For our UFC 217 round table, we discuss the best title fight on the card, the legacy of Georges St. Pierre and Michael Bisping, and more!
UFC 217 takes place Saturday, November 4 in New York City, and marks the promotion’s return to the historic Madison Square Garden. Striving to live up to last year’s UFC 205, the promotion has stacked the card with three title fights, including the return of Georges St. Pierre in a middleweight title showdown with Michael Bisping.
A card of this stature creates plenty of talking points, from Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s attempt to tie Ronda Rousey’s title defense record, to the legacies of both GSP and Bisping. We polled a number of our writers on these topics in a round table discussion, and here’s what they had to say.
4. Is GSP making a mistake by coming out of retirement after being one of the few to retire as champ, with no unavenged losses?
Jay Anderson: He very well may be. Know how many fighters in MMA have left the sport on top, as champ, with all their losses avenged? At this level, pretty much GSP. St. Pierre risks that, and then there’s the considerable risk to his health. After having been on the shelf for years, and already having taken some hefty damage in the UFC, there’s a real question of whether this return is worth it.
Dan Doherty: I don’t think this is a mistake. The Hendricks fight left a bad taste in some mouths due to the controversial decision. A strong performance against Bisping will remind us of how great GSP truly is. There’s also the prizefighting factor of making as much money as you can before your body tells you to stop.
Gabriel Gonzalez: No. I believe he had plenty of fight in him when he left. If he has that hunger and desire to fight, why shouldn’t he go out there win or lose? That being said, I’m not sold that he is fully interested in sticking around for a long comeback even with a win.
Eddie Law: It’s hard to say yes or no to this one before UFC 217. GSP has been gone for four years so of course the questions of cage rust and if he’s improved at all are there. Based on what we know about GSP however I’d say he probably is making a mistake coming back.
GSP has not been “Rush” since he fought Matt Serra. He became a guy who fought to not lose rather than to win. If he wins in spectacular fashion he’ll have a new fan base to take on. If he loses then his legacy takes a bit of a shot.
All that being said, if his body can handle it and he can go through the rigors of a training camp and such, why not come back for a nice pay day?
Paarth Pande: No. MMA as a sport has grown a lot since GSP retired. From getting legalized in New York to USADA testing, the sport has seen many changes and now has a way wider audience. If GSP can remind people of his greatness then he builds an amazing legacy for himself. Apart from that, he still has a lot of fight in him.
3. What’s the best title fight on the UFC 217 card, and why?
Dan Doherty: The answer has to be Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw. Jedrzejczyk vs. Namajunas is a bit too one-sided for my liking although Joanna Champion is always a pleasure to watch. GSP vs. Bisping is too unpredictable based on the status of St. Pierre. We know we’re getting something great with Cody vs. TJ. Garbrandt’s performance against Cruz was phenomenal, while Dillashaw looked as good as ever against John Lineker. Can Dillashaw use his wrestling effectively to limit Garbrandt’s effectiveness on the feet? Or will he decide to stand and bang with the new champion? This will be thrilling no matter what.
Gabriel Gonzalez: JJ vs Rose. There are plenty of x-factors in the other title fights that could be exciting. But on paper, both women are highly skilled, very tactical, and their offensive capabilities are among the best in the game right now that there’s every reason to believe it could be one of the most competitive female fights we’ve ever seen.
Eddie Law: Cody vs TJ hands down. The response to Bisping vs. GSP has been very underwhelming which explains the last minute push to promote the card and get more buys. JJ vs Rose, while I believe has a very good chance of being an upset fight doesn’t quite look like it to most fans.
In Cody vs. TJ we have a tight match-up of former teammates that really don’t like each other. The two have trained together and know each other’s games very well. They will both have to make adjustments during the fight to make up for that familiarity that their opponent has with them. That chess match of adjustments is what makes this fight so exciting.
And of course they dislike each other so we’re hoping for some crazy KO win.
Paarth Pande: TJ vs Cody. That fight has everything in it to make it super exciting. A background story of two friends turned enemies, both with amazing skill sets clashing in the grandest arena in the world today.
