Saturday Night Takeaways: UFC 217

Saturday Night Takeaways: UFC 217 article feature image

The Big Apple produced big shocks as all three defending UFC world champions were dethroned on a stunning night of fights at Madison Square Garden.

Here are our big takeaways from a huge night of surprises in New York City:

A legend returns

In one of the most remarkable performances in recent memory, Georges St-Pierre stepped back into active competition for the first time after a four-year hiatus and defeated UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping with a superb performance that defied the naysayers – myself included.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian superstar was not only returning to the sport after four years away, he did so by moving up a weight class to take on the defending champion. And while it looked like his gas tank was beginning to run dry in the third round, St-Pierre landed the left hook that changed the fight, dropped Bisping and spelling the beginning of the end for the Brit.

St-Pierre looked all set to claim a TKO victory via ground and pound, but transitioned to a rear-naked choke and finished the Brit to pick up a stunning win.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Remarkably, despite his lengthy layoff, GSP was actually the betting favorite heading into the matchup, but it still felt like a huge shock when he choked Bisping unconscious midway through the third round.

The big question now regards who St-Pierre will fight next. Will he take on interim middleweight champ Robert Whittaker in a unification bout? Will he take on welterweight champ Tyron Woodley in a bid to recapture the title he never lost in the cage? Or could we even see a superfight with Conor McGregor sometime next year? All options are possible, so watch this space.

Dillashaw reclaims his crown

We wrote pre-fight that T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt were responsible for two of the best title fight performances in recent UFC history, but on Saturday night it was Dillashaw who showed the championship class, as he tweaked his approach mid-fight to recover from a bad first-round predicament to turn the tables and knock out Garbrandt in dramatic fashion in the second.

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Garbrandt badly dropped Dillashaw in the final seconds of the opening round and looked mere seconds away from a decisive stoppage win. But the buzzer saved Dillashaw and, after some gameplan adjustments in his corner, the former world champion came out for the second round throwing a lot of kicks, rather than looking to engage the lightning hands of Garbrandt.

It proved a wise move as the betting underdog proved the oddsmakers – and the pundits – wrong with a spectacular second-round performance.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Dillashaw dropped Garbrandt with a head kick as the champion looked to close the distance and, once the fight returned to the feet, Dillashaw was able to close the distance and move back into boxing range, where he finished a dazed Garbrandt with strikes to recapture the belt he lost to Dominick Cruz last year.

Now he fancies dropping down to the flyweight division to face pound-for-pound great Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson. That’s a mouth-watering prospect, and one that would make for some very interesting betting action as the bigger man moves down to 125lbs to take on the all-conquering champion.

Rose was as cool as ice

Rose Namajunas was the biggest underdog on the card when she stepped into the cage for her title tilt at Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s strawweight world title.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It was far from plain sailing during the week for Namajunas, who had Jedrzejczyk put her fist into her face during the face-offs, then had the Polish world champ shouting in her face during the weigh-ins. But while Jedrzejczyk’s intimidation tactics made for amazing viewing, Namajunas was unfazed, quietly reciting The Lord’s Prayer while her opposite number turned up the heat on stage.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Even fight night got off to the wrong start, as her chosen walkout song, Michael McDonald’s "Sweet Freedom," was somehow replaced by Oasis’ "Supersonic." But after her fight night performance, maybe she’ll stick to the British band’s indie classic from now on.

Namajunas was nerveless as she took the fight to Jedrzejczyk from the off, and she stunned Madison Square Garden when she dropped the champion early on. All of a sudden, the most clear-cut title fight of the three wasn’t looking so clear cut.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

But rather than become overcome by excitement, Namajunas stayed as cool as ice and continued to push forward, eventually dropping Jedrzejczyk again and finishing her on the mat to claim a first-round knockout win and the biggest underdog victory of the night.

The Rubik’s Cube of MMA

He may have fallen just short in two world title fights with Tyron Woodley, but Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson remains one of the UFC’s elite welterweight contenders.

"Wonderboy" put on a virtuoso striking performance, showcasing his remarkable movement, striking arsenal and control of range as he picked apart Jorge "Gamebred" Masvidal for a three-round decision victory.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Masvidal is as tough as they come, but as we predicted earlier in the week, he simply had no answer to Thompson, whose unique fighting style posed a puzzle the Floridian just couldn’t solve.

The problem now lies with the UFC, who has a fighter who is clearly world championship caliber but recently failed to capture the belt in two recent title fights. A bout with rising British striker Darren Till in a main event spot in Europe – possibly London next March – looks like an attractive option.

The birth of a star?

Brazilian knockout artist Paulo Costa looked like a million dollars as he ruthlessly put away former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks to announce himself as an extremely dangerous threat to the UFC’s middleweight elite.

Costa handed out a one-sided battering of the former world champion, who hung in there gamely despite being badly outmatched from the very start.

© Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, a pair of huge right uppercuts closed the show for Costa, who looks like a real star in the making. And with the UFC’s crop of Brazilian fighters starting to age, Costa’s arrival as a new, young prospect couldn’t be better timed.

Expect to hear a lot more from the man known as "The Eraser" in the coming months.

Event Stats

  • Number of fights: 11
  • Number of finishes: 9
  • KO/TKOs: 7
  • Submissions: 1
  • Disqualifications: 1


Georges St-Pierre, T.J. Dillashaw and Rose Namajunas each earned $50,000 "Performance of the Night" bonuses, while the UFC added an extra "Performance of the Night" bonus and split it in half to reward Ovince St-Preux and Ricardo Ramos for their respective finishes.

[Main image: © Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports]

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