Last time around, we called this “The history channel” and well, it was.
But when it comes to pure MMA, Drama, Significance to titles, and overall performance, I think UFC217 made a very strong case for being THE one. Dana was right, we can’t forget past events, and some were indeed epic, so we will let the dust settle and leave that call for another day. This morning, I’m still buzzing (as I expect many of you are) over a card that justifies every superlative.
As always, let’s discuss my picks quickly. Then, we’ll chat about this, that and the other.
For your reference, my picks:
The pick for Hendricks/Costa was Costa (Go ahead, read it again)
James Vick Vs. Joe Duffy – I made that pick based on the never reliable MMAth of previous competition and after watching the fight, I’ll admit that was a lucky pick. Towards the end of round one, it seemed like Duffy was able to time Vick and get through that reach. I was expecting to see him do more of the same in the second, but he stayed on the outside too long, playing into Vick’s strengths. Tri-Star starts the main card with a bump after a devastating loss for Zahabi Jr. in the prelims… 1 for 1.
Paulo Costa Vs. Johny Hendricks – Hendricks was the guy with the heart. You know, the one who takes one shot after another and keeps moving forward. No one ever accused him of backing down. Costa on the other hand, with a LHW frame and muscle mass, was the slugger. But he wasn’t a rock ’em sock ’em slugger. Very intelligently, from start to finish he picked his shots. Body, head, kicks of all kinds, a non-stop assault that was briefly interrupted by the occasional one or two shots from Hendricks. A really impressive striking performance from a promising young man. 2 for 2.
Stephen Thompson vs Jorge Masvidal – The way I saw it was, Jorge had one task (albeit easier said than done) and it was – get to the inside, pressure wonderboy and make this fight ugly. Or pretty if you’d like. While I understand the logic behind trying to chop at the opponent’s legs, I also think (not that I’m original) that going into a kicking match with one of MMA’s best kickers is – to paraphrase Sean Connery – walking into a gun fight with a knife. Round 2 came with no major adjustment and Thompson sailed to a surprisingly easy victory. Masvidal is tough, but on Saturday night he didn’t pull the trigger. 2 for 3.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Rose Namajunas – After the fight, JJ said she made a mistake and Rose cut her off and landed her shot. This won’t be the first time that night, a dethroned champion would say that. Yes, it actually is true, but I always like to give credit to the winner. The question should be why Rose was able to do that, and the answer to me is – training camp. Rose and her team didn’t fight an unknown. They knew the opponent and her well-earned reputation and they came ready. Rose went in with just enough confidence, not intimidated by Joanna or the magnitude of the moment. At the right moment and with great movement she landed one. Just the fact she knocked Joanna down sent a shock wave throughout the arena and the world. Joanna recovered and I was readying myself for “the usual”, you know, Joanna taking over and driving it home. Then Rose slipped, got Joanna to lower her right hand and… history. 2 for 4.
Cody Garbrandt Vs. TJ Dillashaw – This is why MMA is such a difficult sport to predict. Ten seconds to the end of round one it looked like my prediction is going to be realized to the dot. Cody landed cleanly, sending TJ to the ground but TJ benefited from the soothing sound of the bell. Second round came and it might as well have been a whole new fight. After the fight, Cody became the second dethroned champion to say “He capitalized on a mistake”. But unlike Joanna he went on to claim he was the better fighter. The fact is that in round two, TJ made adjustments and Cody did not. As Dillashaw later explained, he attacked mostly with kicks low and to Cody’s right, making him lower his right hand (which he normally holds a bit low) and finding the openings. 2 for 5.
