Martial Artists Return to the Top of the UFC
It was a euphoric experience for fight fans as UFC 217: Bisping vs St-Pierre lived up to the hype. In just one night, we witnessed the return of a legend, chapter one of a bitter rivalry, and the ascendance of a young heroine.
Three title changes. Three wild finishes. Quantifying the experience that is UFC 217 is a tall task – even Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier found it difficult to express themselves during recap segment – but I’ll do my best to wrap my mind around the aftermath of this marquee event.
Here are three takeaways from UFC 217:
#3 “Thug Rose” is LEGIT!
In a turn of events that no one saw coming – let’s be honest here – ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas played Joanna Jędrzejczyk’s game and came up on top. Joanna was known as the superior striker, but Namajunas threw hands with her and caught the champion with a left to the jaw, followed by a right to the downed fighter which finished her off ultimately.
Before the fight, Namajunas’ fiancé and UFC veteran Pat Barry stated that Joanna has a Mike Tyson-esque aura; and most of her opponents already lost even before the fight because they are afraid of her.
But Namajunas is different; she doesn’t fear Joanna. During the weigh-ins, the champ was all over her, talking a lot of trash, warning her, “The boogeywoman is coming for you!” And instead of being intimidated, Namajunas – in a monotonous voice and with a straight face – was reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Yikes!
At the 3:03 mark of the very first round, we hailed a new queen of the strawweight division. What followed was even more amazing and this possibly is the reason why I’m in love with Namajunas.
During the post-fight interview, the new strawweight champ said, “There’s so much crap going on in the media and news, I just wanted to try to use my gift of martial arts to make the world a better place.”
“This belt doesn’t mean anything. Just be a good person! That’s it. This is extra. This is awesome but let’s just give each other hugs and be nice,” Namajunas continued.
She may only be the titleholder for less than 24 hours but those words sounded like they’re coming from a bona fide superstar and legitimate champion.
P.S. Her new nickname should be “Negasonic Teenage Warhead”. You know it!
#2 This KO could be the best thing for Cody Garbrandt
As advertised, there was “no love” during the grudge match between former teammates turned bitter rivals Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw – pardon the pun.
Similar to Jędrzejczyk, Garbrandt’s overconfidence got the best of him. Dillashaw was saved by the bell as the champ almost finished him with strikes to close the first round.
However, Dillashaw’s focus did not waver as he weathered the early storm against the highly confident Garbrandt who seemingly had the momentum on his side.
A left kick to the jaw turned the story around as Dillashaw followed up by raining down heavy blows to his grounded former Team Alpha Male buddy. At 2:41 of the second round, Dillashaw regained his bantamweight title.
“This is not the end of Cody Garbrandt,” Dillashaw said during the post-fight interview. And he’s correct, Garbrandt is only 25 years young and he has a lot of years ahead of him.
If Cody’s mindset is right, this loss will only make him hungrier, more humble, and a better fighter overall. This is his GSP-Matt Serra moment when he finally realizes that it pays to fight humbly and patiently. This is his Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz moment, when he teaches himself to never underestimate a foe.
Garbrandt fans should not worry: this is just an attitude adjustment for a youngster like him. There is no reason to believe that Garbrandt will not come back stronger and wiser from this devastating loss – like the aforementioned St-Pierre and McGregor did.
#1 Is GSP even HUMAN!?
George St-Pierre showed the world why he is a legend of the sport. No one doubted St-Pierre’s prolific cage-fighting ability, but all odds were against him in this return bout.
GSP hasn’t fought competitively since 2013, while his opponent, Michael Bisping, has become the winningest UFC fighter coming into the match. Also, Bisping is fighting in his natural weight division, while the challenger had to climb to middleweight to make this fight happen.
The circumstances surrounding the main event really had the makings to witness the fall of the legendary French-Canadian – only, he did not allow it.
Bisping had no answer for St-Pierre’s wrestling as ‘The Count’ was taken down thrice, one in each round. GSP then floored Bisping with a counter left hook in the 1:13 mark of the third round. St-Pierre smelled blood as he pounced on the visibly hurt champion. Solid elbow strikes allowed GSP to transition into a rear-naked choke, and just like that he is a two-division UFC champion.
It seems like the middleweight division, however, will not be St-Pierre’s new home for long as he was not giving a clear answer on whether he plans to defend his newly won gold. “It’s a dream come true. He hurt me very hard. I got stunned and tried to hide it. I wouldn’t like to do that fight again,” St-Pierre stated.
It’s hard to tell where GSP’s future is heading, but whether he’ll remain as the middleweight king or come back to conquer his natural welterweight class, St-Pierre has already done enough to solidify his status as one of MMA’s greatest of all time.
Rafael Bandayrel is a self-confessed nerd who happens to love MMA. Yes, nerds watch sports these days. What a time to be alive.
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