Jay Anderson: This is one of those cards that should be fun top to bottom, at least on paper. Then you’ve got three title fights. As a Canadian, I’m obligated to love GSP. Joanna Champion always entertains and is pretty much at the top of my list, but I have to go with Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw here. You have two fighters at the top of their game, both with stellar movement and footwork, both in their athletic prime, with an intense personal rivalry. Really, you can’t ask for more.
2. With a win, where does GSP sit in terms of legacy? Where does Bisping rank should he score a win over another legend?
Gabriel Gonzalez: I believe a victory would put GSP at the top of the P4P list. Regardless of his amazing skills, he has several difficult obstacles in returning after four years and moving up in weight to face another skilled and experienced veteran. For him to pull out a victory would go down arguably as the biggest of an already legendary career inside the cage.
While victories over GSP and the Spider are always a big deal regardless, the reality is “The Count” has caught them a ways away from their heyday. Bisping has been a perennial contender and his tenacity and personality made him a stand-out character in the sport as the UFC has grown. Does he go down as an all-time great talent, no. But I believe he goes down as a great fighter who helped blaze the trail for European fighters on the UFC stage.
Paarth Pande: GSP will go down as THE GOAT instead of one of the GOATs. Anderson Silva’s legacy has the black mark of a failed drug test . If you exclude the pay, this fight isn’t really very rewarding for Bisping. In terms of legacy it won’t really make a significant difference as he’s beating someone who hasn’t fought in over two years.
Eddie Law: GSP wins and he goes down as a two-division world champion. Simple as that he quite possibly passes Anderson Silva as the GOAT of MMA. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see those two fight in their prime but it’ll make for some fun discussion.
With a win over GSP, Bisping becomes one of the legendary fighters in this sport.
Jay Anderson: With a win, GSP is at the top. When you look at the contenders, guys like Sakuraba and Penn hung around too long. Fedor couldn’t preform in North America, for whatever reason. Silva and Jones have had drug scandals taint their legacy. Barring any similar issues, should GSP defeat Bisping on Saturday, he is hands down the greatest of all time, with apologies to Demetrious Johnson. Bisping, meanwhile, is a lesson in what determination, hard work, and a bit of luck can do. His wins over Silva and Henderson were close, but still wins — just at the wrong point in their careers. Still, lets not kid ourselves, Michael Bisping is a talented fighter who will wind up in the HOF.
Dan Doherty: GSP would be the greatest of his generation and solidify himself above Anderson Silva in that argument (if you don’t believe he is already). Bisping is an odd case. Never seemed to be a top-five fighter, he has just racked up plenty of solid wins (the most in UFC history) and now has a belt for his efforts. He’ll be remembered, but I can’t see him being in the greats conversation.
1. If Joanna Champion defeats Rose, is it time for her to move North and try her hand at a second title?
Eddie Law: Yes, Joanna should absolutely move up to 125 and go for a second belt. She’s shown that she’s basically unbeatable at 115 pounds and a move up to 125 brings in a whole other stable of opponents and if she can dominate them we may be talking about the greatest female fighter in combat sports, ever.
Dan Doherty: Flyweight Joanna has me very excited. All the top strawweights have had their chance, so unless someone emerges very quickly, go get that second belt Joanna.
Jay Anderson: That’s a tough one. I look at Mighty Mouse, and there’s something to be said for really ruling the roost and cleaning out your division. We haven’t seen Joanna against a fighter like Tecia Torres, and I’d love to see Angela Hill go on a run and challenge her. That said, Joanna is so far ahead of the pack, she’ll likely need to go up at some point. Just give it a few more fights.
Gabriel Gonzalez: While there are some fun match-ups at 125. I’d say no. I think she has business to attend to against Torres, Calvillo, and Herrig at 115. Similar to the current DJ-Cody-TJ speculation, Johnson has had to virtually sweep the division before you start to discuss “needing” a challenge from a different weight class. I think Joanna moving up after thoroughly destroying 115 gives the flyweight division time to develop and makes an eventual move up all the more epic for everyone involved.
Paarth Pande: No. She hasn’t wiped out the entire division yet. Herrig and other contenders can’t be considered out. But I won’t complain if she moves up