It’s hard to build a more complete card than UFC 217.
Tomorrow night we’ve got three title fights, the return of a future hall of famer, and a 14-fight win streak on the line. All 24 fighters made weight on Friday and we haven’t been blindsided with any illness issues (yet). Even the undercard is stacked with intriguing matchups.
If you’re not a MMA fan, this is the type of fight card that might get you interested in combat sports. There’s a lot going on here, with some unique storylines and interesting style matchups on the docket.
Here’s the rundown, with some background information and my predictions:
Middleweight: Michael Bisping (C) vs. Georges St-Pierre
I keep forgetting that Bisping is actually older than St-Pierre, which feels strange since Bisping has been active in recent years while GSP hasn’t fought since 2013.
Anybody who watched St. Pierre fight Johny Hendricks back then knows that the judges made the wrong decision. GSP vacated the welterweight title and took four years off after that controversial win.
He’s moving up to middleweight to fight Bisping, the division’s current champion, who is riding a five-fight win streak. He knocked out an overconfident Luke Rockhold to win the title and bagged a couple of victories against an aging Dan Henderson and Anderson Silva. That’s not to take anything away from Bisping, who looked good in all three of those fights, but I think it’s fair to point out that Silva and Henderson were past their prime and Rockhold was really disappointing in that rematch.
Still, I think Bisping’s activity and consistency over the past few years gives him an advantage over GSP, who hasn’t fought in a long time and did not look like himself in the Hendricks bout. Bisping has excellent conditioning and can grind out a win if he stays on his feet and shuts down St-Pierre’s takedown game.
prediction: Bisping wins via unanimous decision
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) November 2, 2017
Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt (C) vs. T.J. Dillashaw
Love this fight, but the “T.J. Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male” angle is played out. The guy went to a different gym, whatever.
Cody “No Love” hasn’t fought since winning the belt last December. He looked unstoppable against longtime champion Dominick Cruz, who was outclassed and outmaneuvered for most of the fight, which says a lot considering the latter’s pedigree and unorthodox style. Garbrandt looked pretty good entering championship rounds for the first time in his career, and he showed that he’s not just a knockout artist by dodging, ducking, and making Cruz look old and slow. Nobody had even come close to doing that before.
That said, there’s a chunk of fans and media out there who feel like Dillashaw was screwed out of a win against Cruz last January. That’s his only loss dating back to 2013, so both he and Garbrandt have had a ton of recent success. Dillashaw has logged more fight time and is the more experienced five-round fighter, but Garbrandt’s performance against Cruz has me seriously questioning how much of an advantage Dillashaw really has in that department.
T.J. is similar to Cruz in the unique way that he moves around the octagon, but he’s much more aggressive and can finish a fight. The key for me is whether or not Garbrandt’s back is 100% healthy and whether or not the ring rust affects his performance.
prediction: Garbrandt wins via split decision
Strawweight: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (C) vs. Rose Namajunas
Big fan of “Thug Rose,” but she’s walking into the lion’s den here.
Joanna is a straight-up assassin, the Demetrious Johnson of the women’s strawweight division. She out-classes and out-strikes opponents by a wide margin. Her speed and precision are second to none and she really hasn’t been challenged for the belt since winning it back in 2015.
A victory here will give Joanna her 6th straight title defense, tying Ronda Rousey’s record.
prediction: Joanna wins unanimous decision
Welterweight: Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal
An intriguing matchup between top-five welterweights.
Thompson, a southpaw karate and kickboxing expert, is coming off a pair of title fights against Tyron Woodley. The first fight was an all-timer while the second was a total snoozer.
He’ll fight Jorge Masvidal, who blew his shot at Woodley with a loss to Demian Maia at UFC 211. This is his second straight fight against a specialist.
The key here is whether or not Masvidal can close down Thompson and apply pressure. He’s a smart all-around fighter with few weaknesses, but if Thompson can stay at range and use his legs to control the fight, he’ll get the win.
prediction: Thompson wins via unanimous decision
Middleweight: Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo Borrachinha
Borrachinha’s last fight was wildly entertaining, not because of him, but because of opponent Oluwale Bamgbose, who went WWE with a double axe-handle smash in the second round:
Borrachinha is a young up-and-comer on a 10-fight win streak. Hendricks, the experienced former welterweight champion, has lost four of his last five and has struggled recently with weight issues.
This is a classic matchup between a burgeoning twenty-something and a grizzled vet.
prediction: Borrachinha wins via second round TKO
Here’s the rest of the card, which features some sneaky good fights:
- Lightweight: James Vick vs. Joseph Duffy
- Heavyweight: Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer
- Light Heavyweight: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Corey Anderson
- Welterweight: Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall
- Heavyweight: Oleksi Oliynyk vs. Curtis Blaydes
- Light Heavyweight: Ion Cutelaba vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
- Bantamweight: Aiemann Zahabi vs. Ricardo Ramos
Let’s get it. No mysterious injuries or illnesses please.