After what has been a slow and quiet 2017, the UFC enters the final part of the year with their considerable UFC 217 event, hailing their return to Madison Square Garden, New York City.
With such a stacked card and with all the focus on the return of George St-Pierre and his title challenge against UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, we now take the time to look at the other huge fights this card has to offer.
Garbrandt and Dillashaw, from friend to foe
The co-main event features a grudge match between former training partners Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw in the penultimate title fight of the evening.
The feud between Dillashaw and Team Alpha Male dates back to 2015 after Dillashaw left with a contract offer from a sponsor.
UFC bantamweight champion Garbrandt has never been one to control his mouth or his temper and has made his thoughts on his former teammate very clear since his departure.
After an extended absence from the Octagon due to ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and a back injury, 2016’s Fighter of The Year makes his return for his first bout since capturing the bantamweight belt against Dominic Cruz last year.
2016 saw the 26-year-old’s meteoric rise from a top 20 fighter to the man who solved the Cruz puzzle. “No Love” remains an undefeated fighter whilst being one of the most exciting on the UFC roster with all but two of his 11 professional victories coming by KO/TKO. Now he will hope to stick to his word and finish his bitter rival in his inaugural title defence.
TJ Dillashaw is by no means a man to take lightly and could prove to be his biggest challenge to date. The former champion has only conceded one loss in the last three years which came via split decision at the hands of Dominic Cruz. Dillashaw enters the bout currently riding a two-fight win streak having secured decision victories over Raphael Assuncao and then John Lineker in his most recent outing.
Joanna looks to equal Rousey’s record
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is looking to maintain her perfect record and status as champion but Saturday proves to hold extra importance with the chance to equal Ronda Rousey‘s record of six consecutive title defences.
During her dominance in the promotion, Jedrzejczyk has defeated the likes of Jessica Penne, Claudia Gadelha as well as Karolina Kowalkiewicz in her first visit to MSG at UFC 205.
Joanna’s most recent victory over Jessica Andrade took her professional record to 14-0; just by stepping in the ring come Saturday night she will set the record for the most title fights by a woman.
This will not be enough for the champion who has her eyes set on surpassing Rousey and retiring from the sport undefeated.
Rose Numanjunas will now make her second challenge at fighting for the strawweight title after losing to Carla Esperanza in the inaugural title fight for the 115lb belt.
Little under three years down the line she has won four of his last five fights losing only to Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 201 which broke a three-fight win streak including wins over the likes of Paige Vanzant and Tecia Torres.
In his most recent outing, the 25-year old secured a second-round submission win over the highly regarded Michelle Waterson.
Time to bounce back for Thompson
Also on UFC 217 is a welterweight bout between two of the division’s elite fighters, as Stephen Thompson looks to bounce back from two consecutive title challenges when he faces Jorge Masvidal.
Stephen Thompson returns to the Octagon after once again failing to dethrone Tyron Woodley, in what could be described as the worst title fight in UFC history. Prior to his two consecutive bouts with the champion, Thompson was regarded as one of the most exciting and unorthodox fighters in the division, he will now look to emulate that success and remind fans and UFC president Dana White how he got this reputation in the first place.
Although he has yet been unable to crack the equation that is Tyron Woodley, ‘Wonderboy’ has defeated some of the division’s elite securing victories over the likes of Johny Hendricks, Robert Whittaker and Rory MacDonald. These wins were all part of an eight-fight win streak which was consequently snapped by the champion.
Much like Thompson, Jorge Masvidal had his eyes set on challenging Tyron Woodley and it looked like he might have got his chance, that was until he came up against Demian Maia in his most recent outing. Here he found himself on the wrong side of a decision loss and subsequently missed his chance at fighting for the belt.
Prior to his most recent bout, Masvidal accumulated a three-fight win streak defeating the likes of Ross Pearson and Jake Ellenberger before reaching the peak of his UFC career so far. Here he stopped the streaking Donald Cerrone via a second-round TKO.
Despite losing his last bout ‘Gamebred’ has the chance to now secure a victory which will see him truly recognised as one of top contenders next in line for a title shot.
Now or never for Hendricks
After dethroning UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler back in 2014 it seemed as if Johny Hendricks had found his home at the top of the 170lb division but just under three years later he finds himself fighting for his place in the promotion.
It was only a little under four years ago that ‘Big Rigg’ found himself on the receiving end of a controversial decision loss to George St-Pierre, now GSP is set to headline the event on his return whilst Hendricks has to settle for opening the card.
The 34-year old now fights at middleweight after reoccurring issues with his weight management. After a successful debut against Hector Lombard, Hendricks enters the bout off the back of a second-round TKO loss to Tim Boetsch.
Paulo Borrachinha is an undefeated prospect who currently holds a record of 10-0 having already secured two wins under the UFC banner. All be it against lesser competition the 26-year old has impressed dispatching of both Garreth McLellan and Oluwale Bambgose via TKO.
UFC 217 Fight Card
UFC 217 MAIN CARD
UFC middleweight title: Michael Bisping (C) vs. Georges St-Pierre
UFC bantamweight title: Cody Garbrandt (C) vs. T.J. Dillashaw
UFC women’s strawweight title: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (C) vs. Rose Namajunas
Welterweight: Jorge Masvidal vs. Stephen Thompson
Middleweight: Paulo Costa vs. Johny Hendricks
UFC 217 PRELIMINARY CARD
Lightweight: Joseph Duffy vs. James Vick
Heavyweight: Mark Godbeer vs. Walt Harris
Light-Heavyweight: Corey Anderson vs. Ovince Saint Preux
Welterweight: Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall
UFC 217 EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD
Heavyweight: Curtis Blaydes vs. Aleksei Oleinik
Bantamweight: Ricardo Ramos vs. Aiemann Zahabi