibility that he will find his opening and land a devastating kick. However, Masvidal has the edge here, as he rushes the center of the cage and turns this into a boxing match as he constantly stalks Thompson around the Octagon.
Look for Jorge Masvidal to earn the late TKO via punches.
Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo Costa
It’s no coincidence that Johny Hendricks is fighting on the same card as Georges St-Pierre. As the last man to face GSP inside the Octagon, Hendricks (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC) has been hunting for a rematch from the moment their last fight ended. At MSG, he’ll finally have a chance to make a statement that could ultimately lead to a second fight with St-Pierre.
Unfortunately for Hendricks, he’s been partnered with undefeated upstart Paulo Costa.
One of the brightest prospects to come out of Brazil in years, Costa (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has looked tremendous in two fights inside the Octagon, finishing both of his opponents via strikes.
This fight seems to be the perfect setup for Costa, who brings a significant height and size advantage into the bout. Look for him to press forward and stifle Hendricks with punches early on, and keep pace throughout the fight.
Paulo Costa takes this one via TKO.
UFC 217 Fight Card
Pay-Per-View Main Card (10 P.M. EST/7 P.M. PST)
- Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre
- Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas
- Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal
- Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo Costa
FOX Sports 1 Preliminary Card (8 P.M. EST/5 P.M. PST)
- James Vick vs. Joseph Duffy
- Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer
- Ovince Saint Preux vs. Corey Anderson
- Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall
UFC Fight Pass Prelims (6:30 P.M. EST/3:30 P.M. PST)
- Aleksei Oleinik vs. Curtis Blaydes
- Aiemann Zahabi vs. Ricardo Ramos