MMA Fight: UFC 217
Key Matches: Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre and Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw
When: Saturday, November 4, 2017
Time: 10PM EST
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
TV: PPV

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Michael Bisping, (+115), 30-10 (16 KOs, 4 Submissions) vs. Georges St-Pierre, (-135), 25-2 (8 KOs, 5 Submissions)

Michael Bisping defends his UFC Middleweight Championship against former longtime welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre on November 4 in the main event of UFC 217. By the time he steps into the octagon for this bout, it will have been four years since GSP has fought. He will be fighting a bigger man and one who has been active while he has been out-of-action. Can St-Pierre turn back the clock and beat a champion in his first fight after a long layoff? Or will Bisping remind us that time waits for no one in combat sports?

MMA is still a young sport to the point where taking four years off isn’t like taking the same amount of time off in a different sport. The sport is still evolving and what worked like a charm 4 years ago doesn’t work as well now. Granted, Bisping isn’t the poster-boy for cutting-edge MMA. He has that wonky eye and is actually two years older than GSP with untold mileage on his body. So maybe for the purposes of this match, the layoff combined with the evolution of the sport in his absence won’t hurt St-Pierre as much as it would in a different matchup.

There are a few different ways of looking at St-Pierre’s layoff. After a demanding run of fights and all those championship bouts from 2006 to 2013, maybe a rest is just what the doctor ordered. Or maybe he was simply starting to wind down in a sport where he far exceeded the normal shelf-life of champions, no matter how fierce they might appear at one time. Not only did he have all those title fights, but the last 7 went the full five-round distance, meaning he had to fight a ton of rounds and take a lot of punishment. Toward the end of his reign, he was fighting for dear life to dissuade the challenges of guys like Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, and Johny Hendricks, with many feeling he didn’t deserve the Hendricks decision.

Refreshed or not, St-Pierre, 36, is facing a tough fight in his first bout in such a long time. Bisping is a big middleweight who has fought at 205 pounds, while St-Pierre has spent his whole career at 170. Bisping’s ascent to the top of the 185-pound division is nothing short of amazing. After losing to Tim Kennedy and Luke Rockhold, he was seemingly just playing out the end of his career. Wins over CB Dollaway and Thales Leites breathed some life into his career, setting up a fight with Anderson Silva that he managed to somehow pull out in a showcase of guts and fighting spirit. He was shoehorned in as a late replacement to take on former conqueror Rockhold with the title on the line and a first-round upset knockout gave him the title in what was one of the sport’s most unlikely coronations. He has since defended the belt once—against former tormentor Dan Henderson. That fight was over a year ago and Bisping has caught some flack for putting the division into a deep freeze with a handful of challengers awaiting their shot.

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Talent goes a long way in this business and in that category, there aren’t many UFC fighters past or present who can match GSP in terms of pure know-how and ability. But he’s still taking on a fighter who is probably better than the guys he was struggling to beat at the end of his title run. Bisping catches a lot of flack and might not have the same appeal as a champion as some of his peers and predecessors. He is still a handful, a hard-hitting and well-rounded battler with oodles of stamina, experience, and toughness. I see it being a good fight for a few rounds, with Bisping pulling away in the championship rounds for the win.

Loot’s Pick to Win the Match: I’m betting on Michael Bisping at +115

Cody Garbrandt, (-140), 11-0 (9 KOs) vs. TJ Dillashaw, (+120), 14-3 (6 KOs, 3 Submissions)

In the co-main event, Cody Garbrandt defends the UFC Bantamweight Title against former champ TJ Dillashaw. To win the title, Garbrandt beat Dominick Cruz by emphatic 5-round decision, beating the man who narrowly beat Dillashaw for the title. This bout has seen a tremendous build-up, with a back injury to Garbrandt causing the long delay, as he won the belt in late-2016. Dillashaw has won two fights since the disputed loss to Cruz, beating Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker. But he has also been out of action since late last year, waiting for this fight to come off.

Former teammates at Team Alpha, the bad blood runs deep in this matchup, as does their overall familiarity with each other. Garbrandt, 26, remains with the team, while Dillashaw, 31, has moved on to a different camp. Dillashaw really elevated his game several years ago and is a fighter who can do everything. Garbrandt is a potential future huge star in this sport and one of the best boxers in MMA, while also being a gifted wrestler. This has the looks of a fight that is going to be well-contested and likely pretty close.

It’s upsetting to see a young up-and-coming champion like Garbrandt already dealing with injuries, going down for a number of months with a back injury. But he comes from a top camp and as champion, he was afforded the chance to recuperate. He doesn’t have a ton of miles on him and we should anticipate a prime Garbrandt. Both guys should be fired up for this, with a lot of personal pride on the line.

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The last time Dillashaw got into a pre-fight back-and-forth, he fought the wrong fight against Cruz, with his machismo taking away from his best game-plan. I’d expect a better fight from him this time around. Both men have great footwork, energy, and speed. Cody’s hands might be the most-compelling trait of either fighter in this fight. He has power and speed in those hands and they do a lot of damage for a 135-pounder. He also has top wrestling and takedown defense. But Dillashaw is a lot better boxer than some give him credit for and he also has more overall tools, able to really use a wide variety of MMA skills in his fights. I see a close fight with both men having their moments of success. I’ll take the champion.

Loot’s Prediction to Win the Fight: I’m betting on Cody Garbrandt at -140.