UFC 217: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2017

UFC 217: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    UFC 217 is almost here, bringing a night full of elite-level MMA action capped off with three title fights.

    In the main event Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Georges St-Pierre returns to the UFC for the first time in four years to challenge middleweight king Michael Bisping. GSP is seeking to become the fourth fighter to hold a title in two separate divisions.

    The co-main event will help settle a feud between former teammates, as bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw finally step inside the cage to settle their score.

    The third title tilt is in the strawweight division, where Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas will go to war in a highly anticipated scrap.

    How will those fights shake out? The B/R staff is here to pontificate and prognosticate. Craig Amos, Steven Rondina, Scott Harris and Nathan McCarter break down the five-fight main card and offer their predictions.

    Here is your primer for the UFC 217 main card, complete with who will walk out of the cage with gold around their waist.

Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo Borrachinha

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    Craig Amos

    The 2013-14 version of Johny Hendricks is a distant memory. I'm not sure what happened there, but coming off a knockout loss to Tim Boetsch is not a good segue into a fight with Paulo Borrachinha, who puts people to sleep with an enthusiasm that rivals the Sandman.

    Maybe Hendricks will channel his vintage self, but the most likely outcome bodes poorly for the former welterweight champ.

    Borrachinha, knockout, Rd. 1

              

    Steven Rondina

    I was thinking there was a chance Hendricks could wrestle his way to a decision...but look at the size difference between these two! Seriously, look!

    If this were 2013 Hendricks, I'd still be reluctant to pick him based on that alone. But 2017 Hendricks? Yeah, no way.

    Borrachinha, TKO, Rd. 1

             

    Scott Harris

    Hendricks' best days are behind him unless he does something to prove otherwise. Borrachinha is a young berserker with Hendricks' fading chin in his sights. Unless Hendricks can rediscover his wrestling and stomach-turning power-clinch game, this might be just the latest "last shot" for the former champ.

    Borrachinha, TKO, Rd. 1

              

    Nathan McCarter

    Seems like we're in an echo chamber. Hendricks has done nothing of late to inspire any confidence; meanwhile, Borrachinha is looking like a promising prospect. Unless Hendricks found the fountain of youth in his camp, Borrachinha takes care of business with a big statement.

    Borrachinha, TKO, Rd. 1 

Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal

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    Craig Amos

    It's easy to overlook this bout since it's followed by a trio of title fights, but it's awesome. Jorge Masvidal likes to dirty things up, which should allow Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson to let loose more than he did during his abortive stab at the title.

    But while that's wonderful news for fans, it's not so wonderful for Masvidal. It'll be competitive, but the tactician will earn the nod.

    Thompson, unanimous decision

           

    Steven Rondina

    I've been a "Jorge Masvidal is super underrated" kind of guy since Strikeforce, but this is a tough fight for him. Unless Masvidal can turn this into a dogfight, I'm expecting Thompson to keep him at arm's (or leg's) length, outland him, and take a workmanlike decision in an exciting fight.

    Thompson, unanimous decision

             

    Scott Harris

    Too much has to go right for Thompson. Not unlike Anthony Pettis, opponents have to give the rangy Thompson the space he needs to operate. Thompson is more dangerous than Pettis, but the analogy holds.

    Masvidal knows he has to close the distance with Thompson, and he's not afraid to take shots to get it done. He'll move this to phone-booth range and punish Wonderboy with body shots. He might even get him to the ground. Sound the upset alarms.

    Masvidal, unanimous decision

             

    Nathan McCarter

    I'm not going to leave Scott on an island by himself. I'll row out with him. Masvidal is a tough stylistic matchup for what Thompson does best, and Masvidal's toughness should allow him to keep coming forward.

    But I'm not confident. Why? One of Masvidal's frustrating traits is to take rounds off or shut down in the later rounds even when not tired. It's cost him a fair few fights. I'm banking on him to not have another letdown en route to a narrow decision.

    Masvidal, unanimous decision

UFC Strawweight Championship: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas

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    Craig Amos

    Namajunas is always improving, so maybe she's surpassed the champ. However, at last assessment she had a lot of ground to make up, and it's difficult to believe she's caught up. Jedrzejczyk takes this one in characteristic style, putting on a striking clinic en route to a decision victory.

    Jedrzejczyk, unanimous decision

              

    Steven Rondina

    Jedrzejczyk is basically the worst conceivable stylistic matchup there is for Namajunas. Unless something wild happens (which isn't out of the question for the woman who first hit the map for a flying armbar), I'm expecting Joanna Champion to stick and move her way to a handy unanimous-decision win.

