UFC 217: Bisping vs. St-Pierre Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC 217 card in New York.
Updated: Nov. 1, 2017 • 7:34 PM ET
Georges "Rush" St-Pierre is looking to reclaim UFC gold on Saturday.
The UFC returns to Madison Square Garden for UFC 217 this Saturday, and the jam-packed card features two legends, three title fights and many rising stars.
The main event will be for the UFC middleweight title, but there’s a certain amount of uncertainty regarding what the winner of the fight between champion Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre will actually do with the title.
Bisping is defending the title for the second time since winning it at UFC 199 in June 2016, and it will be against a fighter who hasn’t fought in four years in St-Pierre. Significantly enough, however, it has been more than a year since Bisping successfully defended the title against Dan Henderson, as he has dealt with injuries and the possibility of retiring.
Despite what may have been said, the 38-year-old Bisping said at the UFC 217 press conference in Toronto that retirement is no longer on the table.
“Listen, a lot of people were asking me about that, but I love this too much,” Bisping said. “I love this whole process, getting ready for a training camp. Eight weeks ago I was out of shape.
“Now I’m the champion of the world. I can beat anyone on this planet, especially this guy. And I love that whole process. So no, I won’t be retiring.”
Bisping has been in the UFC for 11 years and has made a record-tying 27 appearances for the organization. If he can beat St-Pierre, it would be another name on a list of prolific fighters that Bisping has defeated, including Henderson, Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold and Cung Le.
Bisping believes St-Pierre has returned from retirement for an easy fight.
“The truth of the matter is that Georges fell into the trap of what a lot of people fall into,” Bisping said. “You fell into the trap of thinking he can beat me – that’s it, plain and simple. That’s why you want to fight me.
“That’s why you keep asking Dana for me. Nobody else, because you think you can beat me. You think in your little tiny pea-brain that you can beat me. But you can’t, and that will be the mistake you make, the trap that a lot of people fall into. They look at me on TV, they say, ‘This guy is beatable.’ But what you can’t see is what I’ve got in (my heart and my mind). Nov. 4, you’re going to find out, pal.”
Former longtime welterweight champion St-Pierre hasn’t fought since UFC 167 in November 2013. It was a close battle against Johny Hendricks, after which he won by decision and promptly stepped away from the UFC. There have been moments where fans thought they might see his return, but none of those were as real as challenging Bisping for the title. There were many rumors circulating about his delay from returning, but the only person who really has the answers is St-Pierre himself.
St-Pierre won 12 straight fights from 2007 to 2013, a time in which he absolutely ruled the welterweight division. The only two losses on his record, to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, he avenged in convincing fashion. Aside Hughes and Serra, the 36-year-old has defeated high-profile names such as Nick Diaz, BJ Penn and Carlos Condit. How he will perform after a four-year layoff against a bigger fighter at a heavier weight is the biggest question.
No one in the middleweight division, including Bisping, seems to think that St-Pierre will defend the title if he wins. St-Pierre cleared up those thoughts to the MMA Hour in August.
“I have to defend my title,” St-Pierre said. “It’s written in my contract. I have to defend my title if I win.”
In response to moving back down to welterweight after fighting Bisping and not defending, St-Pierre said, “That wasn’t my initial plan, but I understand the UFC’s point of view. They want to protect their titles. They don’t want to delay the defense of their titles, because there’s a lot of people waiting and I understand that.”
The winner of the fight will likely fight interim middleweight champion Robert Whitaker next. Whitaker is recovering from a knee injury and winning the interim title against Yoel Romero at UFC 213 in July.
Saturday’s co-main event will be for the bantamweight title, featuring a rising star against a former champion.
Champion Cody Garbrandt faces former champion TJ Dillashaw in what is expected to be one of the top fights of the evening. The fight also has the added dramatics of two fighters who were formerly teammates, but have now become bitter rivals.
The fight will be Garbrandt’ s first title defense since defeating Dominick Cruz for the belt at UFC 207 last December. Garbrandt is 6-0 in the UFC and has all the makings of becoming the company’s next big star. A win over a bitter rival and a first successful title defense will land him on that path.
Dillashaw lost the title to Cruz in January 2016 by a close decision, but has since won two straight over Rafael Assuncao and John Lineker. He’s the No. 2 ranked bantamweight in the world.
The first of the three title fights on the card will be for the women’s strawweight title, as champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk faces No. 4 ranked Rose Namajunas. The undefeated champion has won eight straight fights in the UFC and last fought in May, defeating Jessica Andrade by unanimous decision. Jedrzejczyk has been one of the most dominant champions in the UFC, as she’s seeking her seventh straight successful title defense.
Namajunas is 4-2 in the UFC and coming off a submission victory over Michelle Waterson in April. The 25-year-old has shown signs of improvement with each fight, but will be facing the toughest opponent of her career in Jedrzejczyk.
The rest of the main card
Welterweight fight - No. 2 Stephen Thompson vs. No. 4 Jorge Masvidal
Middleweight fight - Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo Borrachinha
Lightweight fight - James Vick vs. Joe Duffy
Heavyweight fight - Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer
Light heavyweight fight - No. 6 Ovince Saint Preux vs. No. 7 Corey Anderson
Welterweight fight - Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Heavyweight fight - No. 9 Aleksei Oleinik vs. No. 12 Curtis Blaydes
Light heavyweight fight - Michael Oleksiejczuk vs. Ion Cutelaba
Bantamweight fight - Aiemann Zahabi vs. Ricardo Ramos