The biggest and best fight-card of the year takes place this Saturday night and with that in mind, we’ve compiled eight very good reasons for you to be excited for it.
UFC 217 is finally within touching distance, so without further ado here are the top eight fights that will take place in Madison Square Garden on November 4.
8. Ovince St-Preux Vs Corey Anderson
First up we have a pair of 205lbers that really need to string together some consistency in Ovince St-Preux and Corey Anderson. Anderson’s last outing saw him on the receiving end of one of Jimi Manuwa’s patented left hooks, but when you consider that he has gone 4-2 in his last six outings, it’s clear that he has a lot more to offer the division, especially at the relatively young age of 28.
OSP’s win over Yushin Okami at UFC Japan recently didn’t come as a massive surprise to many but now, with him having registered his third submission by way of von Flue choke, his unorthodox style both on the feet and on the ground make him a danger to anyone.
7. Johny Hendricks Vs Paulo Borrachinha
This one really could go two different ways. Of course, Johny Hendricks has been on the type of decline that’s nothing short of a real shame given his pedigree, but still we’ve all seen what he can do with adequate motivation and preparation.
In his way, however, stands Paulo Borrachinha, a murderous striker whose ten career fights have seen him achieve ten consecutive finishes. He’s a violent customer in every sense of the world and there is a fear there that Hendricks is being used simply to give this guy a platform to build his name. Only time will tell, but this remains an interesting contest nonetheless.
6. Randy Brown Vs Mickey Gall
Another prospect who we could well learn a lot more about this week is Mickey Gall, who despite owning a perfect 3-0 record in the UFC, has still not shown too much against proven competition, something his opponent, Randy Brown, should offer him on fight-night.
Gall’s ground skills look slick but in beating CM Punk, Mike Jackson and Sage Northcutt, he did very little in the way of proving his status as a ‘one-to-watch’ to the world. Many have gotten very excited about this young man and with a win over Brown, he could well prove himself to be at least somewhat deserving of this hype.
5. James Vick Vs Joe Duffy
One for the Irish fans up next, and in general an all-round stunner of a lightweight contest as two of the best unranked fighters in the division face off in a match that should no doubt grant the winner a ranked opponent.
Vick stands as the tallest lightweight on the roster and truly is a tricky puzzle to solve, something that has seen him go 7-1 inside the UFC. He might well be one of the most underrated fighters in the game right now, but in Joe Duffy he comes up against someone whose skill set is undeniable.
Duffy’s activity inside the octagon hasn’t seen him fight as much as we would like, but with his polished display against Reza Madadi last time out, he reminded the world exactly why he’s still very much a factor in the lightweight division.
4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk Vs Rose Namajunas
The first of the night’s three title fights comes in at fourth as Joanna Jedrzejczyk attempt to extend her run of title-defences to six by knocking off the hotly-tipped up-and-comer that is ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas.
Namajunas has been incredibly slept on this fight considering how impressive she looked in her last outing. We all know how quickly young fighters progress as mixed martial artists and with her proven ability to finish in mind, it would be wise not to write her off against the champ just yet.
Joanna, on the other hand, is a master of her craft, utilising her slick muay-thai skills in order to effectively nullify the game of whoever it is who stands before her. She’s one of the best strikers in the game, period, and with a win this time around, she would edge ever closer to legendary status.
3. Stephen Thompson Vs Jorge Masvidal
The last non-title bout on this list but one that is by no means a sideshow is the three-round contest scheduled for Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Jorge Masvidal.
Everything about this fight screams ‘Fight of the Night’ but even still, both of these fighters have the ability to finish in their locker. Masvidal, of course, is fresh off of his defeat to Demian Maia, but in truth, his stock didn’t really take much of a hit after what was a closely contested fight. With a win over Thompson, his eventual shot at the belt would be all-but-guaranteed.
For ‘Wonderboy’, he finds himself in a weird spot. After two unsuccessful attempts at defeating Tyron Woodley, the notion of seeing him fight ‘the Chosen One’ for a third time seems unlikely but should Tyron lose the belt, his chances would instantly become better. He’s an electric fighter to watch and a truly brilliant striker and whether he had a chance to show it at UFC 209 against Woodley or not, the fans will be clamouring to see him in action this time around.
2. Michael Bisping Vs Georges St-Pierre
Admit it, you’re kind of excited for this fight now. It did seem a bit forced and a bit plastic in its make-up but really, the idea of seeing the legendary GSP return will be one of the most interesting moments in recent MMA memory.
Michael Bisping’s reign atop the 185lb division has been one of the most compelling but ultimately divisive in the promotion’s history but in beating Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson he has proved his mettle beyond any doubt.
A win over GSP, would be another thing entirely.
With St-Pierre, the questions that looms over his return makes this a completely unmissable spectacle for those who watched his dominant run at 170lbs. For everyone else, they could well bear witness to the revival of one of the true superstars of the sport. An emphatic win for Georges could very easily set the world of mixed martial arts into an unprecedentedly crazy spiral.
That sounds worth a watch, right?
1. Cody Garbrandt Vs TJ Dillashaw
On any other card the second-placed fight on this list would run away with the top-spot here but in this case, the people’s main-event between bantamweight kingpin Cody Garbrandt and his heated rival TJ Dillashaw is just too good to ignore.
Garbrandt stunned the world by defeating Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 in a truly brilliant display of boxing prowess and with his first title-defence will hope that he is able to become the superstar that so many people believe he can be.
Dillashaw’s split from Cody’s Team Alpha Male is overanalysed at this point but what does need to be highlighted, of course, is the former champ’s unmistakable contempt for Garbrandt, something the champ himself shares and probably feels to an even greater extent than the ‘Bang Muay-Thai’-product.
This fight stylistically is one of the best match-ups the UFC can make right now and when you couple the belt, the animosity and the setting into it, it’s a real gem of a showdown.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena