“I always say that this sport is all about holy shit moments…this was the holy shit card”
– Dana White, UFC 217 post-fight press conference
UFC 217 was a stacked card, one of the most impressive on paper cards the promotion had ever presented. Three title fights, the return of a legend, a battle between two former teammates who’s distaste for one another is as clear as a 3am alcohol fuelled leak — I’ve been told it means I’m hydrated?! — and another title holder, Joanna Jzergedek (is that the spelling?) attempting to tie the record for successful title defences, held by judoka turned night-elf Ronda Rousey — P.S. It’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but you see why I initially mailed it in?
The aftermath of UFC 217 has given fight fans much to speculate about in the coming months.
Three titles changing hands — The return of GSP, who joined an exclusive club of multi-division champions — what does the future hold for Joanna Jedrzejczyk after her loss to Thug Rose Namajunas? And finally, how does Cody Garbrandt bounce back from his first defeat in the octagon — His post-fight remarks suggest a strong appetite for a rematch, which many would agree he’s entitled to, but is complicated by Dillashaw’s plan to move down to 125 lbs. to challenge Demetrious Johnson.
So many questions were answered, and many more posed following the events at Madison Square Garden. Let’s take a closer look at the main card outcomes and some possible outcomes for all fighters involved…
Paulo Costa def. Johny Hendricks via second-round TKO (1:23)
In the first main card match, Paulo “The Eraser” Costa scored his most impressive UFC triumph to date, beating seasoned veteran Johny Hendricks via second-round TKO. The result moved Costa to 4-0 in his UFC career, and moved Hendricks to 1-2 in his UFC middleweight career. Once a force in the promotion, this is a big blow to Hendrick’s stance within the UFC, now having lost five of his last six fights.
Costa looked impressive throughout the fight, setting (and maintaining) a pace that Hendricks couldn’t possibly withstand for three rounds. Despite fending off Costa’s high energy attack early, the countless hard hitting body shots to the former welterwight title holder proved too much to withstand, eventually crumbling in the second round.
John McCarthy quickly stepped in to call it after a few more ground and pound shots from the promising Brazilian.
For Hendricks, he’s likely bound for non-PPV duty for the foreseeable future as he continues to try and re-discover his title form — personally, I don’t see a way back to title relevancy for him.
In the case of Costa, his performance should put him in a position for a rank boosting bout in the near future.
Stephen Thompson def. Jorge Masvidal via unanimous decision
Called out by Masvidal, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson delivered a clinical and calculated performance to reinforce his position as a top contender in the welterweight division.
Possessing one of the more entertaining fighting styles in the game, Thompson utilized an array of unorthodox kicks and counter punches on his way to a win that puts him in line for a potential trilogy fight with current champion Tyron Woodley. While the prospect of a third fight is intriguing, Thompson will need a more go for broke style if he hopes to best Woodley. Often in this fight, Wonderboy willingly looked to close the distance, landing against Masvidal, but in two fights against Woodley, has been hesitant to get in too tight due to the power Woodley possesses in both hands.
Masvidal is an impressive fighter, but was simply out done by a superior man on this night. While a setback, he remains very much in the welterweight picture.
Masvidal and Darren Till would be an interesting matchup of styles. Till, fresh off a convincing win over Cowboy Cerrone, possesses heavy hands and showed his finishing ability in the fight versus Cowboy. A matchup with Masvidal would give Till a different look, and seeing how he’d navigate the unconventional movements and style of Masvidal is, if nothing else, intriguing.
Thompson, having already lost to Woodley twice may have to wait one title chance before getting his third. A matchup with former champion Robbie Lawler seems like the way to go. A win over Lawler would surely give Thompson the keys to a third title fight.
Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via first-round TKO (3:03)
So…this was the first (and most insane) HOLY $*** MOMENT of the night…
Eerily quiet in the build up to the fight, Thug Rose shut down the woman who many were ready to crown the greatest of all-time. Before I go any further, check out how stoic Namajunas was in the final staredown before meeting in the octagon
Through all of Joanna’s boogieman antics, Namajunas quietly recited the Lord’s Prayer. Turns out it was Joanna who could have benefited from some divine intervention on this night.
In a fight many gave her little chance at success in, Namajunas landed 31 significant strikes to Jedrzejczyk’s 5 and ended it all with a single punch, ultimately forcing the self-proclaimed Strawweight Queen to tap due to strikes.
This was truly one of the most remarkable performances I can recall witnessing, and although the lead-up had a similar feeling to the Rousey-Holm bout at UFC 193, few could’ve predicted the fight would end as it did.
The Strawweight division has a new humble Queen.
Despite the fashion of defeat, if desired Jedrzejczyk should receive a rematch on her terms. Her resume and track record speak for themselves. The timing of the rematch is where the uncertainty lies. She likely needs some time off to rest and recharge, much like the new champion.
