UFC 217: Preview and Predictions for the Biggest Card of the Year

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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

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.


18 Responses

    1. The three fights before that are worth the money alone.

      But I’m 10x more interested in Bisping/Whittaker than Bisping/GSP

        1. GSP looks fat and he’s probably going to fight about as good as he looks. If he can come off a 3 year hiatus and beat Bisping he will truly cement his place as top 3 P4P of all time. Judging by his looks though I expect him to hit the cardio wall sometime in round two and suffer embarassment at the hands of Bisping, who is a cardio animal. Great post either way Kevin; it’s nice to read about MMA on here.

  1. Nice to see the UFC coverage.
    This is going to be a great card. Cody VS TJ is going to be good, and JJ is a beast for a chick.
    Looking forward to GSP getting knocked out so he’ll go back to alien hunting in Canada,

    Has beens?
    Nate Diaz?
    The Diaz brothers are both ghetto trash and 9th grade drop outs.
    F the Diaz brothers!
    F any of their fans too.

    1. I should hate the Diaz brothers but I have always loved watching them fight. I do respect their intensity though it borders on insanity at times.

  2. I see 1 real fight (Garbrandt- Dillashaw), with the chick fight being worthless and the main event akin to stone cold fighting the rock. If it was on Fox I would tune in but no chance im dropping $70 on this.

    1. Reality Check- UFC 217 was one of the best cards ever. That “chick fight” might have been the highlight of the night, especially with the back story.
      You don’t know $hit about MMA.
      I’ll gladly admit I picked ALL THREE of the championship fights wrong. Upsets are what make MMA exciting,
      as compared to the dead carcass of corrupt boxing.

  3. Nice to see a UFC post though I stopped following the sport long ago when it became too much of a sport and not a martial arts competition. Vale Tudo/MMA was the only sport I ever really closely followed in my life, mainly because like most of the old fans, i trained as well. I had film of almost every fighter from every event on the planet which probably made it an unhealthy obsession. Now I recognize about half the names on any card at most.

    Still, I like the coverage.

    1. “Fake fight” claims are only made by complete morons that haven’t seen the obvious fact that UFC’s top stars and biggest money makers have all been beat in surprise upsets.
      Nothing worse than a moron running his mouth about something he knows nothing about.

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