It has become almost cliche to deem an upcoming bout “The Fight of The Century”. By now, we have all learned that more often than not, a fight billed as some legendary confrontation between an immovable object and an unstoppable force will never live up to its enormous expectations. UFC 217 was stacked from top to bottom with name fighters, and that included three different title fights.
Amazingly enough, this card was not plagued with injuries and drug suspensions which had become the norm when the UFC was selling us a “loaded” card. For one night though, a lineup of top fighters coming together to settle their differences was everything it was supposed to be. The violence was captivating, and the finishes left your jaw on the floor. Knockouts and submissions were prevalent throughout and every fight had a drama behind it that left fighters bloody, crying, beaten, and trying to piece together what had just happened to them and why they are talking to the doctors instead of fighting. Let’s take a look at a night of high octane action.
Randy Brown vs Mickey Gall
Randy Brown def Mickey Gall by unanimous decision
Analysis: The Mickey Gall hype train was suddenly derailed. Gall was a guy who had made his living in the UFC exposing guys that weren't ready for the spotlight and the talent level of the UFC. His striking limitations weren't improved, and surprisingly enough, Brown dominated the fight on the floor as well. When he took Gall down, he did significant damage to Gall's face and proved to be smothering enough that Mickey had to result to dirty tactics to try to get back up. He was repeatedly warned about grabbing the gloves of his opponent and using his toes to grab the cage. Brown dominated the first and the 3rd round and Gall had no answer for Brown from his back.
Best Moment: Brown proving through two rounds that his submission defense was good enough to keep Gall at bay on the ground while continuously landing significant strikes from top position.
Fight Grade: C
There wasn't a ton of drama in this fight as it seemed to be whoever landed the first (and usually only takedown) was going to win the bout. The decision for Brown was the right one by the judges.
Ovince St Preux vs Corey Anderson
OSP def Corey Anderson by KO (head kick) in Round 3
Analysis: BOOM! A potential knockout of the year candidate, OSP blasted Anderson with a head kick that turned out the lights in Round 3. The fight was gritty, with both guys throwing shots that had bad intentions. Anderson scored a good takedown in round 1, but like most of his fights, he kept things on the feet for the most part despite his explosive takedown game. It proved to be costly for him as he lost his second in a row by knockout. OSP continues to be stuck in limbo in the light heavyweight division. Every time he gets close to the top, he suffers a setback but rises through contention quickly due to a powerful striking game that has to be respected by everyone in the division.
Best Moment: Easy one here. The head kick that shut the lights out on Anderson was fast and devastating. Anderson probably won't remember much of this fight.
Fight Grade: B
The drama was high as two powerful athletes stalked each other all over the cage. Both fighters didn't want to see a decision, but their awkward styles often made for clumsy striking exchanges. The ending was the kind that makes you stand up in your seat.
Mark Godbeer vs Walt Harris
Mark Godbeer def Walt Harris by disqualification in Round 2
Analysis: It's always a shame when fights end in a DQ. Nobody feels satisfied in that outcome and it's usually an unfortunate incident where the guy didn't mean to injure his opponent, but now the guy can't go on and everyone goes home. This one was different. Harris didn't seem malicious when he head kicked Godbeer after the referee had called time, but he hauled off on his opponent well after he was told to stop. The referee had even yelled stop three times when the fateful head kick was thrown, and it landed flush. Godbeer went down, and they were wise to stop it. Harris needs to know better and has now lost two fights in the last 5 weeks.
Best Moment: The DQ. Like I said, very little satisfaction can be taken from a disqualification, but Harris deserved this. Godbeer could have been seriously hurt and you need to control yourself in there. Harris was not in control and deserved what he got.
Fight Grade: D-
It wasn't a very entertaining fight before the stoppage, so it was a bit of a blessing in disguise when it happened. Both fighters look awkward and spent the fight falling around the ring at each other. It didn't leave a huge desire to see either one back in the cage again soon.
