The UFC returns to the Garden, MSG in New York City with another massive card. Making its promotional debut in 2016 the UFC puled out the card of the year and now they try to top even that, with three titles on the line.
In the most stacked event of 2017, I’ll be giving you my picks for the championship bouts on the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Jedrzejczyk v Namajunas:
Unbeaten Champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk has proven herself to be a literal force of nature since joining the UFC. While it is now lore that she was more than fortunate in her first meeting with Claudia Gadelha, the way she handled their second encounter put all of that to bed. You see, Jedrzejczyk is one of the cleanest striking, most efficient fighters that the UFC has seen. She barely wastes any movement or effort and, if you let her, she will tee off at will with precision strikes. It’s won her many a lopsided decision and will arguably see her win a few more.
‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas graduated from the mean streets of Milwaukee, coming came up through the TUF house, before losing the final to Carla Esparza. Since that loss she has been near flawless, submitting three of her five opponents and only coming up short on the wrong side of splitsville to Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She earns her title shot by detailing the hype trains of Paige VanZant and Michelle Waterson.
The outcome of this fight really depends on whether Namajunas can take Joanna to the ground, or whether Joanna can keep this on the feet. If you engage in a striking match with Joanna then she will win with ease, but if you can get her to the ground and make her fight in a BJJ match then she could be susceptible. Problem is that while many have tried, none have succeeded. While Rose could yet end up as the key that solves the Jedrzejczyk conundrum it feels unlikely. With that I am taking Jedrzejczyk to win her first fight inside the distance in just over two years.
Recommendation: Jedrzejczyk wins by TKO/KO – 2 units at +180 (9/5) @ 5Dimes
Garbrandt v Dillashaw:
In a little over two years, Cody Garbrandt has elevated himself from unranked prospect to World Champion, along the way dominating ‘The Dominator’ to secure the belt. While his performances in the octagon have been flawless, his conduct outside of it has been less than exemplary. Even the most casual of fan would have seen his throat grab of Dillashaw on TUF and his antics demonstrated that he is a DudeBro of the highest order. His in-ring performances may be elite, but his personality is somewhat archaic in a sport that is constantly looking to legitimise itself to the mainstream.
Depending on your point of view, TJ Dillashaw is either a fighter who followed the man who coached him to a world title, or a snake in the grass who betrayed the team that turned him into a contender. Personally, I like to look somewhere in the middle as this may well be a sport of teams, but it isn’t a team sport and Dillashaw needs to look out for himself as his team cannot be in the octagon with him. He stunned the world when he took apart Renan Barao and was desperately unlucky to be on the wrong end of a razor thin decision loss to Dominick Cruz. As a former champion he has been unlucky to have to wait as long as he has for redemption. Win, lose or draw it won’t be the last time these two face off.
I don’t think there has ever been a fight so entrenched in bad blood as this one. Backed up by a bitter rivalry on TUF these two former team mates have taken every opportunity to take a pot shot at the other, with Garbrandt coming across as the more brattish of the two. In terms of who wins, I think it’s too close to call, so I’ll be betting on this to go the distance. On the night though, I’ll be sitting with fingers crossed that TJ pulls out a win.
Recommendation: Fight Goes to Decision – 2 units at -130 (10/13) @ 5Dimes
Bisping v GSP:
With more than a decade of UFC activity behind him it is not uncommon to hear of Michael Bisping talk about himself in the highest regard. He believes that he is the best Middleweight of all time and who can argue with him? He beat Anderson Silva clean in London, and fortuitously limped past Dan Henderson in his hometown of Manchester. In taking the title, he beat the man (Rockhold) who beat the man (Weidman) who beat the man (Silva) who had held the belt for a decade.
Georges St Pierre reigned atop of the 170lb division for nearly 10 years before walking away from the sport in 2013. His reasons? They were unclear at the time and have never really been explained since. One would suspect a growing dissatisfaction with the sport and one of feeling out of touch. As dominant a champion as he was there was always a feeling that he was holding something back and he became known as a fighter who would, albeit in a dominant fashion, grind out a decision in retaining his belt. He was a huge draw in the US and Canada, but his fights regressed into something far less than spectacular.
I’m probably showing my age here, but this fight has had the feel of a Status Quo record (“on and off and on again…”) as it was seemingly inked and cancelled more times than any fight in recent memory But, barring a catastrophe in the final days, GSP is back in the UFC and challenging Michael Bisping for the Middleweight title. A win for GSP will see him join the elite group of fighters to have won belts in two separate divisions, whereas a win for Bisping will intensify calls for him to be GOAT of MMA, wins over Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson and now the greatest 170lb fighter in history. Heart says Bisping, head says GSP, but my wallet says that the over line wins.
Recommendation: Fight Goes to Decision – 2 units at -135 (20/27) @ 5Dimes