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UFC 217: Fight by Fight Preview


GSP is back. But is it the old GSP or just an old GSP? Middleweight champion Michael Bisping needs to find that out immediately, and if it’s a fighter that is rusty after four years away, his pace and pressure could put some doubt in the Canadian icon’s head. Add in a size advantage for Bisping, and it may be the recipe for the biggest win yet for “The Count.” But St-Pierre has never been one to be reckless in how he’s lived his life in and out of the Octagon. So I don’t believe he would have returned if he wasn’t confident of victory. So what is that path to victory? It’s fairly simple. Bisping has been showing some thin skin over the last few years, so a few stiff jabs could draw blood, and once that enters the picture, it opens the door for GSP to work his ground game. It’s a tale of two possibilities, and we’ll find out which one it is in a couple days.

The co-main event between former teammates Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw may be the toughest fight to pick on the entire card because there are so many unanswered questions. Can Garbrandt repeat the brilliance of his title-winning effort over Dominick Cruz? Can Dillashaw change this into a wrestling match? How will the emotions of this bad blood rivalry reveal themselves on fight night? Does Team Alpha Male have the blueprint to beat Dillashaw? And I can go on and on and on. Thankfully, it’s almost Saturday night.

Good grief. Did @joannamma just cut one of the greatest promos of all-time? #UFC217
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) November 3, 2017

For fans of the technical side of MMA, you’ve come to the right place because the strawweight title bout between champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and challenger Rose Namajunas has the potential to produce some of the best technical exchanges we’ve seen in the weight class. Jedrzejczyk is the favorite, and rightfully so, but Namajunas has the ground game and striking to come out of nowhere with something that could earn her a world championship belt.

On a night when the MMA world celebrates the return of Georges St-Pierre, the division he used to rule is hotter than ever. For proof, check out this clash of top five contenders Stephen Thompson and Jorge Masvidal. Not only is it an important battle in terms of the title picture, but stylistically, it’s a can’t miss. Masvidal can do it all on fight night, and while he’s in with a counterstriker in Thompson, don’t expect the Floridian to sit back and engage in a war of nerves. “Gamebred” will push if he has to, and then things will get interesting in MSG.

Paulo Costa has already been anointed as the Next Big Thing out of Brazil, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment given the fact that he’s got the resume, look and attitude of a star. But Johny Hendricks is still a former world champion, he’s got a spring in his step after a recent camp with the Jackson-Wink MMA team in Albuquerque, and you have to believe that “Bigg Rigg” has no intention of being anyone’s stepping stone. This is going to be interesting.

Finishing up the prelim portion of the card is an appetizer that could probably headline a Fight Night somewhere, and you have to assume that the winner of the James Vick-Joe Duffy bout will find his way to the lightweight top 15 next week. Both fighters are skilled on the mat and the feet, they each have momentum leading into the bout, and there’s a lot on the line in a crowded division. That’s the recipe for a helluva fight.

Walt Harris has had a rollercoaster start to his UFC career, but after back-to-back knockouts of Chase Sherman and Cyril Asker, “The Big Ticket” looks to be in a groove and ready to make a run at the heavyweight top 15. Sure, his recent last-minute bout with Fabricio Werdum last month was a loss, but it didn’t affect his standing too much. In fact, his willingness to step in hours before he was supposed to face Godbeer may have elevated his appeal to fight fans. So while a win on Saturday might not get him to that top 15, it wouldn’t hurt.

I’ve got a feeling this light heavyweight battle could make a run for Fight of the Night honors. OSP comes in on short notice after Pat Cummins was forced out of the bout due to injury, and he’s got momentum on his side after a pair of Von Flue choke wins over Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Yushin Okami. But Anderson is hungry to get back in the win column and he’s one of those guys who isn’t afraid to get in one of those blood and spit flying fights, and that might be what these two might be delivering on Saturday.

Randy Brown and Mickey Gall both arrived on the radar of UFC fans on the same episode of Dana White’s Lookin’ for a Fight series, but they’ve traveled different roads since then, with Gall getting a series of high-profile fights while Brown took a more conventional route since then. That’s given Brown a lot of incentive heading into this bout, but the unbeaten Gall has done everything asked of him on the big stage and he’s done it impressively, so New York’s “Rudeboy” can’t expect to run through his New Jersey rival because that could be the recipe for a short night.

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The hero of the 40-somethings, Russia’s Aleksei Oleinik was first noticed for his remarkable submission record, but in recent fights, he’s been showing off a willingness to throw hands before pulling off slick subs on the mat. Fresh from back-to-back finishes of Viktor Pesta and Travis Browne, he probably won’t want to stand too long with hard-hitting Curtis Blaydes, and if he does get the fight to the mat, we’ll see what the rising star from Chicago can do to nullify Oleinik’s ground attack.

How good is this card? Just look at the opener between top bantamweight prospects Aiemann Zahabi and Ricardo Ramos. Canada’s Zahabi has been on the radar of fight fans for a long time, and he didn’t disappoint in his UFC debut earlier this year, but don’t sleep on Ramos, who will be a tough out for anyone at 135 pounds.