On Saturday, Nov. 4, I was in the beautiful Mile High city of Denver, ready to watch what would prove to be one of the biggest nights in UFC History. It’s UFC 217: a card stacked with three incredible title matches, and of course, I’m having streaming issues.
After missing all of the preliminary fights during a proverbial fight with my Roku Box, I decided to cut my losses and watch the fight by holding my iPhone just inches from my face. Before we dive into this story, I must also apologize to our editor, Greg Knight, for breaking the “one UFC story per six months rule,” but this one was worth it.
I was able to join the action right as the first of the three title matches was beginning. Reigning strawweight (106-115 lbs) champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (pronounced Yaun-jay-check) faced challenger “Thug” Rose Namajunas.
Jedrzejczyk had a lot to lose coming into this bout, boasting a perfect 14-0 record and just one win away from tying Ronda Rousey’s six-straight title defenses. Jedrzejczyk was haunting in her press run, constantly taunting the underdog Namajunas with statements like “November 4th … I will cut all the Roses,” and shouting in her thick Polish accent “The boogeywoman is coming for you.”
Yeesh! For anyone that’s seen “John Wick” that was some bone-chilling stuff.
Namajunas, however, kept her composure throughout, simply reciting the Lord’s Prayer while pressed nose-to-nose with a barking Jedrzejczyk (seriously, if anyone was ever in need of a nickname). As it turns out, talk is cheap, and Namajunas was unfazed by all the taunting. She was able to hone in on the champion, put pressure on her early with a flurry of strikes, and ultimately a technical knockout of Jedrzejczyk in the very first round.
Next up was the grudge match of the decade, in which former teammates turned bitter rivals Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw faced off in the octagon. This feud began when Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male (TAM) to follow striking coach Duane Ludwig to Colorado. Ludwig had irreconcilable differences with TAM leader and mixed martial arts (MMA) legend Urijah Faber — and Dillashaw was essentially given an ultimatum: him or us.
Dillashaw chose the former, leaving TAM after arguably gaining his notoriety and honing his skill set with them. Dillashaw’s controversial departure did not sit well with TAM member and defending bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt, who publically chastised Dillashaw and questioned his loyalty.
As the two faced off, Dillashaw offered a glove tap as a sign of sportsmanship, only to be left hanging by Garbrandt. This set the tone for an epic striking exchange, making the first round come across as more of a calculated street fight than a title match.
Dillashaw caught a devastating right from Garbrandt at the end of the first round, sending him wobbling over to his corner. This had many fans questioning how he would react coming into the next round after being saved by the bell, with many believing the fight was turning in Garbrandt’s favor. Dillashaw showed up fully recovered, however, and was able to drop Garbrandt with a vicious right — and then he was finished with him after a referee stoppage due to strikes.
As a dazed, defeated and now former champ, Garbrandt propped himself up after being knocked out. Dillashaw then got nose to nose with Garbrandt and let out a guttural roar — one that could only come from defeating your arch nemesis.
Last but undoubtedly not least, the final bout of the night. The return of MMA’s prodigal son and pride of Canada, Georges St-Pierre, also known as “GSP.” He faced off against current champ and pride of Britain, Michael “The Count” Bisping.
The bout ended with a heavy left hook dropping Bisping to the canvas, followed by a bloodied St-Pierre raining down a barrage of elbows on Bisping. This forced him to have to fight defensively and way out of his game plan.
And then the brilliance of the veteran St-Pierre came into play as he laid off the strikes just long enough for Bisping to let his guard down and try to stand up St-Pierre then seized his back, opened his neck up with a body shot that lowered Bisping’s hands, then locked in a deep triangle choke.
Incredibly enough, Bisping refused to tap, and by the time the ref stepped in, he was out cold on the canvas, leaving MMA fans across the world stunned as St-Pierre came back after four years to regain his title. The bout broke pay-per-view records in Canada in a massive show of support for their native son. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even gave St-Pierre a congratulatory tweet for his amazing comeback.
Wow. This was a night of titans falling, feuds being settled and legends being born. One thing is for sure: the entire MMA community is in trouble with St-Pierre back in the fold.