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UFC 217 at MSG: All titles change hands in best fight card of the year

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WOW! On a night full of fights, UFC 217 delivered the best event of the year by far, and in my opinion toppled last year’s Madison Square Garden debut! There were three title fights that headlined the card and these were barn burners!

We had Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1) defending her strawweight title against the challenger Rose Namajunas (7-3). Joanna Champion, as we know her, was set to make history for most title defenses in the female division set by Ronda Rousey with a win against Namajunas. Namajunas fought for the title early in her career in, which was way too soon for her. She has grown as a mixed martial artist and has learned a lot along the way. Joanna Champion is a savage and just beats chicks up and has been doing it for a long time.

Joanna Champion had been talking a lot of smack to Namajunas, stating “You’e mentally unstable” and “You can’t handle the responsibilities of a champion… This is too big for you.” Rose was tight lipped and was certain to let her fighting do the talking. How did the fight go?


Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczk via KO (RND. 1)


Joanna Champion looked to be the much bigger fighter and was aggessive. She is a Swiss army knife. She has many different tools that have cut through all of her opponents. Her kickboxing and muay thai is amongst the best in the world. She tried to press Namajunas and landed some good shots, but in one of the flurries Namajunas caught Joanna Champion with a left hand that dropped her and then Namajunas would lay some ground and pound, but both fighters would reset on the feet. Joanna Champion visibly looked surprised and didn’t know how to defend against Namajunas. Namajunas would land a devastating left hand that dropped Joanna Champion and laid some ground and pound and just like that we witnessed the upset! Namajunas coming into this fight was the biggest underdog out of all fighters that fought tonight so if you bet on “Thug” Rose to win this fight, you made a pretty penny!


The next championship fight was in the men’s Bantamweight division between two former teammates that have grown to hate each other and decided to finally settle the beef in the octagon. Cody Garbrandt (11-1) was set to defend his Bantamweight title against TJ Dillashaw (16-3). A quick backstory on the history of these two, as mentioned they were both teammates on Team Alpha Male, founded by UFC Hall of Famer, Urijah Faber. Dillashaw’s head coach, Duane Ludwig, was also a part of Team Alpha Male, but decided to leave the gym and have his own gym. According to Dillashaw, he wanted to do his fight camps with Ludwig, but still be a part of Team Alpha Male, but Faber and the team decided they didn’t want him back. There has been bad blood since then and now we have the scrap we’ve been waiting for.


TJ Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt via KO (RND. 2)

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Dillashaw was really loose and was almost too loose in the opening round. Garbrandt was laser focused and was head hunting early. Garbrandt, a former Gold Gloves boxer, was putting his lightning fast and powerful hands on display in the 1st round and landed a nice right hand on the button that dropped Dillashaw and as Garbrandt was going with some ground and pound the bell rings. Dillashaw smiled getting up and wobbled back to his corner. Going into the 2nd round, Dillashaw looked to have been 100% recovered and started to focus up. Ludwig told Dillashaw to stop setting up the kicks and start blasting because Garbrandt’s is that of the traditional boxer first. Dillashaw landed a head kick to the forehead of Garbrandt in which dropped him as well. In the same round, both guys would stand in the pocket and Dillashaw would land a massive right hand on the button that rolled Garbrandt’s eyes back. Dillashaw ounced with some ground and pound and just like that Dillashaw is champ once again!


Onto the main event!


In the main event, Michael Bisping (30-8) was set to defend his Middleweight title against the returning and former Welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre (26-2)! The story of this fight card was the return of GSP. GSP before Saturday night had not fought in 4 years. His last fight was in 2013 when he successfully defended his welterweight title against Johny Hendricks in a very controversial decision in which looked like he lost after taking such a beating. He said that he needed to hang up his gloves for a little, not entirely declaring retirement, but 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years gone and we thought we’d never see him again. Then GSP and the UFC came to an agreement for this title fight. After a 4-year layoff, not only is he coming back, but he’s coming back for a title and a title at a different weight class! Bisping is a future Hall of Famer like GSP. He is one of the most established fighters of his time and his story is amazing. The brash Englishman fought the best of the best in 2 different weight classes and has beaten some of the top guys in the organization and even became champ late in his career. He always has something to prove and is ready to throw down.


Georges St. Pierre def. Michael Bisping via submission (RND. 3, rear naked choke)

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GSP showed no signs of ring rust at all, although his cardio was tested in this fight. Fighting at 170 lbs. for the majority of his career and having to put on muscle to make the 185 pounds and fight at the heavier weight was certainly a test in itself than the fight at hand. Having said that, his timing, speed and intelligence looked as good as it has ever been. I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the 1st round, GSP landed a lot more shots than Bisping and was catching Bisping flush in some of the exchanges. Bisping started off slow and couldn’t put together good combos and was getting pieced early. Going into the 2nd round, Bisping looked to have started putting things together. GSP started the round off well, but looked to fade just a bit, breathing heavy. GSP shot in on Bisping with the takedown, Bisping was able to get up on his feet pretty quickly and the boxing came into play. He was pressing GSP and stalking him around the cage and started to put together a lot of good strikes. At this point, after two rounds, I had each fighter winning a round apiece. GSP was cut, and in the third round he started to wear the crimson mask. GSP got cut on the ground while being on top in guard after Bisping was scraping GSP with elbows in the 2nd round. After we saw GSP looking gassed in the 2nd round, he looked to have caught a 2nd wind in the 3rd round. He was using his jab well, and side kicks for separation. In the sequence going into the finish, GSP would land a nasty left hook on the button of Bisping that would drop him. GSP would rain elbows on Bisping and as Bisping turned over, GSP got his back and sunk in a rear-naked choke and slept Bisping to become the new Middleweight and one of a handful of fighters to have held two belts in different weight classes and that’s how the night was capped.


This was a rollercoaster of emotions as a fight fan. These three title fights were something serious! In my opinion, this tops last year’s MSG card, not even close. Almost every fight ended by way of a finish, every single title changed hands, underdogs became the top dog and legends solidified their place in history. Georges St. Pierre’s was nostalgic, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt showed that enemies can settle their differences and Rose Namajunas showed what humblness and positivity does for the person inside. These fights were exciting, it was what the UFC desperately needed and it certainly delivered the best card maybe of all time and the biggest stars weren’t even fighting on the card, but rather have made themselves into stars now!

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Brandon Tubens

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