In a year without superstars like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar and even Nate Diaz, the UFC has struggled mightily to sell there Pay-Per-View cards. According to Tapology, UFC 214: Cormier vs. Jones II did 860,000 PPV buys. Those are solid numbers considering, however the cause for alarm is that the next best UFC PPV of 2017 is UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson II. That card did a mere 300,000 PPV buys.
Opportunity however to potentially crack the PPV market comes in the form of UFC 217. A card in which features three Championship fights and more importantly, the return of Welterweight kingpin George St. Pierre. The former UFC Welterweight Champion has been on a four year hiatus, which is notable given the evolution of mixed martial arts during his absence. Also, St. Pierre will head into uncharted waters, as he climbs to the Middleweight division to take on UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping. A worthy headliner on the biggest UFC card this year.
Perhaps the biggest buzz from UFC 217 is the Bantamweight Title fight pitting former training partners T.J. Dillashaw and the Champ Cody Garbrandt. In what has been a war of words, the rilvary between the two has only grown and there’s no question that this matchup could result in one of the greatest UFC fights ever. The talent glows from both and the hatred even more. Also, don’t forget that Women’s Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk takes on Rose Namajunas. Another fight that has all the makings of a classic, as well has historical implications for Jedrzejczyk. A win will tie Ronda Rousey for the most title defense’s by a female Champion.
Anyways, let’s get to the Predictions!
UFC 217 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET)
185 lbs.: UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre – There’s no denying that there is a real unknown what to expect from George St. Pierre in this fight. He hasn’t fought in four years, he’s had ACL surgery during that time off and mixed martial arts has substantially evolved since he last fought.
However, I get why GSP is returning for this fight against Michael Bisping. It’s a shot to win the UFC Middleweight Championship, further cementing his legacy as one of the best ever. It’s also a matchup that favors him. Bisping is a volume striker, who despite knocking out Luke Rockhold, isn’t known for having power. He never uses grappling, so he’s no threat in that department. His one knock besides the lack of power, is that he has faltered to wrestlers. Just watch Bisping against Chael Sonnen or Tim Kenndy. Even Jason Miller was able to easily take Bisping down and keep him there early in the fight.
But, those fights I’m referring to happened over three years ago and clearly Bisping has evolved since then. Has GSP evolved? No idea! But dammit, I refuse to pick against him because we all know that GSP is a not only a cerebral fighter, but he’s a calculated and bright individual. There’s no way he would return four years later if he didn’t believe he would win. And it’s clear he hand picked Bisping because of the matchup and the stakes of becoming the Middleweight Champion. So I’m going with master genius GSP and taking him via decision!
135 lbs.: UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw – Mother of God! While I could go on forever about this fight and break it down well past the fights end, I won’t. I’ll instead be brief!
I have Garbrandt winning this fight. When he dominated Dominick Cruz, he easily mastered Cruz’s footwork and movement. That’s crazy given that no one has mastered that, although Dillashaw had some success. Garbrandt also showed off his power, dropping Cruz multiple times, which again is something that rarely ever happens to Cruz. And while MMA math is dumb, in this particular instance I just believe that Garbrandt defeated a more healthier version of Cruz then Dillashaw fought.
In this fight, Dillashaw has more offensive weapons when it comes to striking, but Garbrandt has the speed and power advantage. Dillashaw will need to use distance, avoiding the pocket and potential brawl Garbrandt welcomes. However with all the hostility in this fight, I just feel like emotions will put Dillashaw in jeopardy. In fact, I think it gets him knocked out.
115 lbs.: UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas – Even though I’m really pumped for this fight, I do recognize that this is a terrible matchup for Namajunas. And while Jedrzejczyk is a nightmare for anyone, she has shown that a strong grappler like Claudia Gadelha can present issues. Namajunas is a solid grappler, but she doesn’t have the strength to take Jedrzejczyk down. On the feet, Jedrzejczyk has a clear edge, as she might just be the best striker in all of mixed martial arts.
As for a prediction, barring Namajunas landing a punch that stifle’s Jedrzejczyk enough to use her excellent submission attacks, I just don’t see any clear route to victory for her. Jedrzejczyk will keep this one on the feet and slowly pick apart Namajunas. As we reach the championship rounds, a battered Namajunas will succumb via TKO. Jedrzejczyk with the victory will tie Ronda Rousey’s title defense record for a female fighter and will be one win away from being the baddest women to ever step on the planet!
170 lbs.: Stephen Thompson vs Jorge Masvidal – Like most of the fights on this stacked card, this is a tough one to call. Thompson is an excellent striker, who uses his karate base like to no other in the UFC. His ability to keep distance is special, as it allows him to get off his arsenal of strikes. However, Thompson lacks wrestling despite attempting to improve that aspect of his game. Masvidal is one of the most well rounded fighters in the UFC and it would be in his best interest to mix in some grappling exchanges.
