The UFC made its highly anticipated return to Madison Square Garden. Along with their return, the legendary Georges St-Pierre made his return to the sport following a four year retirement from the sport. “GSP” made his return to the octagon against Michael Bisping, the current middleweight champion. Was the event a success for UFC? Probably, since this event got a ton of mainstream buzz. Was is a success for “GSP?” Oh, it was more than a success.
In the main event of the evening “GSP” was mostly met with cheers, while Bisping was met with boos. The two touched gloves before the fight. “GSP” went for the first takedown in round one, with Bisping returning to his feet in 20 or so seconds. Other than that, the first round was all standing.
St-Pierre got a second takedown in round two, this time in the middle of the octagon where Bisping had no fence to use. Bisping still escaped somewhat quickly. When they both got back up, “GSP” got caught with a hard right hand, but didn’t go down.
At the end of round two, they had to help Bisping out because his cup broke. They fixed it with no delay though. GSP got a new mouthguard too. GSP got his third takedown early in round three, in the middle of the octagon. The ground game this time around lasted a few minutes. GSP got cut open terribly by strikes during this. When they got up at around the halfway point of the fight, GSP was bleeding like crazy, while Bisping showed barely any blood. With around a minute left in round 3, GSP struck Bisping and knocked him down hard. He continued to strike him repeatedly, but Bisping continued to defend. GSP transitioned into the Rear Naked Choke, and that was it. GSP became the new Middleweight Champion.
After the fight, he thanked everyone for the support, and said it was “my dream come true”. Bisping also gave a ton of credit to GSP after the fight in his interview.
GSP wasn’t the only one that got their moment tonight, as gold even more gold was passed from one hand to another. TJ Dillashaw faced Cody Garbrandt, and Joanna faces Namajunas.
TJ Dillashaw challenges the Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt in the second-last fight of the night. Not only is Garbrandt defending his championship, but also his 11-0 professional record. These two did not touch gloves. When the fight started, the crowd sounded like they were majority chanting in favor of Cody. Around 3 minutes into the fight is when these guys started to explode with strikes. After a fast trade of strikes Cody motioned “come on” to TJ. With around 5 seconds left in the first round, Cody knocked down TJ and continued to strike. In the most literal sense, TJ was saved by the bell, as nothing else would have saved him. When he got up, he was visibly wobbly.
At the start of the second round Cody dodged a kick and then did a little dance as a taunt. 2 minutes into round 2 Cody caught a head kick that made him fall, down. Cody got knocked down with punches again and finished him via TKO. Cody almost immediately got up, looking like he objected to that decision. TJ became the second #AndNew to be crowned tonight.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk versus Rose Namajunas was the first of the three title fights on the card. Before the fight started, the two did not touch gloves. Two minutes into the first round, Rose knocked Joanna down. Joanna got back up shortly after, but the crowd exploded. A minute later she knocked her down again, and repeatedly struck her until Joanna tapped. Rose, the underdog in this fight won, and became the new champion. Rose was holding back tears when she was given the belt. After the fight she was interviewed by Rogan, where she said “it feel like a movie right now”. She said that she wants to use her platform to spread a positive message. She said “Just be a good person”.
Before the three championship fights, we had two main card bouts that were not over gold. The first was Johny Hendricks and Paulo Costa, followed by Stephen Thompson and Jorge Masvidal. Johny Hendricks versus Paulo Costa was in the Welterweight division. The first round was good back and forth action. In the second round there was a pause because Hendricks got hit in the eye. Hendricks didn’t want to rest too long, the commentators presumed this was because Costa was starting to slow down. Moments after that break, Hendricks started getting hit hard and he was panicking. It was nearly a whole minute of Hendricks playing scary defense until Big John ended the fight. The broadcast showed that Costa hit 24 head strikes while Hendricks got 9.
Masvidal versus Thompson was held after. This fight went the distance, with not much gore, just some solid striking and ground game. Stephen Thompson won the fight via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27). After the fight Thompson said that he “could have done better tonight”, but mentioned that he still has his sights on the championship. He also mentioned that he hurt a hand at one point.
Here’s a look at the undercard of UFC 217, with James Vick versus Joe Duffy as the main event out of the 6 fights.
The first of two bouts on the early prelims was Ricardo Ramos versus Aiemann Zahabi in the Bantamweight Division. The undefeated Canadian Zahabi attempted to better his record against Ramos’s record which was 10-1 before this fight. We didn’t see anything crazy in this fight for the first couple rounds. Late in the third round Ramos hit a spinning elbow which took Zahabi out of it immediately. The whole crowd went in absolute awe over this. Ramos improves his record to 11-1, and breaks Zahabi’s undefeated streak.
Following that bout was Alexey Oleinik facing Curtis Blaydes. This heavyweight bout had the age difference of 14 years, with Blaydes at 26 years old and Oleinik at the round number of 40. The first round was down to the wire with Curtis swinging for the fences while Oleinik had no choice but to defend. The fight controversially got ended in the second round after Blaydes attempted to soccer kick Oleinik while he was still grounded. Replay shows that the foot only grazed the ear. The rules that were being used tonight allows replay, under the circumstances that the fight gets ended. Blaydes was very angry, encouraging the chants of “let them fight” from the crowd to continue. Confusion continued to fill the building as people started the piece together the situation.
The official decision was that the fight was stopped due to doctors orders. Not because of the kick, but because of the prior damage inflicted by Blaydes, which was all legal. Blaydes got the win via TKO due to this. So, the end of the fight ended up not being because of the kick. Oleinik walked out of the cage before the decision happened. After the fight, Blaydes said that he didn’t respect Olenik walking out. It’s up for interpretation if that was about him ending the fight early or leaving the octagon before decision.
Switching over to the Fox Sports Prelims, Mickey Gall went up against Randy Brown. Prior to the fight, the commentary team pointed out that ground game is Mickey Gall’s strong-suit, with him finishing many of his past fights that way. They also pointed out that Randy is the better striker of the two. This Welterweight fight put Gall’s undefeated 4-0 record up against Randy’s 9-2 record. The first round looked like it was mostly Brown, while Gall showed dominant ground game in the second round.
The third looked like it was fully Brown, with most action happening in the first minute. At the very end of the fight, Brown stood up and taunted Mickey by telling him to get up too. Gall struck him a few times when he stood up, one of those strikes being right after the bell. We came back to the break for the decision and heard that the winner was Randy Brown via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
The Light Heavyweight division got a spotlight on the prelims with Ovince Saint Preux (21-10) versus Corey Anderson (10-3). Saint Preux is the favourite in this fight, with the odd being -150. It was a close fight until in the third round. Saint Preux shut it all down with a kick to the head which ended the fight instantly. The second the kick landed, the referee was rushing over to stop the fight. By the time that Saint Preux’s arm got raised, Anderson was already out of the octagon. After the fight, Saint Preux said he felt overwhelmed by Anderson’s pace of fighting.
Mark Godbeer (12-3) versus Walt Harris (10-6) in the Heavyweight division was the third prelim fight. Late in the first round the ref called timeout after Godbeer got kicked in the crotch. Despite this, Harris kicked him in the head. The ref called in doctors and called off the fight. Godbeer won the fight via disqualification.
The final fight in the prelims was James Vick versus Joe Duffy in the Lightweight division. “Ole” chants in favor of Duffy were going for the first 30 seconds of the first round. The fight was very back and forth until the very last second in round two. With under 10 seconds left, Vick hit an uppercut and a few strike following that to get the win. Milliseconds after the fight was called, the round ended.
Just like the first time UFC came to Madison Square Garden, moments were made, careers were defined, and history was made.