Live: Returning UFC icon ‘on another level’

Sunday, 05 November 2017, 06:28:23 AM. Live: UFC 217 in New York

THE UFC makes its second visit to Madison Square Garden today in what promises to be the most jam-packed card of the year.

There isn’t quite the glamour of Conor McGregor’s history-making lightweight championship win at this arena last year, but the card is deep and filled with potentially explosive match-ups.

Georges St-Pierre was about as big a star as the sport had before Ronda Rousey and McGregor took it mainstream and he has the opportunity to become just the fourth dual weight champion in UFC history, joining McGregor, Randy Couture and BJ Penn.

The long-reigning welterweight king, who hasn’t fought in four years, will try to add Michael Bisping’s middleweight strap to his legendary haul.

But that’s just one of three titles on the line — and there’s plenty of other fun fights on the undercard which kicks off at 11am AEDT.

8.30am

Main card preview

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Georges St-Pierre (L) is out to end the reign of Michael Bisping (R).Source:AFP

Michael Bisping (c) vs Georges St-Pierre for the middleweight championship

Bisping’s second title defence since shocking Luke Rockhold in June, 2016, comes against another veteran of the sport. The 38-year-old Brit has managed to seal match-ups with Dan Henderson (aged 46 at the time) and St-Pierre (36) despite neither being ranked in the division.

Some would argue it’s been quite a generous 18-month reign but Bisping faces one of the most dominant fighters the sport has seen, albeit at a division below the one in which this bout takes place. This fight could have huge ramifications for Aussie interim champ Robert Whittaker, who wants to face the winner in Perth next year. He’ll be cageside watching proceedings, but the age of the headliners and their reluctance to travel Down Under means nothing is guaranteed at this point.

Heavyweight Walt Harris, who fights Mark Godbeer in the prelims, predicted a St-Pierre win because of his superior fight IQ.

“I feel like his mental game, it’s on another level,” Harris said, per MMA Fighting. “I think he’s been to that level and tasted it. The only thing that worries me, just like I’m sure everybody else, is that four years (out of the Octagon). And Bisping has been a little bit more active … I think Georges will find a way to win. I think he’s just that good.”

Cody Garbrandt (c) vs TJ Dillashaw (rank: 2) for the bantamweight championship

Garbrandt exploded on the scene late last year by ending Dominick Cruz’s epic reign as the 135-pound champion. And he did it in one of the most entertaining performances of the year. A genuine star appeared to have been born, before injuries kept him out for 12 months. Dillashaw, a former champion of this division, has been waiting for a second crack at the strap and has only lost to Cruz in the past few years. This is a serious test for Garbrandt against a former teammate who knows him well, but he’ll become one of the biggest names in the sport if he can get the job done.

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Cody Garbrandt faces TJ Dillashaw.Source:Getty Images

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (c) vs Rose Namajunas (4) for the women’s strawweight championship

Jedrzejczyk can match Ronda Rousey’s record for the most defences of a women’s belt in UFC history by making it six successful outings on the trot as champion. The Polish warrior hasn’t finished an opponent since 2015 but her world-class endurance has made her untouchable over five rounds. Namajunas has gone 4-1 in the UFC and presents a new set of problems as perhaps the most well-rounded of any of Jedrzejczyk’s opponents. Expect a war.

Stephen Thompson (2) vs Jorge Masvidal (4) in the welterweight division

After failing to get a win in two cracks at Tyron Woodley’s title, Thompson faces a seriously dangerous opponent as he attempts to stay at the front of the queue for another shot. Masvidal smoked Jake Ellenberger and Donald Cerrone before his momentum was smothered by Demian Maia, but he’ll like his chances if he can close the distance on Wonderboy.

Johny Hendricks vs Paulo Costa in the middleweight division

Hendricks’ career has been in free fall since he lost the welterweight title to Robbie Lawler three years ago. A move up a division hasn’t helped him escape issues with his weight and this is really a final roll of the dice against an undefeated opponent in Costa. Costa has only fought twice in the UFC but won convincingly both times. His second round stoppage of Oluwale Bamgbose was the first of 10 career fights that even made it out of the first round.

UNDERCARD

James Vick vs Joe Duffy in the lightweight division

Walt Harris vs Mark Godbeer in the heavyweight division

Ovince Saint Preux (6) vs Corey Anderson (7) in the light heavyweight division

Randy Brown vs Mickey Gall in the welterweight division

Oleksiy Oliynyk (9) vs Curtis Blaydes (12) in the heavyweight division

Aiemann Zahabi vs Ricardo Ramo in the bantamweight division

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