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UFC 217: Bisping vs. St-Pierre staff picks and predictions for main card

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Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for the UFC 217 main card.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Bloody Elbow staff has submitted its predictions for UFC 217: Bisping vs. St-Pierre, and because this is a major show, we’ve divided these posts to main card and preliminary card. This one is dedicated to the pay-per-view broadcast, which features a tripleheader of championship fights. Incredibly, we are split 50-50 on the main event between middleweight champ Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre. Perhaps also surprisingly, only Ryan Davies and Fraser Coffeen are backing T.J. Dillashaw to beat bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt. Not a soul is brave enough to pick Rose Namajunas to unseat Joanna Jedrzejczyk at the top of the women’s strawweight division.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he's going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre

Anton Tabuena: So St-Pierre has been training every day since his layoff, thinks he’s the “best” GSP ever, and wouldn’t come back if he wasn’t. He says he has kept up with the sport and even actually had time to improve instead of just getting in fight shape and competing constantly. I really wish that was all true, but it’s just not logical to believe all that without any evidence. Ring rust is real, and 4 years away from the sport is going to be a real hurdle, especially in the opening rounds. St-Pierre is now 36-years-old, and I find it hard to believe that his timing won’t be affected, let alone his durability, endurance, explosiveness and skills.

If he does come back as the same guy (or even slightly better, which I highly doubt), stylistically, Bisping is also a very bad matcup for him. He’s much bigger, hard to take down, and even harder to keep down. He conceivably also has better striking and endurance than St-Pierre. If GSP can’t dictate where this fight takes place, or at least constantly have a legitimate takedown threat that disrupts Bisping’s striking game, his game will be more limited and he will struggle. For him to win, St-Pierre will not only have to beat a bigger and stronger guy who has the style to give him a lot of issues, he will also have to quickly shake off the rust and beat father time as well. I would love to see that storybook type of comeback, and I wish he proves me wrong to get back on top of the sport as a two-division champion. But MMA is unforgiving, and I expect a lot of people to once again be sad that their hero got old. Michael Bisping by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Full disclosure - I spent all of Thursday traveling cross-country, so I’m pretty tired and this will be my only predictions contribution for the week. Georges St-Pierre hasn’t fought since 2013. He tore his ACL the very next year. I cannot imagine a rational thinking person trying to argue GSP is going to be “better than ever” or whatever nonsense tagline has been used to promote the fight. Michael Bisping is older than GSP but he’s both an actual middleweight and has fought eight times since GSP’s last bout. Frankly speaking, even if Bisping knocks GSP out cold in 5 seconds, I value his Rockhold KO over both the Anderson Silva win and if he were to beat St-Pierre. Skillwise, GSP is miles ahead of Bisping, but I just cannot convince myself that he won’t look like a shell of his former self, and that’s what it boils down to. There’s also a part of me that doesn’t want GSP to win because I absolutely do not want to see him get murked by Robert Wittaker. This fight might end up being a tad disappointing in terms of excitement, but I’ve been wrong many many times before. Michael Bisping by unanimous decision.

Ryan Davies: Tim Kennedy laid out the blueprint to beating Bisping and GSP mixes up his strikes and takedowns far better than Kennedy. If GSP is 80 percent of the fighter that retired in 2013 he will keep Bisping guessing and place him on the mat numerous times. GSP Unanimous Decision

Eddie Mercado: Bisping won a BS decision over Anderson Silva. He won a BS decision over Dan Henderson. Why should I expect anything other than a BS decision over another MMA great? GSP will win the fight but lose the MMA match. Is paper GOAT a thing? Michael Bisping by BS decision. Actually, I just can’t do it. I refuse to pick Bisping over GSP. GSP by Unanimous Decision!

Fraser Coffeen: In anticipation of this fight, I watched every Michael Bisping fight. Yep, all of them. And even with all that video, he’s a tough fighter to pin down. As Ryan mentioned above, the Kennedy fight is a real concern for any Bisping fans here - that’s a performance that GSP could very much emulate in this fight. The questions is just one of where GSP is these days. I think a prime GSP scores the takedowns and wins this, despite the size difference. But I’m still feeling the sting of last weekend’s Lyoto fight. Things like that and Bisping/Silva are good reminders that time is a serious factor and the guy fighting past his prime is not the same as he once was. And so, sadly, Bisping, decision

Ram Gilboa: Michael Bisping vs Georges St. Pierre. True, if they met in 2013, you had to wonder what’s the point. But now, 4 years later, magically, you don’t seem to care enough about this fight to do that.

