Hooks, shocks, new champions: 5 things we learned from a thrilling UFC 217 in NYC

Georges St-Pierre of Canada fights Michael Bisping of England

UFC 217 will go down as one of the biggest cards in MMA history, as the sport’s juggernaut promotion marked a year of being able to once again promote shows in New York with a sizzling night of thrills and spills.

Here are five key take-homes from the card, in addition to the main event result which saw Georges St-Pierre return to the Octagon and become a two-weight UFC champion by defeating Britain’s Michael Bisping.

What a way to start the card of the year: As ever, UFC’s latest PPV was supported by a two-tiered preliminary card. But rather than serving as a mere appetiser to the big bouts, the first of 11 scheduled showdowns exploded with a thunderous finish. Ricardo Ramos and Alemann Zahabi took one round each in an even bantamweight opener, and Zahabi even looked set to press for a late stoppage in round three only for Ramos to produce something amazing out of nowhere, under heavy pressure. Check it out:

The timing, the speed and the connection were perfect. It was a sickening impact but once we know for absolute certain that Alemann is OK, it’ll join many a highlight reel.

Godbeer vs Harris

Big night for Brit ruined by foul play: England’s own Mark Godbeer got a huge opportunity on the MSG undercard, and he attempted to make the most of it. Strutting out to Oasis classic Supersonic, Godbeer was off to a decent enough start in round one until Walt Harris caught him below the belt. Despite the referee clearly calling for a break as a result, the American brushed the official aside and landed a devastating head kick which would have made for a grand finish, if not completely illegal under the circumstances. Godbeer was awarded the win by disqualification but could barely recall what happened when staggering backstage with the help of his team. Harris then showed even less class with some of his post-fight comments: “I feel like he was looking for a way out and found one,” he suggested. “The referee is supposed to grab me to separate us and I never felt that.”

Rose vs Joanna

The Queen is dead, long live the Queen: Joanna Jedrzejczyk was unbeaten and seemingly unstoppable as the women’s strawweight champion. She was widely tipped to defeat number four contender Rose Namajunas. She spent all of fight week making threats and disparaging her challenger. She then found herself dropped by a wicked left hook and tapping out to the follow-up strikes in only the first round.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” the tearful new titlist said after the fight. “The build-up to the fight really showed me a lot. In many ways, Joanna showed me how to be a champion but also showed me how not to behave as a champion. I hope tonight changed some of her opinions about me. I have so much respect for her and for anyone who steps into the Octagon and does this.”

TJ vs Cody

The big grudge erupts in glorious fashion: Cody Garbrandt’s bantamweight title defence against former stablemate turned hated rival TJ Dillashaw was the chief support bout threatening to take as many headlines as the star-studded top bout. With the pro-Cody crowd erupting at every serious exchange in a tense encounter, Cody finished the first round in style and flipped his challenger a middle finger on his way back to his corner, only to be floored in the second round for the stoppage and the title change. Though they put the vendetta aside to show respect post-fight, the image of Dillashaw getting up in Cody’s face immediately after his victory speaks volumes – as did all the fracas outside the Octagon caused by feuding members of their respective corners.

The night of hooks and three title changes: You would have won a tidy sum betting on all three world titles in the top three bouts all changing hands inside the distance. Not only that, but the short hook was the weapon of choice at MSG, leading to many of the card’s finishes.

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