As for a prediction, I’m siding with Masvidal. In order for Thompson to get into a groove, he will need to create distance. I don’t expect Masvidal to allow him too, as I believe that Masvidal will be aggressive and turn this into a phone booth fight. While inside and I know Masvidal doesn’t usually do this, but I believe he will attempt to take Thompson down. With a title shot potentially in the grasp, there’s no way Masvidal will oblige to strike with one of the most feared strikers in mixed martial arts. So with that, I have Masvidal edging this one out via a close decision.
185 lbs.: Paulo Borrachinha vs. Johny Hendricks – I feel like a fool thinking that Hendricks is going to win this fight. He is clearly a shell of himself and his once left hand from hell has turned into basically a pillow. However, Hendricks has changed camps to Jackson’s and that’s notable due to their excellent job with forming successful game plans. I could envision they will have him go back to his wrestling roots, although Borrachinha is just massive compared to Hendricks. Borrachinha’s power is also a huge threat and I have no idea why I believe in Hendricks here. Take this with a grain of salt, but I got Hendricks via decision.
UFC 217 Prelims on FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: James Vick vs. Joe Duffy – Good lord this is an excellent fight. Both men are talented strikers and I must credit Vick for really developing into a fighter that no one wants a piece of. At a massive height of 6’3, Vick is an anomaly in the Lightweight division. He uses his length to crush foes with massive hooks and jabs.
However, I believe that his height might be his downfall in this fight. Hear me out! Duffy is an excellent boxer who notably attacks the body. The amount of weight Vick cuts to get down to 155 lbs. must be substantial and if his body is targeted, I could see a route to victory. Vick’s lack of wrestling hurts too, as Duffy has shown to mix in his grappling and submission abilities with an already smooth boxing game. So with that, I’m going to side with Duffy to edge this one out in a very close fight via decision.
265 lbs.: Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer – I used to believe that Walt Harris was just a massive man with very little skill and no chin. Well, I was wrong. Harris is a good striker with plenty of pop, as he reeled off two consecutive knockout victories prior to being defeated on literally hours notice against Fabricio Werdum. His opponent Mark Godbeer isn’t very good, as his cardio and striking are sloppy at best. So with that, I got Harris via KO!
205 lbs.: Corey Anderson vs. Ovince Saint Preux – This is an excellent fight and a super tough prediction. I believe that Corey Anderson is better equipped to win this fight, in that he has good striking, solid wrestling, and an incredible pace that stems from never ending cardio. However, his chin has been his downfall. OSP has legit power and shown to be very explosive at times. On the mat too, his submission abilities have been nothing short of incredible. The knock on OSP though has been his cardio, which plays right into Anderson’s game. But, I’m going to lean on OSP because of finishing abilities and Anderson’s lack of chin. So with that, I’m taking OSP via submission.
170 lbs.: Mickey Gall vs. Randy Brown – I’ve been swaying back-and-forth with this fight, but I’m going to side with Gall. I believe that Brown has real potential, but his lack of grappling abilities has halted him truly breaking out. Gall, although inexperienced, is an excellent grappler and shown to have top notch submission abilities. Brown should have the edge on the feet, but I expect Gall to immediately look to take this one to the mat. I don’t think he will have issues either with Brown’s takedown defense and I predict that Gall will eventually put away Brown via submission.
UFC 217 Prelims on UFC Fight Pass (7:00 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Curtis Blaydes vs. Aleksei Oleinik – While Blaydes is younger, bigger, explosive and has a bright future in the Heavyweight division, I see him losing this fight. Oleinik is every bit of 40 years old and extremely stiff on the feet. However, his ability to take a punch and clinch opponents to take them down, has been a very successful recipe. On the ground, whether mounted or in top control, Oleinik has proved that his submission abilities on par with Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum’s.
Blaydes is a serviceable striker and an excellent wrestler, but if he chooses to wrestle, he also chooses to play right into Oleinik’s strength. For Blaydes to win this fight, he has to keep this one on the feet and avoid wrestling or grappling exchanges thwarted at him. Oleinik’s gas tank isn’t made for three rounds and Blaydes has shown to grind out victories. However, with only 8 fights under his belt, I just feel like Blaydes fight IQ is going to put him in a dangerous position. Oleinik will capitalize and submit Blaydes.
135 lbs.: Ricardo Ramos vs. Aiemann Zahabi – This is a tough fight to predict given that both men have are making there sophomore appearance inside the octagon. While I wasn’t overly impressed with Zahabi in his UFC debut, I will give him a pass on the basis that the bright lights got to him. In a coin flip of a fight, I’m just going to side with Zahabi via decision.