The UFC hosted their second ever fight card in Madison Square Garden, New York on Saturday evening and just like the first, it featured no shortage of drama and iconic moments.
The main event featured UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping defending his title against the former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in what was the Canadian’s first fight in nearly four years.
St-Pierre retired back in December 2013 after saying that he needed time away from the pressures of being a champion. Last night, it was straight back into the melting pot and with Bisping taking every opportunity possible to remind St-Pierre that he held many advantages heading into the Octagon, the pressure was on St-Pierre to perform and that he did.
The atmosphere in The Garden was at fever pitch as the two men touched gloves for the first time and they pawed away at it other with jabs in the opening seconds to get their bearings. Despite all the talk of Bisping having a size advantage leading into the fight, St-Pierre looked huge and he was the first of the two to land a significant shot as he connected with a right hand.
St-Pierre took Bisping down to the mat and looked to hold him down, but the champion muscled his way back to his feet. With seconds remaining in round one St-Pierre connected with a right and only just missed a follow-up wheel kick that would’ve ended Bisping’s night had it landed flush.
The challenger looked amazing in round one and he continued his good work at the start of round two as he worked in way into distance with his jab. Bisping struck back though midway through round two and he connected with a stiff punch that caused St-Pierre to retreat on the back foot for next minute or so. St-Pierre retaliated by taking Bisping down, but the champion easily got back to his feet and landed a nice switch kick and jabs to let St-Pierre know he was still feeling fresh as the round ended.
The fight felt very even heading in to round three and it was St-Pierre who got the better of the early going as he took Bisping down to the mat once again. The Canadian tried working away in Bisping’s guard, but it was arguably the Brit who did the better work despite being on his back. After a minute on mat Bisping got to his feet and St-Pierre had blood streaming down his fact from a cut on his eye. Bisping caught St-Pierre with a nice jab to send him back, but then St-Pierre changed the tide as he knocked Bisping down to the mat with a clean counter left.
Bisping was totally out of sorts and St-Pierre rushed down to the mat to try to end the fight with strikes. The Brit bravely tried to fend St-Pierre off, but there was denying him and he got his way to Bisping's back and choked him out with a rear-naked choke.
Madison Square Garden erupted at the sight of St-Pierre winning and the chants of “GSP, GSP, GSP” rang around the arena. A crazy night of action finished with Georges St-Pierre once again becoming a UFC champion.
TJ Dillashaw back on top in the bantamweight division
In the co-main event, the UFC bantamweight title was on the line as Cody Garbrandt took on TJ Dillashaw. The rivalry between the two former teammates had been getting increasingly intense for over a year, but last night the feud was finally settled in one of the world’s most iconic sporting arenas.
Garbrandt refused to touch gloves as the referee gave the final instructions and it was he who got the better of the early exchanges in round one. The two traded some excellent striking exchanges throughout the first five minutes and right at the end of the round Garbrandt dropped Dillashaw with a sweet left hand.
Dillashaw luckily got to sit on his stool to recover, but Garbrandt’s confidence skyrocketed and he taunted Dillashaw at the start of round two as the challenger went wayward with an attempted head kick.
Dillashaw got himself back in the fight though and at the third time of asking, he landed a left head kick which temporarily put Garbrandt down. The champion rose straight back up, but Dillashaw was in control and finished the fight as he landed a big right hand to send Garbrandt down to the mat. After a few follow up strikes the referee had seen enough and waved the fight over.
The fight only went two rounds, but it was an incredible back and forth battle. Dillashaw is UFC bantamweight champion once again.
Rose Namajunas upsets Joanna Jedrzejczyk
The first title up for grabs last evening was the UFC women’s strawweight title as champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk took Rose Namajunas. The Pole was looking to secure a record-breaking eighth straight title defence and overtake the original record of seven set by Ronda Rousey, but on the night it just wasn’t meant to be.
Just 24-hours before the fight, Namajunas was in tears shortly after her intense staredown with Jedrzejczyk at the weigh-ins. The American looked overcome with the emotion of the moment, but when the Octagon door closed last evening she looked cool, calm and collected.
Namajunas settled to her task well early on and caught Jedrzejczyk early on with a glancing left hook that temporarily knocked Jedrzejczyk down to the mat. The Pole recovered, but it was the beginning of the end as just a minute later Namajunas caught her again with the left hand and knocked her down for the second time.
With Jedrzejczyk curled up on her knees on the mat, Namajunas rained down strikes until the Polish champion tapped the mat to submit. It was an incredible sight as a woman who looked broken mentally just 24-hours previous, had the UFC title strapped around her waist.
Brit Mark Godbeer wins in unusual circumstances
Elsewhere on the card, the UK’s own Mark Godbeer took on Walt Harris in a fight that was originally scheduled for UFC 216 in Las Vegas last month. Bizarre circumstances with Harris swapping opponent saw their fight cancelled last minute that time, but last night the madness still didn’t come to an end.
Godbeer was taken down early on in round one, but with one minute remaining, he rose to his feet and the two went back to their striking. Harris then illegally kicked Godbeer in the groin and the Brit grabbed his crotch in pain as the referee dove into pause the fight. Harris didn’t stop though and he proceeded to head kick the defenceless Godbeer who staggered to the other side of the cage dazed. With the Brit out of sorts and unable to recover, the referee called the bout over and Harris was disqualified for the illegal strike. Godbeer will likely be happy with the result, but obviously not the manner in which it came about.
UFC 217 Full Results
Georges St-Pierre def. Michael Bisping via submission (rear naked choke). Round 3, 4:23
TJ Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt via KO (head kick + punches) - Round 2, 2:41
Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via TKO (strikes) - Round 1, 3:03
Stephen Thompson def. Jorge Masvidal via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Paulo Costa def. Johny Hendricks via TKO (punches) - Round 2, 1:23
James Vick def. Joe Duffy via TKO (punches). Round 2, 4:59
Mark Godbeer def. Walt Harris via DQ (illegal shot) - Round 1, 4:29
Ovince St. Preux def. Corey Anderson vis KO (head kick) - Round 3, 2:29
Randy Brown def. Mickey Gall via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
Curtis Blaydes def. Oleksiy Oliynyk via TKO (doctor stoppage) – Round 2, 1:56
Ricardo Ramos def. Aiemann Zahabi via knockout (spinning elbow) – Round 3, 1:58