James Vick vs Joe Duffy
James Vick def Joe Duffy by TKO in Round 2
Analysis: Another highlight reel knockout on this card as Vick became the first man to stop Duffy with strikes. Duffy, known as a gritty fighter who is well versed on the ground and a very capable striker, had a rough night dealing with the size and the length of Vick. James has become a problem for everyone in the weight class as he ran his record to 12-1, using his long reach solid striking to keep Duffy off balance all night. Duffy began to take chances as the fight wore on as he was getting picked apart from a distance. At the very end of round 2, he walked right into a massive uppercut right on the jaw that signaled the beginning of the end. A few follow up strikes ended the Irishman's night and his momentum in the division.
Best Moment: The uppercut couldn't have landed any cleaner than it did. Duffy's legs were immediately gone, and he went down in a heap.
Fight Grade: B-
The fight started off with both sides going back and forth, but by the end of the first round, it was becoming more and more clear that Vick was taking over. Duffy spent a lot of the second round as a punching bag and it would ultimately be his undoing.
Paulo Costa vs Johny Hendricks
Paulo Costa def Johny Hendricks by TKO in Round 2
Analysis: Sometimes things are exactly as they seem. Watching these two face off in the Octagon, if you had never watched MMA before, you would have thought "That guy with the beard will get killed". That is exactly what happened. Hendricks hasn't looked good in a long while, and he was basically fighting the Brazilian version of Captain America. Costa looked and fought like a superhero as he dominated almost every second of the fight and eventually took out the former welterweight champ. He was landing hard shots all night long and walking through the vaunted left hand of the former Oklahoma State wrestling champ.
Best Moment: The ending assault was frightening. Costa attacked Hendricks like he had insulted his mother and Johny had nothing he could do to get Paulo off him.
Fight Grade B:
What could be a star-making performance for Costa, got the night off to a hot start. Hendricks was throwing the big left as often as he could, and the fight had a David vs Goliath feel to it. The dieseled Costa chasing around the chubby Hendricks had moments of drama before its sudden conclusion.
Stephen Thompson vs Jorge Masvidal
Stephen Thompson def Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision
Analysis: Stephen Thompson continues to prove that he is more than just flashy kicks and strikes. Beating Masvidal is no walk in the park as he is as tough as they come in the UFC, and virtually unable to be hurt. Thompson used great footwork and sudden bursts of activity to beat up the slower Masvidal. Jorge became desperate and stalked Thompson all over the cage, visibly frustrated at his opponent never seeming to stay in one place. Masvidal came to win, but Masvidal clearly only had one plan of action in this fight and that was just to walk down Thompson until he caught him. That moment never came.
Best Moment: Thompson lands a hard head kick in round 2 that Masvidal walks through. It was symbolic of both fighters as Thompson unorthodox kick game is a weapon that no one else possesses in the welterweight division, and Masvidal's iron chin is his greatest weapon.
Fight Grade: C+
As the fight settled in, it lacked the drama that was originally anticipated when the bout was announced. Thompson never stopping moving his feet led to a few lulls in the action and the cat-and-mouse game had moments that felt like Thompson's fight with Woodley. Masvidal wanted the finish, as he always does, but Thompson seemed fine winning by points.
Rose Namajunas vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Rose Namajunas def Joanna Jedrzejczyk by KO in round 1
Analysis: The ending to this fight was probably the most shocking of the evening. Not because Rose isn't a great fighter or capable of dispatching anyone that opposes her, but because Joanna had been a destroyer in the cage. She demolished quality opposition like they didn't even belong in the same arena as her. Rose has always had the potential but had failed miserably in her first title attempt with Carla Esparza. She wouldn't make the same mistake twice as she clobbered Joanna early and often. It brought back memories of Holm vs Rousey, but Joanna is no Ronda and Rose is no Holly. Joanna had a much more qualified resume of fighters she had beaten, and Rose is a terror everywhere in the cage that proved she was worthy by eliminating Michelle Waterson in violent fashion in her previous fight.
