On a night that New York and the millions of UFC fans around the world will never forget, three fighters stole the show.
For months and months, the media, fans and fellow fighters were eagerly awaiting the arrival of UFC 217, one of the most stacked cards of 2017. It has come and gone and no one could have foreseen what an absolute thrill ride the card was to become.
With nine fights ending before the judge’s decision was needed, the fans inside of Madison Square Garden were on their feet the entire length of the card. From the spinning elbow knockout in the first fight all the way to the rear-naked-choke in the main event, New York was set on fire.
So with all the violence and stoppages who stole the show on Saturday? It wasn’t really a hard decision for me. Three titles changed hands on the night and it was the new champions who absolutely stole the entire show and became the ‘Stars of the Night’ in the process.
The UFC’s female strawweight division had been ruled by Joanna Jedrzejczyk for a number of years. The Polish superstar made every single challenger look somewhat normal. She devastated all in her path and quickly racked up title defence after title defence but her reign came to an end thanks to one very well placed left hook.
Rose Namajunas has always been a super dangerous and extremely talented fighter who we met for the first time during a season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. With the ability to end a fight on the feet or the ground, Namajunas came into UFC 217 an underdog but left the champion.
Fight week was no different for Jedrzejczyk, who was up to her usual pre-fight aggressive antics but something was different. Her opponent remained extra cool and unaffected. Namajunas did not falter and did her business when it counted most.
The young fighter needed just over three minutes to topple the previously unbeatable and undefeated champion. Jedrzejczyk was sent crashing to the octagon canvas after eating a hard left hook and the follow-up ground and pound that forced her to tap to the barrage of strikes.
A new champion and star was crowned on Saturday. Namajunas is a different breed of fighter and her reign begins now.
The co-main event of UFC 217 was a highly anticipated fight between two former training partners turned bitter rivals. Cody Garbrandt was set to defend his bantamweight title for the first time against former champion TJ Dillashaw.
The expectations going into this contest was straight violence. These two have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on each other for months and they did not let us, the media and fans down. Both men exchanged devastating punches and kicks but it was the former champion who walked out with the title yet again.
Dillashaw was dropped at the end of the first round thanks to the power that Garbrandt processes in his hands. He wobbled back to his corner and looked to be in big trouble heading into round two but that was not the case. Dillashaw came out and not only dropped his rival with a nicely placed head kick but then landed a beautiful punch of his own that ended the show.
The two traded and it was Dillashaw who landed the killer shot, sending Garbrandt to the mat. Smelling blood the former champion pounced landing a number of unanswered shots that looked to put Garbrandt out for a few seconds. The referee stopped the assault and Dillashaw is now one of only a handful of UFC fighters who are multiple time champions.
Is the beef between the two over? No, probably not but now that Dillashaw is the champion, Garbrandt needs to work his way back to the belt and in his head, revenge.
The eyes were most certainly on the main event of UFC 217 thanks to the two men in it. Middleweight champion Michael Bisping was to welcome back the greatest welterweight champion in mixed martial arts history, Georges St-Pierre, after a four year lay off.
The longtime Canadian champion was back and he was ready to challenge for a UFC title for the first time in just under 10-years. He came, he saw and he conquered his British foe.
Bisping went down but he did so fighting. It wasn’t an easy night for St-Pierre but he showed the world why he was and still is one of the greatest fighters on the face of the planet. Canada’s son traded with Bisping throughout the contest and in the third round put the icing on the cake.
St-Pierre dropped the champion with a stiff hook and followed it up with his trademark ground and pound, landing punches and vicious elbows. The two scrambled and it was then that St-Pierre took Bisping’s back and sunk in a deep rear-naked-choke that put the Brit to sleep.
St-Pierre is now a member of an elite club of fighters who have won two UFC titles in two different weight classes. Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Conor McGregor are the other three men in the club. Very fine company indeed.