    Jedrzejczyk, unanimous decision

           

    Scott Harris

    Namajunas could try to catch the champ early, although she's not much of a fast starter. She might be able to strike with the champ for those five rounds, but I wouldn't wish that task on my worst enemy.

    Her best chance is to take her down and go for a choke in the scramble, but that might be threading a needle. The champ has more paths to victory.

    Jedrzejczyk, TKO, Rd. 4

            

    Nathan McCarter

    Namajunas' unpredictability is the key to her success in this fight. If she wants to hold the belt, she'll have to surprise Jedrzejczyk in the first two rounds. Once the champ figures her out, it'll get ugly.

    I believe Namajunas can surprise her; I just don't believe she will surprise her. After the first 10 minutes, Jedrzejczyk will begin to brutalize Namajunas. The referee will eventually have to step in to save the youngster from the mauling.

    Jedrzejczyk, TKO, Rd. 4 

UFC Bantamweight Championship: Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw

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    Craig Amos

    I don't know that I can pick against Garbrandt after what he did to Dominick Cruz. Prior to that fight, it was believed speedy guys with movement could foil his overwhelming power, but surprise, Garbrandt is also a speedy guy with movement. Plus he has all that power.

    Dillashaw's best chance is to wrestle early and often, but the call here is for Garbrandt to shut him down and eventually knock him out.

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 3

               

    Steven Rondina

    I'm of the same persuasion as Craig. It's possible that Garbrandt's performance against Cruz earlier this year was a bit of an aberration, but it's also possible that he is that good. Until the former is proved, I'm believing the latter.

    Garbrandt, unanimous decision

             

    Scott Harris

    If I can only watch one fight on this card, this is it—and it's not close. Dillashaw is a dynamic fighter, and he is to be feared. Garbrandt, though, has all the skill and ferocious power. His defense might be what tells the tale. Dillashaw may not be able to consistently hit him cleanly.

    Garbrandt, unanimous decision

             

    Nathan McCarter

    I'm right there with the lot of you. If Garbrandt didn't shut down Cruz so effectively, I'd be inclined to pick Dillashaw. But that was such an impressive performance I have no reason to doubt that Garbrandt won't do the same to Dillashaw.

    I'll side with Craig in that Garbrandt gets the finish. He'll catch Dillashaw with a power shot and retain his gold.

    Garbrandt, TKO, Rd. 3

UFC Middleweight Championship: Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre

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    Craig Amos

    I just have no idea. St-Pierre hasn't fought in four years and was in clear decline before that, which makes it easy to envision him falling flat on his face in this comeback fight against Bisping.

    But on the other hand, he's one of the best to ever enter the cage, and it's not like he's coming back after suffering a string of knockouts. I'm not touching the betting line, but I'll say the legend makes good on his narrative, using his wrestling to control enough of the action to eke out a decision.

    St-Pierre, unanimous decision

           

    Steven Rondina

    Even after all these years, I'd bet that GSP is a better fighter from an X's and O's perspective...but they have weight classes for a reason.

    Bisping enjoyed a long stretch of success as a light heavyweight in his early days. St-Pierre was discussing the possibility of dropping down to 155 pounds not that long ago.

    Bisping is going to just be too big for him, and the result will either be a clinch-fest that Bisping wins on the score cards or something similar to his 2014 fight with Cung Le.

    Bisping, unanimous decision

           

    Scott Harris

    I can't believe how many people are taking Bisping. I want that trend to be different, but I don't want to be the one to break it.

    In addition to what everyone else has said about size differences and GSP's long time off, St-Pierre's heart just doesn't seem to be in this. No hunger, no anger, no excitement, no nothing. You just want to shake him and ask, "Why are you here?" That's not a winning attitude come fight time.

    Bisping, unanimous decision

              

    Nathan McCarter

    I was hoping to be in the minority on this one, but it appears that won't be the case. Listen, GSP is the more talented and athletic fighter. He's also the smaller fighter who doesn't quite match up stylistically with the champion.

    Bisping was able to repeatedly defend and/or get up quickly from light heavyweight and middleweight wrestlers. I don't have confidence GSP can effectively do the same for 25 minutes. That leaves him having to harm Bisping with his kickboxing.

    Can I envision GSP landing a head kick or power shot that floors Bisping? Yes, but it's an incredibly low percentage that it actually happens. Bisping's constant forward pressure and volume striking will limit those opportunities. Bisping will tune up and retire GSP for good.

    Bisping, TKO, Rd. 4