Three title fights. Three new champions. UFC 217 was billed as one of the biggest cards of the year. One of the main ingredients to the UFC’s secret recipe has been striking while the iron is hot. The fight game is a volatile business. One where a single split-second lapse of judgment by one fighter can change the course of an entire organization. The examples are endless. Holm versus Rousey, Weidman versus Silva, Evans versus Liddell, Couture versus Lesnar, just to name a few. You can’t let the opportunity to put together a stacked card slip through your grasp. Injuries happen all too often in combat sports. Dana White’s motto is a proven promotional winner. Give the fans the fights they want to see as soon as you can!
The return of former PPV king and welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre, was a safe bet to get plenty of eyes on UFC 217. Recently, it has been difficult for the UFC to get this level of excitement surrounding a card unless they headlined with mega-star Conor McGregor. St. Pierre’s return granted the UFC a unique opportunity to showcase two of their most exciting and underrated weight classes in the men’s bantamweight and the women’s strawweight divisions. While I was most curious to see St. Pierre return, it was the other two title fights that had me amped with anticipation.
UFC 217 was a knockout card, to say the least. We all have memories of major cards that didn’t live up to the hype. However, UFC 217 will go down as on the best cards of the year. The Paulo Costa coming out party started the fireworks early, by running through Johny Hendricks. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson put himself back into title contention by handing Jorge Masvidal his second straight loss. Wonderboy attacked Masvidal by sequencing multiple kickboxing combinations before poetically ducking back out of range on several occasions. Thompson made the judges job easy, coasting to a decision victory.
The fireworks came shortly after. Perennial underdog “Thug” Rose Namajunas shocked the MMA world by battering Joanna Jedrzejczyk into submission to claim the strawweight title. The upset handed Jedrzejczyk her first loss in her MMA career, abruptly ending her dominant reign as strawweight champion. Joanna was considered by most the best women’s fighter on the planet ever since Rousey went to sleep at UFC 193.
Garbrandt v Dillashaw
The most exciting fight on the card was up next as bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt, faced former champion, T.J. Dillashaw. Nothing gets fans more excited than two elite fighters who’s hatred for each other runs so deep it oozes through every exchange. Garbrandt and Dillashaw shared plenty of hate-filled physical exchanges to showcase their rivalry.
Garbrandt seemed to be in complete control in Round 1, landing powerful combinations that put Dillashaw in retreat mode. Cody concluded Round 1 by dropping T.J. and leading the crowd to believe it was a matter of time before the bell wasn’t there to save his opponent. Dillashaw turned the tide in Round 2, catching Cody with a high kick early. Garbrandt appeared to recover, but midway through the round, Dillashaw dropped him for good in front of a shocked arena. A few seconds later we had a new bantamweight champion.
Bisping v St.Pierre
Georges “Rush” St.Pierre has faced some tough criticism during his title reign for his conservative strategy centered around his wrestling. I was personally very curious to see if the middleweight version of St.Pierre would bring a more aggressive and exciting style to the octagon. The strategy seemed to be the same, but the result was as exciting as I could have hoped for.
St. Pierre went to his bread and butter early and often. Responsible for wrecking Josh Koscheck’s orbital bone, Georges jab has developed a powerful reputation. It was on full display Saturday night. Bisping had no answers until early round three when St.Pierre went back to his roots and used his wrestling to get Bisping to the canvas. However, Bisping sliced St.Pierre with an elbow from the bottom opening up Georges. Crimson red covered St.Pierre as the fighters moved back to their feet. The former welterweight champion was physically bothered by the blood continuously pouring into his eyes. Bisping looked to take advantage by winging a right towards Georges. Rush answered with a powerful left counter that sent Bisping crashing to the canvas. St.Pierre capitalized and choked out a stunned Bisping to capture the middleweight title.
Three exciting title fights. Three new champions. UFC 217 was a huge success on many fronts for many different reasons. Saturday night, the fans were the big winners. However, let’s take a look at the 3 ways the UFC won big on Saturday night as well.
How was the UFC the biggest winner at UFC 217?
1. A new champion is born in “Thug” Rose. Joanna will probably get her rematch, but like Rousey before her, sometimes dominant champs can gain popularity in defeat. The shockwaves sent through the MMA community by the upset will only garner the rematch more attention. Jedrzejczyk gained something she was desperately searching for. A challenge to help promote the division.
2. All signs point to a DJ vs TJ Superfight. Speaking of lacking challengers and promoting a division. The super fight proposed by Dana White a few months ago looks even better now with Dillashaw holding the bantamweight title. Is the 135lb strap enough to get Demetrious Johnson to accept a fight against an elite opponent to solidify his legacy? If Mighty Mouse wants a promotional push. This is the way to guarantee it. It sounds like a done deal. Garbrandt Cruz 2 would be fun as well.
3. The Ruler is back. St.Pierre won the belt, but make no mistake it’s the crown that he is after. Dana White was quick to point out that St.Pierre, the UFC’s previous king of PPVs, outsold Mayweather – McGregor in Canada. Georges’ marketability is an asset the UFC desperately needed, as the Notorious is pushing hard for equity in the company. No longer the only show in town, McGregor loses a bit of leverage as St.Pierre’s victory makes him a two-division champion as well.
On the flipside, it paves the way for what would be the biggest fight in UFC history. McGregor v St.Pierre. St.Pierre hinted that he doesn’t consider himself a true middleweight, and McGregor has flirted with the idea of moving up to 170 to add the welterweight title to his collection. St.Pierre can always drop down to welterweight to challenge the current champ, Tyron Woodley, while McGregor handles Tony Ferguson at lightweight. It’s possible they could both meet for the welterweight title sometime late next year in a fight that would shatter MMA history. That’s winning big. You know the motto. Give the fans the fights they want to see as soon as you can!
*Photos Courtesy of : Josh Hedges, bloodyelbow.com, and express.co.uk