Sure, there were moments in the second and third rounds when he looked to be blowing a little and the commentary team suggested that he was struggling with the pace, but other than that Georges St-Pierre showed no real signs of deterioration when he returned to the octagon after a four-year hiatus to take on middleweight champion Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in New York on Saturday night.
Jabbing beautifully, landing the occasional stiff right hand and making good use of leg kicks, St-Pierre looked excellent in the opening round, which he punctuated late on with the first take down of the fight.
In the second, St-Pierre was a little more ragged. The Canadian took a solid right hand from Bisping that rattled him ever so slightly midway through the stanza. St-Pierre scored another well-timed takedown moments later but he wasn’t able to hold the Englishman on the floor. Once back to his feet, Bisping increased his activity and began to press forward a little more, perhaps seeing the same signs of fatigue in St-Pierre that the commentary team were pointing out to the television audience. ‘The Count’ may even have done enough to take the round.
St-Pierre sought to bring the action to the canvas early in the third and he hauled Bisping down with a single-leg. The mat didn’t turn out to be a haven for ‘GSP’ though, as Bisping threw some savage elbows from his back. One of those slicing shots opened a bad cut high on the left side of St-Pierre’s head and brought blood streaming dramatically down his face. Shortly thereafter, Bisping pushed St-Pierre away with his feet and ascended to a vertical base once again.
This set the stage for the finish.
With a little over a minute remaining in the session, St-Pierre drilled Bisping with a left hook. Bisping fell to the floor and St-Pierre was on him with startling immediacy. The returning former welterweight king began dropping savage, jolting elbows from inside Bisping’s guard. The Manchester veteran managed to create some space between he and his assailant amidst the onslaught, but when Bisping tried to scramble to his feet St-Pierre was able to take his back. From there ‘GSP’ applied a deep rear-naked choke and rendered the brave Bisping unconscious.
— BART LeMAY (@TheRBLeMay) November 5, 2017
With the win, St-Pierre becomes only the fourth man to hold UFC titles in two different weight-classes and furthers the claim that he is the best fighter ever to set foot in the octagon.
While he can now call himself middleweight champion, it’s unclear if St-Pierre has any interest in remaining up at 185lbs. UFC president Dana White said many times prior to this fight that if St-Pierre emerged with the belt he would have to defend it against interim champion Robert Whittaker, but the legendary Tristar fighter claimed once again in his post-fight speech that he is not a real middleweight.
For Bisping it was the end of a five-fight winning streak and a fairytale late-career run. He had hinted in recent months that he might retire after this fight, regardless of the result, but speaking to Joe Rogan shortly after regaining consciousness the 38-year-old indicated that he isn’t done just yet.