It's official. Georges St-Pierre is back in the ranks of the UFC champions.
After nearly four years away from the Octagon, GSP defeated Michael Bisping via third-round submission to take the belt away in the main event of UFC 217 from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
If there were any questions about ring rust in terms of his form, GSP answered them right away. The new middleweight appeared smooth from the opening bell, establishing his jab and threatening with kicks early.
Rush was the aggressor throughout the first round, stalking down Bisping and scoring his first takedown of the fight in the final minute of the first round. Bleacher Report MMA gave him the first round:
The second round proved to be much more interesting. GSP slowed a bit as questions arose concerning his conditioning with the added weight of jumping up to middleweight. Bisping landed with more regularity as his volume remained unchanged.
Still, GSP landed another takedown:
It was a difficult round to score, but Chamatkar Sandhu of MMAjunkie scored the round for the Brit:
The back-and-forth continued into the third round as GSP scored a takedown once again. This time he was able to keep The Count down, but he was cut open by Bisping's elbows from the bottom while trying to establish his own ground-and-pound.
When the fight got back to the feet, it quickly turned in favor of GSP. St-Pierre floored Bisping with a hard left hand and followed him to the mat where he swarmed with strikes, locked on a rear-naked choke and ended Bisping's night.
UFC Asia passed along the highlight of GSP's starting the end:
Although he's now just the fourth fighter to win a title in two weight classes, St-Pierre didn't necessarily sound committed to staying at 185 pounds:
Coming back after four years away from the Octagon, winning the middleweight championship is just the latest accomplishment in one of the most impressive careers in UFC history. St-Pierre became a megastar in this sport by ruling the welterweight division for six years and amassing a 25-2 record.
It's not likely that's going to be his modus operandi as the middleweight champion, though.
The division has been in a holding pattern since Bisping became the champion. The Count only defended the belt twice since winning it in June 2016. Dan Henderson and GSP—a combined age of 82—were the two challengers who got a crack at the belt.
However, St-Pierre might also be more concerned with finding the biggest paydays rather than the best challengers in his new weight class.
The next step at middleweight would be interim champion Robert Whittaker. That's not a big-money fight, though.
Instead, Bisping speculated that GSP has a much different plan in place.
"He wants to beat me, go back down to welterweight, beat [UFC welterweight champion] Tyron [Woodley], and then face [UFC lightweight champion] Conor [McGregor], beat all three, and then retire and make a ton of money," Bisping said, per Jed Meshew of MMA Fighting. "And the UFC probably wants that to happen. By that I don't mean beat Conor, I mean beat me. Beat me, then either beat Woodley or go straight to Conor."
Those are all tantalizing possibilities. With the win, St-Pierre has once again captured the imagination of fans like he did when a superfight between him and Anderson Silva was the biggest fight to make in the sport.
Regardless of which direction St-Pierre decides to go, it's good for the sport to have Rush back.