Michael Bisping Vs. Georges St. Pierre – I won’t hide it. I am a Bisping fan. I think he was underrated his whole career and disrespected. I am however, a fangirl of the greatest fighter of all times, Georges “Rush” Saint-Pierre, so that kind of clouded my prediction. Don’t get me wrong though, it wasn’t a fan picking his guy against logic. By no means did Georges walk into this fight without the potential to do this. I don’t need to tell you why that is (and if I do, you may need to catch up on some MMA footage pre-Conor). He walked in there with some disadvantages, but who doesn’t? The fight went pretty much as I expected it to. Georges showing his underrated quality striking game, staggering Bisping a couple of times. Took the count down and in the second time, kept him there. He did take some significant damage but kept coming forward (again, showing his always game attitude). Yes, he was tagged. Yes, he was in danger a couple of times, but I guess that’s what separates fighters at his level from others. Since that infamous loss to Serra, GSP showed his ability to remain calm and re-focus. Like I thought, his best bet was BJJ and that is how it went down for the finish. For GSP that was the dream scenario and he is in the business of making dreams come true. 3 for 6.
50% on a night like this!? I’ll call it a good night.
I do believe that Rose’s upset was by far the most significant happening. A young, up and coming fighter, doing what most of us didn’t think she could. Yet she did. Then she went ahead and won our hearts with that post fight interview. While Rogan in his charming screaming self tried to pry some bombastic declaration out of her, all she asked was for us to be nice to each other. Rogan in this case, represents everything I resent in this sport of late, while Rose reminded us (and again at the press conference) that Martial Arts is all about respect. Rose is a champ I can respect! On a professional level we can only watch this fight again and appreciate the skills and discipline she showed. What a night for her, and for us.
5 fights on the main card, 1 decision, 4 finishes including all title fights. ALL titles changed hands. A fighter coming out of semi-retirement to win a title in his Middleweight debut. Can you get any more epic than this? There were so many great cards, and I enjoy them all, but it is a night like this we’re waiting for. A night we can look back at, years from now, and tell the kids “I saw this go down”.
I don’t like the little “field trial” champions who just lost their titles are being put on, about 30 minutes after said loss. Yes, there’s a time and a place to ask the questions “Why?” and “How?”. The problem is that not all of these folks are ready for it. It does not bring the best out of them. Cody and Joanna were forced to give some excuses. Don’t get me wrong – they are both right. Both were caught due to the opponent capitalizing on a mistake. But I believe in both cases, that mistake was a direct result of the opponent’s action. So I’d expect to see them give the winner some credit for forcing that mistake, and not revert to “I’m the better fighter.” Clearly, tonight you were not. Yes, TJ was saved by the bell, but then we could ask why it took 4:50 min to get there. We don’t want pettiness. So let’s agree that the winner (except for freakish-ness, the likes of some of the prelims endings) was the better fighter that night, then go back to the gym and work on those areas that require work. There is absolutely no shame in admitting defeat. No one wins every single time. No one’s perfect.
Reffing continues to be an issue that requires attention. Let alone the fact that almost every time UFC is in NY, shenanigans ensue, it seems that the number of referees who are consistent and reliable is very small. In recent years I feel that Big John, Marc Goddard and perhaps Jason Herzog might be the only ones… Dean and Miragliotta as well as Yamasaki have been less than stellar, and some of the others have done poorly. On UFC217 – mostly during prelims, there were just way too many refereeing errors. In the Mickey Gall cheatfest, there were too many warnings and no punishment, the fighter and his corner did whatever they wanted. Two fights ended in a way that left a lot to be desired with DQ and TKO where the referee should have taken a minute before pulling the trigger. I may not have all the answers of course, but I have too many questions. Feel free to suggest, or dispute my claims.
Performance of the night: Like Dana, I have to go with more than one. It was just that kind of night. The honor goes to Rose for the way she finished, and especially for who she did that to, as well as to Ricardo Ramos perfectly placed spinning elbow.
— Will i am † (@GeminiVigilante) November 5, 2017
— UFC Türkiye Videos (@UFCTRVideos) November 5, 2017
Fight of the night: Michael Bisping Vs. Georges St. Pierre
— Strictly Boxing Fans (@BoxingBritain1) November 5, 2017
Don’t forget to check out Combat Docket for more good reads and post UFC217 fallout.