Best Moment: Rose's post-fight interview made her many new fans as she preached a different message than we are used to. She called for more respect in the fight game and shunned any praise that was being heaped on her. It was an extremely humble interview that will surely win her over in many non believers' eyes after that performance.
Fight Grade: A.
High drama from the start when Joanna refused to touch gloves. The champion was her usual brash and confrontational self. Namajunas was stoic and displayed a quiet confidence as the opening bell rang. The action was intense and quick. Joanna was hurt early and that put the crowd and everyone at home on their feet. The end left everyone with the jaws agape as they watched the seemingly invincible champion tap to strikes as Thug Rose laid a beating on her.
TJ Dillashaw vs Cody Garbrandt
TJ Dillashaw def Cody Garbrandt by KO in round 2
Analysis: The bad blood between these two was finally settled in the octagon. In somewhat shocking fashion, Dillashaw dispatched his former training partner and did so by beating him at his own game. Garbrandt had seemed to be coming into his own, and his destruction of Dominick Cruz was the kind of performance that can catapult a fighter into superstardom. Dillashaw was having none of it however, and navigated through some rough waters when Cody sat him down right at the end of round 1. Had the round been a minute longer, TJ might not have seen round 2, but it was too later for the champion and it gave the challenger adequate time to recover. Once he did, he started off the second hitting the unusually flat-footed Garbrandt with a head kick that shook the champ. He then clobbered him again not long after and put Cody into survival mode. Badly damaged, he turtled up until Dan Miragliotta had no choice but to stop the fight.
Best Moment: TJ Dillashaw screaming years of frustration into the wobbled and broken former champions face immediately after the fight was waved off. The usually outspoken champ had no choice but to take it.
Fight Grade: A
Another high drama fight between two guys that genuinely dislike each other. The hate was palpable in the air and both men wanted to hurt the other one from the outset. Cody doesn't seem to be over the back injury yet as he displayed little of the movement he used against Cruz, and Dillashaw as his usual unorthodox self. Throwing shots from all angles that had the champ guessing all night. The ending was almost sad to watch as it would have been fun to watch these two bang it out for 10 rounds.
GSP vs Michael Bisping
Georges St Pierre def Michael Bisping by submission in Round 3
Analysis: A return that had been years in the making would finally happen. It had to feel nostalgic seeing GSP make his way to the octagon for the first time in 5 years. He didn't look as shredded as he once did, and his trademark explosiveness isn't what it used to be, but he proved that he can still get it done. Bisping was beating him to the punch for the most of the fight, and Georges was wearing it entering round 3.
It all changed in one shot though, as GSP hammered Bisping with a shot that put the champ on the ground. He immediately pounced with some nasty elbows from top position, and Michael had to make a move to get out of danger. He elected to hang his neck out there in an effort to get up, and the former welterweight champ took advantage. He immediately sunk in a choke that was under the chin from the get go, and The Count had seconds before his eyes went blank and his consciousness slipped away. The return was complete.
Best Moment: Bisping not tapping showed the toughness that he has always demonstrated throughout his career. He's had his face busted, his eye nearly destroyed, ate the most wicked of flying knees from Anderson Silva, and now a vice-like rear naked choke from an all-time great. I didn't expect him to tap, but going out on his shield validated the importance of the fight to both competitors.
Fight Grade: A+
This fight had it all. Drama. Two champion fighters. A comeback win. Gracious defeats. GSP went from looking too old and too far behind the game, to suddenly becoming the champion he was when he left. Both fighters were complimentary of each other post-fight, and it made a Robert Whitaker vs GSP fight that should be on the horizon, look like even more fun. St Pierre ate a lot of firepower from Bisping before the end, and he surely won't be able to take shots like that from Whitaker. For one night, however, he was back on top of the world.
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