Friday, November 3, 2017

UFC 217 and the Return of GSP

Georges St. Pierre returns tomorrow night, and this is one of the most exciting comebacks in MMA history. Usually when guys are coming back after a retirement, it usually leads to morbid curiosity as I almost certainly know that a legend from the past is going to get smashed, but I still hold out that bit of hope that maybe they can show some of their past magic. GSP is different as despite a four-year layoff, he is still younger than his opponent on Saturday night.

So the question is, does GSP have what it takes to win a title at a different weight class than the one he specialized in after taking a long hiatus from the sport? Well, it's not going to be easy. Mixed Martial Arts is maybe the fastest evolving sport that we have. Just when you think a fighter has figured things out, somebody comes out of nowhere to shock the world. Anderson Silva was unbeatable until Chris Weidman had his number; nobody could handle Dominick Cruz's footwork until Cody Garbrandt came along and did it better; and Jon Jones continually gets TKO'd by USADA. Although GSP proved to be nearly unstoppable in his prime; we're years away from that era.

GSP's greatest strength is his versatility. He lacked a clear weakness, so opponents couldn't find an easy way to exploit him. Even if they were better in one area, GSP was strong enough in other facets of the fight game to keep them out of that area and control the match for victory. But even if he has versatile skills, have those skills grown, have they stagnated, or have they already started to deteriorate? It's not like those skills couldn't have grown. His opponent is a great example of that as Michael Bisping is fighting better now than he ever has in his career.

Speaking of Michael Bisping, he presents an interesting fight for St. Pierre. He's not a guy known for knockout power, but if he connects, as he did against Luke Rockhold, he definitely can put a guy out. Out of GSP's past opponents, I would say Bisping's style most closely matches up with Carlos Condit, a guy with good footwork who can strike in a variety of ways. GSP dispatched of Condit fairly easily, but Bisping is larger and has better wrestling defense. And that latter part is where this fight is going to be won.

If Bisping keeps it standing, I don't think GSP will offer enough on the feet to win the fight, but if Bisping's sprawl isn't on point, it is going to be 25 minutes of ground and pound for him as GSP is excellent at controlling opponents on the ground. Since I wear GSP-tinted glasses, I think he has the wrestling to get the fight to the ground and control the fight, making a triumphant return to the UFC to win the Middleweight Title.

The Rest of UFC 217
Since this card is in New York, they put together quite a stacked card. Although, GSP/Bisping is the main event and the one I am most excited for, here are quick thoughts and predictions for the four other fights on the main card.

Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo "Borrachinha" Henrique Costa
I really don't care about this fight. Borrachinha is an up and coming prospect as he is undefeated and has finished his first two opponents in the UFC. That part is interesting. Unfortunately, it is against Johny Hendricks, a guy who has had the fight beaten out of him in the last few years. The guy got lazy with the Welterweight limit, so he moved up in weight and still managed to miss the Middleweight limit. He's a man fighting for a paycheck, and considering he'll be making six figures to do it, it's good money to take a beating, but that's all I see happening in this fight. I say the Brazilian stops him in the first round.

Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal
Don't sleep on this fight. Stephen Thompson's only loss in the last five years is to the Welterweight Champion, Tyron Woodley, and that was only by Majority Decision. But do not underestimate Jorge Masvidal, the man with the worst luck in the UFC. In the last six years, he has five losses, but four of those were by split decision, and Masvidal has fought some of the best in the division during that time. I think this is a super close fight, but nobody's truly figured out Thompson yet as even Woodley was just barely able to get by, so I'll stick with Masvidal's bad luck continuing and him losing by decision to Wonderboy.

Joanna Jędrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas
Good God, does this division need easier to spell names. Namajunas is about as easy as it gets with these Strawweight Ladies. Anyway, there's a reason that Jedrzejczyk is champion. Namajunas most impressive win was beating up Michelle Waterson in her last fight, and although that was impressive, Waterson is undersized for the Strawweight division. Also, the fact that Namajunas couldn't handle Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the fight before that, someone that Jedrzejczyk handled easily is not a good sign for her chances. Namajunas sticks around for the whole fight, but the champion retains.

Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw
TJ Dillashaw is a tremendous fighter. He puts up a high pace and has knockout power to back it up. He combines this with an impressive wrestling pedigree, and when you put it all together, it's kind of surprising he isn't an unbeatable champion reigning over his division. No matter how you slice it, Dillashaw is a special fighter.

But Cody Garbrandt is SPECIAL. He is so freaking good. All of the compliments I gave Dillashaw above can also be said about Garbrandt, except his knockout power is so impressive that he has finished all but two of his opponents via strikes. I'll admit, I thought Dominick Cruz was going to be unbeatable in that division, but Garbrandt not only beat him, he did it while talking shit the entire fight. There is a lot of bad blood in this fight, and for actual action, I don't think you can top this one. Dillashaw is super good, but I say Garbrandt not only wins, he finishes him late in the fight.

The UFC is putting on so many fight cards that many of them get watered down. This is not one of those times, as this is definitely worth going out of your way to see.

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