With the Ultimate Fighting Championship primed and ready for their second show at Madison Square Garden, the results from the three title fights at UFC 217 will have various implications for their respective divisions, and others above and below them.
In the evening’s main event, UFC middleweight champion Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping will defend his title versus Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre, who will be making his octagon return after a four-year hiatus.
Minus a controversial outcome (in all three title fights) the victor in the middleweight championship fight already has his next opponent waiting in the wings: interim champion Robert Whittaker. Of course, this is the UFC that we are talking about, so anything can happen, and as history has shown us, it often does.
While both Bisping and St-Pierre have stated Whittaker is next, there is always the possibility that “The Count” could retire with a win over GSP. Why not? He would have defeated Anderson Silva and St-Pierre - two men widely considered as MMA’s G.O.A.T.’s. The pay day from this GSP bout will no doubt be Michael’s largest of his career, so I can see him walking away with his head held high.
Now if GSP wins, he did state that it is written in the terms of his existing contract that he must defend against Whittaker next … but even the UFC would bypass that option, if a bout with ‘Rush’ and Conor McGregor could be set up instead.
In the co-main event, UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt is set to defend his title for the first time vs former champion, former teammate and now arch-rival, TJ Dillashaw.
Should Garbrandt emerge victorious, the next challenger would likely come from the winner of the upcoming Dominick Cruz and Jimmie Rivera bout, but perhaps it may not.
The same can be said for Dillashaw - should he win, it is expected he will defend against Cruz or Rivera next, but stop the presses …
Potentially waiting in the wings, for a bigger pay day of a bout, is UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson. He is also looking for the biggest pay day of his career and nowadays, “money fights” are right up his alley.
In the third title fight set for UFC 217, women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk is set to tie the record for most successful UFC title defences by a woman at six; a record currently held by former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
Standing in Jędrzejczyk’s way is Rose ‘Thug’ Namajunas, a major underdog currently listed at +525. Crazier things have happened in MMA, so a victory by Rose will not surprise any long time fans of MMA.
Should she emerge victorious, the options for ‘Thug Rose’ may initially be limited, as unless she dominates Joanna, there would likely be a rematch with the two fighters. If she does defeat her in violent fashion, even getting a finish, there is a long list of options for Namajunas to begin her title reign asap.
But with the heavy favourite Jędrzejczyk (-750) expected to emerge victorious, her options at 115 lbs are limited. She’s basically cleaned out the division, with the next ‘new’ contender(s) a fight or two away from getting their title shots. Instead, many insiders are pointing to Joanna moving up to 125 lbs, to challenge the winner of the upcoming inagural women’s flyweight title fight set for The Ultimate Fighter Finale on December 01st.
The aforementioned three title fights will have our eyes glued to the octagon, but come Sunday morning, our eyes will be focussed on the headlines … both short term and long term. Will the winners defend their titles in their respective divisions or will the look outside of their weight class for their next challenge?
2018 cannot come soon enough.