It was a crazy night of action at UFC 217 in New York City as three champions fell in stunning fashion. You'd think Georges St-Pierre taking the middleweight strap off Michael Bisping would be the biggest story of the night, but that'd overlook Rose Namajunas' surprise and seemingly effortless upset of Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Joanna was a -700 favorite to win on betting sites, and you could get Namajunas winning by KO at astounding +2500 odds, meaning a $100 bet would net you $2500. We doubt many people made that bet, and we also doubt the odds will be as lopsided for the inevitable rematch.
Georges The Great
But let's get back to GSP and what he managed to do: move up a weight class to win a belt after four years off. As good as he looked, it was no sure thing. Georges has never been great at taking hard shots and that's exactly what Bisping landed on him a few times. By round three you could tell St-Pierre was starting to fatigue with the extra weight, and he actually performed his worst when he got Bisping on his back in the middle of the Octagon.
If you took a snapshot of the fight a minute before it ended, you would say it wasn't look good for GSP. But then he connected with that big left hook that dropped Bisping, and he swarmed the champ with the tenacity we haven't seen since he used to be known as "Rush" back in the early 2000s. He poured on the pressure and then set a trap that allowed him to take the back and choke Bisping out. It was aggressive and beautiful. It was risky as well ... if it hadn't gone right how much more would he have had in his tank?
That's the best part about this Georges St-Pierre comeback. The welterweight great hasn’t returned to ride his jab or top control to decision victories. Now he's a weight class up, being legitimately challenged and having to really dig deep to earn the wins. That's way more exciting to watch than his dominating run at 170 where he rarely lost a round.
The urgency in this fight against Bisping was real. Every minute he spent fighting in the cage was more risk. And that's going to make whatever happens next for GSP way more compelling than anything we’ve seen from him in the past.
Champion Vs. Champion?
It seemed to me like Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw is a fight that may always end up a coin toss. In some other dimension a mere fraction away from our own, it was Garbrandt who connected instead of Dillashaw to retain his belt. I'm sure the two will meet again and it will be just as close, but for now Dillashaw has plans to move down to 125 to challenge Demetrious Johnson, and Dana White sounds like he's cool with it.
That's slightly unusual for the UFC. In the past, champs have had to clean out their own divisions before being allowed to jump around willy nilly challenging champions in other weight classes. If anyone should be allowed to switch divisions and challenge a champ, it's Demetrious Johnson. But Johnson seems to be stubbornly set on staying in his lane at 125, so it's TJ chasing him and the glory of potentially pulling a McGregor by holding two belts simultaneously.
New York Rules
Congrats to the New York State Athletic Commission, who managed UFC 217 well and didn't screw up any of the fights despite some odd bounces early in the card. There was an odd moment where Curtis Blaydes appeared to illegally kick a grounded Oleksiy Oliynyk ... the doctor waved off the fight, but instant replay was used to determine the kick didn't land and Blaydes was declared the rightful winner.
And then there was Walt Harris' blatantly illegal kick to Mark Goodbeer after the ref had called a time out due to a low blow. We've seen so much waffling on illegal moves and blows in MMA that it was shocking to witness a ref DQing a fighter. But it was the right move.
Both moments represented the kind of strange bounces you see sometimes in MMA, bounces the New York commission has failed to roll properly with in the past. This time they got the calls right, and it's a good place to end 2017. Maybe in 2018 they'll manage to erase their reputation as an iffy commission to fight under.