Not one... not two... but three UFC championships will be on the line Saturday night in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The main event happens to be the return of one of the biggest stars in the history of MMA in Georges St-Pierre, but any of the three are deserving of headlining a pay-per-view card.
St-Pierre will move up to the middleweight division to take on Michael Bisping nearly four years from announcing his retirement after a five-round war with Johny Hendricks in which he defended the welterweight belt for the ninth consecutive time.
The returning legend will be preceded by the first title defense of a rising UFC star in Cody Garbrandt. No Love will look to defend the belt that he won by beating Dominick Cruz soundly against former Team Alpha Male teammate TJ Dillashaw.
The trifecta all starts with Joanna Jedrzejczyk looking to make her sixth-straight title defense in the women's strawweight division against Rose Namajunas.
It's a card worthy of the Big Apple and one that should stand out as one of the best of 2017. Here's a look at the card, the latest odds from OddsShark, ticket info and predictions for the three title fights.
Ticket Info: StubHub
Main Card (PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- Michael Bisping (-105, bet $105 to win $100) vs. Georges St-Pierre (-115) Middleweight title fight
- Cody Garbrandt (-179) vs. TJ Dillashaw (+154, bet $100 to win $154) Bantamweight title fight
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk (-530) vs. Rose Namajunas (+415) Women's Strawweight title fight
- Jorge Masvidal (+147) vs. Stephen Thompson (-172) Welterweight
- Paulo Costa (-210) vs. Johny Hendricks (+180) Middleweight
Prelims (Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET)
- Joe Duffy (-190) vs. James Vick (+165) Lightweight
- Walt Harris (N/A) vs. Mark Godbeer (N/A) Heavyweight
- Corey Anderson (+147) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (-172) Light Heavyweight
- Randy Brown (-110) vs. Mickey Gall (-110) Welterweight
Prelims (Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET)
- Curtis Blaydes (-365) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (+300) Heavyweight
- Ion Cutelaba (-500) vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk (+385) Light Heavyweight
- Ricardo Ramos (-170) vs. Aiemann Zahabi (+145)
Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre
This might be the hardest fight on the card to pick. Although both have the longest resumes on the card, their recent inactivity makes it hard to know what either will look like in the cage on Saturday night.
For GSP, the layoff has obviously been a lot longer. Nearly four years is a long time for an athlete to step away from a sport. Especially one that evolves at the rate that MMA has since he's left. Firas Zahabi—St-Pierre's longtime trainer—doesn't see it being an issue, though.
"I always believed Georges had a lot of fight left in him; it was just a matter of him taking some time off," he said, per Mike Bohn of Rolling Stone. "If he had a limited amount of experience I believe time off could be a major issue. He's been competing since he was six or seven years old. For him, it's like riding a bike. I don't believe ring rust is an issue in this fight."
There are two ways to look at the layoff, though.
The first is that GSP needed the time off. Years of taking on all comers as the welterweight champion not only took a mental toll but a physical one. Now, four years removed from the limelight and the intensity of being one of the UFC's biggest attractions, he's going to be re-energized and as scary as ever.
The second way is that GSP is a mortal just like the rest. Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Dan Henderson—all were legends of the sport, but their time as champions has expired. GSP's last fight against Hendricks was arguably the toughest in his career and it was probably the right time to go out on top.
Of course, St-Pierre's opponent on Saturday night isn't a whippersnapper anymore either. Bisping is actually two years GSP's senior. At 38 years old, he's managed to defend his belt just once since winning it in June 2016. That came against a shell of Dan Henderson over a year ago.
So if the first option is true and GSP looks something like the man that ruled the welterweight division for years, Bisping is in trouble. St-Pierre as a middleweight was once key to the superfight that everyone wanted to see between Silva and the Canadian.
What's more likely, though, is that this is a matchup between two men fighting to show who has more left to offer. In that regard, Bisping has the advantage. St-Pierre—as technical as he can be—is a fighter who has always benefited from incredible explosiveness and athleticism.
Bisping doesn't need those advantages. Many times in his career he hasn't had those advantages and probably won't have them Saturday night. What he does have is an incredible gas tank, technical striking and great fight IQ.
That might be enough to beat whatever's left of GSP.
Prediction: Bisping by unanimous decision
Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw
It doesn't get much better than this matchup in the fight game. Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw are two of the most skilled fighters in their weight class at the peak of their powers who have a genuine disdain for one another that will be settled in the cage.
The storyline is familiar to just about everyone by now. Once upon a time Dillashaw and Garbrandt were teammates at Team Alpha Male, until Dillashaw left the gym to go train at Elevation Fight Team with Duane Ludwig.
The result was a war of words and occasional throat-grabbing that led up to this anticipated matchup. The UFC hasn't hesitated to play the angle up either:
Five days 'til they settle it in the Octagon. #UFC217 https://t.co/4KMu3oW2dH2017-10-30 23:02:01
This isn't one of those bouts that's just intriguing outside of the cage, either. The battle that will ensue inside it is an interesting one as well.
Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz have often been compared for their styles. The two former champions employ similar movement and striking repertoires so it's easy to see why they get compared so often.
The difference between the two, however, is aggression. While Cruz has only finished one fight in his entire time in the UFC, Dillashaw has picked up six wins under the UFC banner by either TKO or submission, including two TKO wins over Renan Barao.
Garbrandt's fight against Cruz was one of the best performances in recent memory given the opponent, the execution and the shock factor. It wasn't just that he won, but that he mad Cruz look silly at times.
Dillashaw's aggression will provide Garbrandt with a new challenge that differs from Cruz. The champion's latest opponent will be more inclined to take advantage of opportunities and put No Love on the defensive.
The great equalizer is Garbrandt's power, though. The champion has elite boxing skills, but that isn't what gives him the advantage here. It's the fact that he is equally as likely to outpoint Dillashaw in the exchanges as he is to land the one punch that could end the night early in any given exchange.
Prediction: Garbrandt by third-round TKO
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas
The first title fight on the card has the widest odds, and for good reason. Joanna Jedrzejczyk has been a dominant champion of the women's strawweight class and will continue to be a sizable favorite against all comers until proved otherwise.
With five title defenses to her name already, Joanna Champion has reached the point where most of her contenders don't have the resume to challenge for the title, but they're the only options left.
Namajunas is a perfect example. Thug Rose is just one win removed from her last loss. A submission win over Michelle Waterson was enough to get her this shot.
Granted, Namajunas is a long, dynamic fighter who could be one of few fighters to give the champion problems on the outside. She's also just relentless enough with takedowns that she could land one against the champion.
That would be something we've rarely seen the champion deal with. She defends 81 percent of all takedowns, per FightMetric.
The scary thing for Namajunas, though, is her track record in longer fights. Thug Rose is just 1-2 in fights that go the distance while the champion wants to have long fights. Her last four fights have been unanimous-decision victories.
Jedrzejczyk believes Namajunas' mental state will play a role in this fight. She's said so on multiple occasions.
“Hey, listen to yourself,” Jedrzejczyk said to Namajunas, per Shaun Al-Shatti of MMA Fighting. “You didn’t even want to do media. You didn’t want to do extra media. How do you want to be a champion and deal with all of these things? You know what? You are not stronger mentally. You are mentally unstable and you are broken already, and I will break you in the fight.”
Namajunas' aggression and skill set should be interesting to see in the first few rounds. She has the ability to pull off the upset if things line up for her and she catches Jedrzejczyk early.
The smart pick is on Joanna Violence doing her thing, though. The champion might have to weather an early storm, but will then take over in brutal fashion, picking up another decision victory.
Prediction: Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision