UFC 217 has the UFC headed back to Madison Square Garden a year removed from the massive UFC 205 event that saw Conor McGregor become the two-weight world champion by beating Eddie Alvarez. This year the UFC is once again putting together the best possible lineup for this tent-pole event with the main star being Georges St. Pierre who is returning from 4 years away from the sport to challenge Michael Bisping for his middleweight belt. Once again there are two other title fights on this card as well, with Gardbrandt vs Dillashaw for the bantamweight belt and Jedrzejczyk vs Namajunas for the women’s strawweight.
The PPV portion of the card is one of the best you will see from the UFC and it’s definitely worth the $50 price tag. I’ll give my picks for each of these main card fights below using the odds from BetOnline.ag, our top rated betting site. Here’s our full BetOnline review for you to check out if you’re interested in opening an account and placing some bets.
Georges St-Pierre vs Michael Bisping
This fight is close to a pick’em now after GSP opened as a decent size favorite. I think people are realizing the size difference between these two and questioning whether the added muscle in GSP’s torso is going to translate to success in the cage.
Personally, I think GSP knows what he’s doing and I will give him the benefit of the doubt in this case. He’s a fighter who always takes calculated risks, both in the cage and in his selection of opponents to give himself the best chance to win. We never heard GSP wanting to move up to middleweight when everyone was hankering for the GSP vs Silva super fight, but as soon as Bisping won the middleweight belt, GSP started to campaign for the fight as a potential reason to return. As much as I don’t like guys picking fights, the fact that GSP seems so confident in beating Bisping that he started calling out Bisping right away after sitting out for 3+ years tells me that GSP is extremely confident in this stylistic match-up.
I agree with GSP in that respect. I do think that GSP will be able to get takedowns in this fight and outwork Bisping on the mat. He is a very safe fighter and won’t overcommit and allow himself to get tagged by Bisping’s boxing, like Rockhold did when he underestimated Bisping in their fight. Even with that KO of Rockhold, the fact still remains that 6 of Bisping’s last 8 wins have come via decision. He doesn’t have top level finishing ability and I just don’t think he can expect to win via decision against the decision king, Georges St-Pierre, who has takedowns in his back pocket to steal rounds.
I like GSP to win this one 49-46 on the scorecards. I expect him to take the fight to the mat at some key points to win rounds with ground and pound, while not really putting himself in any danger of being finished by Bisping in this fight.
Play: GSP -115
Cody Garbrandt vs TJ Dillashaw
A lot of money came in on Cody in the last few days to push his odds down, but I’m not convinced he’s a great play in this case. Yes, he was able to knockout a lot of lower level fighters so we know he has power in his hands, and he was able to stay patient against Cruz, so we know he has the ability to stick to a game plan, but I’m still not convinced we’ve seen enough from Cody to know for sure if he’s a truly elite fighter.
TJ, on the other hand, has proven himself with two dominant performances over the #2 ranked fighters after his razor thin, split decision loss to Dominick Cruz back in January of 2016. I give TJ the edge on the mat and I also think his pace will be tough for Cody to deal with.
If Cody is going to win this fight he’s going to have to knock TJ out. This is definitely possible and Cody has shown he has the power to drop guys early or late in the fights, but TJ has shown the ability to have lot of output, while avoiding getting hit very often, which should bode well for him in this fight. He also has what we would expect is the better ground game, which he can turn to if he’s getting outclassed on the feet.
I like Dillashaw to win this one by decision.
Play: Dillashaw +154
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Rose Namajunas
I don’t know how you can go against Joanna in this fight. She just keeps getting better every time she steps in the cage. Rose is a talented fighter with some interesting finishing ability, but I don’t think she will ever get her hands around Joanna in this fight. JJ will be in and out landing punches all night long.
Rose lost to Karolina Kowalkiewcz a couple of fights ago and she is basically the same style of fighter as Joanna, just far worse. So Rose beating Joanna would be quite the impressive upset. I don’t think it will happen. I like Joanna to win by decision will landing 200+ strikes.
Play: Joanna -530
Jorge Masvidal vs Stephen Thompson
We finally get to see Thompson against another exciting fighter rather than against Woodley. Masvidal is actually going to want to get into the pocket and bang with Wonderboy, which should play right into Wonderboy’s hands with his karate technique. Wonderboy’s range will be slightly larger than Masvidal’s who likes to box, and if Wonderboy can tag Masvidal in that extra bit of range and then get himself back to karate range I think this should be a fairly routine fight for him.
Masvidal is small for the 170 pound division and that loss of reach will be a significant issue against someone with Wonderboy’s karate style. Everyone was so impressed with Masvidal’s win over Cowboy, but now that Cerrone has lost 3 straight that win has lost some of it’s muster.
I see Wonderboy as the far superior stand-up fighter stylistically in this one, and Wonderboy should be able to keep this fight standing with his size, strength and distance. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a finish, but I’m leaning towards Wonderboy by one-sided decision.
Play: Wonderboy -172
Johny Hendricks vs Paulo Borrachinha
Getting knocked out by Tim Boetsch sent Johny Hendricks stock way down. He’s now won only 1 in his last 5 fights. And not only did he get KO’d by Boetsch, but he was completely outclassed on the feet in that fight until the finish.
We really don’t know what we’re going to get out of Hendricks in this fight, but at these odds I still think I’m going to take him here. Borrachinha is an absolute beast with knockout power, but he does have some issues with takedown defense. Oluwale Bamgbose took down Borrachinha twice in their recent fight, and those were Bamgbose’s first takedowns of his 4 fight UFC career. If Hendricks fights smart in this one and realizes that his wrestling is his path to victory in this fight then I do think he could grind out a decision win here.
Hendricks just needs to weather the early storm from Borrachinha, find his range on the feet and work for takedowns to try to get back in the win column.
Even though Hendricks has not been good lately, he is still a big step up in competition for Borrachinha, who has fought two of the bottom fighters in the UFC, beating both convincingly. This could either be a coming out party for Borrachinha, or his first L and some realization on what he needs to improve. I’m going with the latter.
Play: Hendricks +180
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