UFC 217: Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre Main Card Preview and Predictions

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2017

UFC 217: Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre Main Card Preview and Predictions

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    Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The UFC's push to an impressive winter has begun. With UFC 216 done, all eyes turn to UFC 217, which sticks out as the company's biggest event in 2017 to this point. Just check out the card:

    Pay-Per-View Main Card

    • Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre
    • Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw
    • Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas
    • Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal

    Fox Sports 1 Preliminary Card

    • James Vick vs. Joseph Duffy
    • Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo Borrachinha
    • Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall

    UFC Fight Pass Preliminary Card

    • Oleksiy Oliynyk vs. Curtis Blaydes
    • Corey Anderson vs. Patrick Cummins
    • Aiemann Zahabi vs. Ricardo Ramos

    Three title fights at the top of the card, including the long-awaited return of all-time great Georges St-Pierre, have challenged the traditional UFC card structure and resulted in a rare four-fight main card. 

    With that (and the steep drop-off from there) in mind, Bleacher Report will take a deeper look at the top-billed contests on the UFC 217 card and detail the fighters and the fights that fans can look forward to seeing on November 4 in Madison Square Garden.

Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal

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    Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal should make for an exciting battle  of wildly different strikers.
    Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal should make for an exciting battle of wildly different strikers.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Stephen Thompson (13-2-1), Jorge Masvidal (32-12)

    From a fan perspective, Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal is an absolute treat. A flashy karateka facing off with a technical veteran with strong boxing skills? That's a recipe for excitement.

    Beneath the fun surface level, however, is an important fight for both men at a critical point in their respective careers.

    Though Thompson is near the top of everyone's welterweight rankings, he hasn't won a fight since June 2016. His supposed-to-be-kingmaker bout at UFC 205 against welterweight champ Tyron Woodley ended in a dissatisfying draw, and their rematch at UFC 209 (which Thompson lost) is widely considered one of the worst title fights in recent UFC history. That inability to capitalize on big opportunities has already cost him dearly, and if he can't organically maintain his spot at the top of the division, the slope will prove to be quite slippery for him.

    Masvidal, on the other hand, has always walked on a tightrope. Since signing up with the UFC in 2013, he has struggled to amass a lengthy winning streak, even though he has scored wins over top-notch opponents. After three up-and-down years, he trampolined into the title picture by defeating Donald Cerrone in January, but Demian Maia dashed his title hopes less than four months later. Still lacking recognizability with fans, he needs to renew his standing in the division by knocking off another high-ranking contender, lest he once again plunge into the middle of the pack.

    Only one of them will be able to keep their spot. The other will become food for the tidal wave of up-and-comers working their way up the welterweight division.

    Thompson is the more established fighter at the elite level, so he should be considered the favorite here. While Masvidal could out-savvy his comparatively inexperienced foe, look for Thompson's slippery striking to carry him to victory.

    Prediction: Stephen Thompson def. Jorge Masvidal by Unanimous Decision

Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas

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    Joanna Jedrzejczyk will have officially cleaned out the women's strawweight division with a win over Rose Namajunas.
    Joanna Jedrzejczyk will have officially cleaned out the women's strawweight division with a win over Rose Namajunas.Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Division: Strawweight
    Records: Joanna Jedrzeczyk (14-0), Rose Namajunas (6-3)

    Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the queen of the UFC at the moment. Her takedown defense is bulletproof, and her striking game is refined to the point where few can touch her. She has now defended her title five times and has experienced little adversity in the process.

    The question isn't whether she will be able to defend her throne. She will. It's just a matter of how much trouble she'll have en route to the win.

    Rose Namajunas? She can cause some trouble...but only some.

    From a talent perspective, there's no question Namajunas is one of the best women in the strawweight division. From her flying armbar submission in 2013 to her dominant run on The Ultimate Fighter to her UFC wins over Paige VanZant and Michelle Waterson, Namajunas has flashed the tools of a pound-for-pound-caliber talent.

    Unfortunately, despite her talent, she still has a distinctive "raw" edge in the cage. The pieces are still there, but nine fights into her UFC career, the puzzle hasn't come together.

    That's damning against Jedrzejczyk. Unless the champ inexplicably decides to start grappling or Namajunas happens to catch her with a big shot, expect Jedrzejczyk to stick-and-move her way around Namajunas en route to a handy decision win.

    Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk def. Rose Namajunas by Unanimous Decision

Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw

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    Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw will finally, at long last, throw down.
    Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw will finally, at long last, throw down.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Division: Bantamweight
    Records: Cody Garbrandt (11-0), TJ Dillashaw (14-3)

    For years, Team Alpha Male was the "bridesmaid" gym. Despite turning out contender after contender and title challenger after title challenger, it couldn't quite bring home any major championships. It wasn't for lack of trying, either, as numerous fighters from the camp—most notably the gym's owner and de facto leader, Urijah Faber—were each given multiple shots, only to come up short.

    For whatever reason, Team Alpha Male couldn't get over the proverbial hump...until TJ Dillashaw.

    In 2014, the TUF14 runner-up made the most of a short-notice title opportunity by capturing the UFC bantamweight championship from Renan Barao. While it was a nice moment for the team objectively, that belt was Faber's white whale, and when Dillashaw brought it home instead of him, it created a rift between the two that split the gym down the middle.

    Dillashaw left, heading to Elevation Fight Team, where he defended the strap twice before dropping it to Dominick Cruz in January. Faber retired after being forced out of contention by back-to-back losses. Stablemate contenders like Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes lost ground in their respective divisions.

    All the while, Cody Garbrandt slowly established himself as the alpha of Team Alpha Male.

    Starting off as an interesting prospect, Garbrandt showed prodigious growth once he signed with the UFC, which didn't go unnoticed by company brass. He was booked for his first main event just a year after his promotional debut. Six months later, he was penned in to challenge Cruz for the UFC title, a fight that he won in shockingly dominant fashion. 

    While years passed and both sides have enjoyed success over time, the beef between Dillashaw and his former friends lingers. That comes to an end at UFC 217, where Garbrandt will defend his team's honor from the "snake in the grass" that nearly tore the group apart.

    It's tough to say what will happen when the door closes.

    As stellar as Garbrandt looked against Cruz, he is still so new that there are plenty of questions about him. Was that performance his floor or his ceiling? What happens when he takes a heavy hit? Can he adapt to Dillashaw's style?

    It's tough to say, but Garbrandt seems to have the tools to take the win. 

    Prediction: Cody Garbrandt def. TJ Dillashaw by Unanimous Decision

Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre

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    Fans may not admit it or like it, but Bisping is lined up to score wins over the two best fighters in UFC history.
    Fans may not admit it or like it, but Bisping is lined up to score wins over the two best fighters in UFC history.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Michael Bisping (30-7), Georges St-Pierre (25-2)

    Depending on who you ask, the middleweight title fight between Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre is anything from the worst fight in the history of this planet to the most interesting contest in the UFC in a long while. Frankly, pretty much every take on the fight is correct.

    Bisping vs. GSP is competitively questionable. While Bisping hasn't been especially active as UFC champion for a number of reasons, St-Pierre is nearly four years removed from his last fight. Worse yet, he will be fighting at 185 pounds, a weight he's never competed at, against a former 205-pounder—even though he recently discussed a potential move to 155 pounds.

    It's also a big step forward for fighters' rights. UFC President Dana White, for whatever reason, did everything in his power to sour both fans and fighters on this bout. Bisping and St-Pierre, two fighters who have sacrificed a lot for the UFC, were undeterred by this and worked together to force the company to repay part of its debt to them.

    Despite that, there's no denying the fight gums up the works in the middleweight division. While oddball title shots can sometimes be justified by the lack of an obvious contender, there is no shortage of competition at 185 pounds, with Robert Whittaker, Luke Rockhold and Anderson Silva all having claims to a crack at Bisping's throne.

    Still, there is enough history on the line that it's possibly justified. St-Pierre is already in the "greatest of all time" discussion, and becoming the fourth person ever to hold titles in two UFC divisions could put him over the top. On the other hand, Bisping already owns a win over Silva, who many consider to be the GOAT, and adding GSP to his resume will give him an on-paper claim to that title.

    The arguments for and against this bout keep on going, but no matter how any fan feels about this contest, it's happening. So, how will this one go? That's anyone's guess, but the odds are heavily in Bisping's favor.

    While GSP is the better pound-for-pound fighter, the ring rust and size differential likely will be too much for him to overcome. He is a wily one, though, so there is a definite chance he can out-savvy the historically mistake-prone Bisping.

    Prediction: Michael Bisping def. Georges St-Pierre by Unanimous Decision