Whoever is ready first, Jessica Andrade awaits.
T.J. Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt via second-round TKO (2:41)
The battle of former Team Alpha Male teammates was arguably the most anticipated fight of the evening. A pre-fight build up highlighted by a mostly one-sided airing of he said, he said ended with Dillashaw showing No Love for Garbrandt, reclaiming his title via a second-round TKO.
The first round ended with TJ eating a wicked counter right and had it not been for the bell, the fight may have went an entirely different direction.
Instead, Dillashaw got a chance to reset in-between rounds. In the second, he began mixing in kicks which seemed to put Garbrandt on his heels. After connecting with a head kick that startled the champion, Dillashaw took advantage of what Garbrandt later called a technical error — A right hook, and a few more ground shots to serve as a parting gift, and the title belt was back around Killashaw’s waist.
As dominant as he looked against Cruz, Garbrandt appeared to be driven by emotion in this fight. Although he appeared to be in control following round 1, you had a feeling he would slip up at some point, and that’s exactly what happened. Fighting is a cruel game — all it takes is one shot, one mistake, and world gets turned upside down — and for Garbrandt, who claims he’s still the better fighter and deserving of an immediate rematch, this result prevented him from possibly becoming the UFC’s next mega-star.
Rematch?!?! While there is little doubt these two will face-off again in the future, it may be a longer wait than many of us, most notably Cody Garbrandt, were hoping for. All signs pointing to Dillashaw’s next fight coming at featherweight (125 lbs.) against Demetrious Johnson, who taking nothing away from, hasn’t faced a significant challenge in years. Dillashaw, provided he can make weight, is that challenge, and he and Dana White seem like they are on the same page. No reason for Demetrious not to join their book club.
For Garbrandt, assuming a title rematch is temporarily on the back burner, and with Cruz already slated to fight fellow title contender Jimmie Rivera, the list of legitimate opponents for Garbrandt seems short. I believe, with his dominance over Cruz, he deserves a rematch before the winner of Cruz-Rivera get theirs but in the event that doesn’t happen, perhaps a slugfest with John Lineker is what brings Cody back into the octagon. One loss doesn’t define a career, and it won’t keep No Love down for long.
GSP def. Michael Bisping via submission (rear-naked choke) (3rd, 4:23)
I really don’t think anybody, experts included, knew what to expect from the main event. In one corner, you had Michael Bisping, who for all his accomplishments, is in the twilight of his career and who’s last three victories came over an OLD Anderson Silva, an underprepared Luke Rockhold, and an OLD Dan Henderson. Not exactly a stellar a list when you consider the time we’re in.
In the other corner was Georges St. Pierre. A heavier GSP who had been away from the octagon for four years. It was anybody’s guess how this would go…
…And it certainly didn’t disappoint.
St.Pierre, despite the layoff, looked as dangerous as ever. Armed with a lethal left jab that ranks among the best MMA has ever seen, along with a wrestling pedigree that deserves similar recognition, Canada’s MMA superstar gave Bisping his best shots and takedowns, all while taking some heavy strikes from Bisping (GSP scored 57 significant strikes to Bisping’s 28) — What was supposed to be a clear size advantage for Bisping, I found GSP to look like the BIGGER fighter in this one.
Seemingly ahead on points as he has often found himself, St. Pierre tagged the champ with a heavy counter right in the third and immediately pounced on a shaken Bisping. Landing heavy shots from the top you had to think it was time for GSP to empty the tank (the added pounds did seem to rob him of some cardio). As he rained down shots, GSP appeared to give Bisping a window to get up. However, he would quickly close that window and once Bisping gave St. Pierre his back, he found himself in a clinical rear naked choke…moments later, the champ lay motionless and GSP was once again atop the UFC mountain.
It was a masterful performance by GSP, who looks as good as ever. He still may be one defeat away from retirement, but let’s all enjoy the ride as long as we’re on it.
For Bisping, if he can get healthy, he will likely finish out his MMA career fighting on the London card, slated for March 17, 2018. His opponent is still TBD but that seems as good a time and place as any for one of the sport’s greats to wrap things up.
As is always the case with GSP, he was non-committal on his future plans. While he may seem undecided, Dana White was rather direct in his assessment of what awaits the new middleweight champion.
“It’s going to be [Robert] Whittaker” were Dana White’s exact words. The timing of that fight remains to be seen. The obvious date is UFC 221 in Perth, Australia (Whittaker’s training grounds), set for February 11, 2018 but the feasibility of that rests with GSP’s ability to recover from the damage sustained in this fight.
Looking past Whittaker, GSP could also explore a run at the welterweight title. And finally, would we all not want to see a McGregor-GSP showdown??????????
Many hurdles to clear before that happens, but just the thought gives me chills.