Georges St. Pierre is an all-time great. Best of all-time when he took a break four years ago, and now trailing after Johnson, if you ask me. I probably wouldn’t have advised him to come back now; but if he wants to, who am I to say something anyway. But it is almost obvious who St. Pierre should get, right? Especially since this can be a one-off: Anyone except Michael Bisping. It could have been Anderson Silva, for us nostalgic folks, or Nick Diaz - hell, A Diaz. If GSP plans to stick around, I can even see reason in squaring up again against Hendricks, and play on the different trajectories they went on since then. Even McGregor would have even been reasonable, at least our age kind of reasonable.

So they gave him Bisping. Yeah, I don’t know. It probably comes down to, as mentioned, the current shape GSP is in. The timing on his doubles has always been impeccable, and I think he’ll get that timing back in the cage soon enough. But to finish the shots his fast-twitch muscles will still have to perform well enough, and his knees will still have to sustain the motion long enough, and through Bisping’s resistance and weight. And that’s the second thing - against bigger opponents, Wrestling is probably the most difficult per pound-against; more than striking, where you can use much more movement, or grappling, where you can use the ground more, and a little more savvy. So to wrestle a bigger fella constantly for 5 rounds - when was the last time GSP finished a fight? - should prove extremely taxing on his stamina. I think GSP will keep this one standing a lot more than a lot of people think; while keeping the takedown threat implied, for as long as he can, to get Bisping’s hands a bit down, and him a bit thinking. And while Bisping will think, as Hemingway wrote, GSP will hit him. (Hemingway didn’t specifically mention GSP). I don’t see wrestling and ground and pound as the main game-plan for St. Pierre for the first two rounds at-least. As for Bisping, he pretty much got here by out-lasting and out-hustling, not out-gunning. He’s the last man standing from the old guard, and when the dust settled, he had a belt wrapped around his waist. But I think no more after tomorrow night. Georges St. Pierre by a close decision.

Victor Rodriguez: I love both fighters, but the fact that they’re facing each other is utter garbage. GSP spends four years on the shelf to cut the line in a division he never fought in? If he at least came back to fight Woodley for the belt he never lost, I’d be a lot less sour about this. Meh. I can’t count on a guy that hasn’t been fighting during that time. I get that he’s never stopped training seriously, but Bisping’s only gotten better with time. He can shuck off takedowns, overpower with pressure and his counter game and stun Georges with an uppercut or two. GSP still presents some problems with his speed and athleticism, but will be undersized and can be outboxed. Bisping is still hittable, and might fall for GSP’s shenanigans and eat a high kick. Still gotta go with the more reliable fighter here. Michael Bisping by decision.

Zane Simon: As many others have said, I just can’t trust where GSP is at. Especially can’t trust that he’ll have the cardio at 185 to hit takedowns for 5 rounds on a bigger fighter. Michael Bisping by decision.

Staff picking Bisping: Anton, Bissell, Fraser, Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Zane, Lewis
Staff picking GSP: Ram, Nick, Dayne, Eddie, Davies, Phil, Tim

Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw

Anton Tabuena: Even if we ignore the team drama that surrounds this contest, this is still a really intriguing match up stylistically. On paper, it seems like Garbrandt is faster, has better hands and bigger power, while Dillashaw has more diversity, better footwork, better kicks, and possibly a better judge of distance as well. To add to those clash in styles, both men are very familiar with what each other brings to the table, making it a possible x-factor that bridges the gap in some of these advantages. All in all, those things make this a bout that really piques my interest.

Cruz is a master of footwork, movement and distance, and Garbrandt passed that test with flying colors. TJ is more dangerous offensively than Cruz, but this makes me believe that when others struggle with TJ’s “unorthodox” style and movement, Cody wouldn’t -- especially with the familiarity they have. Couple that with a speed and power advantage, this is why I am leaning towards the champ keeping his belt. I definitely could be wrong, and x-factors like emotion and knowing each other’s tendencies could swing it either way, but I think it will be Cody Garbrandt by TKO.

Ryan Davies: T.J is the superior striker. Superior footwork, superior timing and superior fight IQ. Garbrandt will get frustrated early when he doesn’t land clean and headhunt the rest of the fight losing every round. Dillashaw Unanimous Decision

Eddie Mercado: Garbrandt’s recent surgery could be a thing here, but until I see him lose, I can’t really pick against him. Cody Garbrandt by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: Great fight here with so much to love about it. I’m a big fan of TJ’s style in there - it’s a style I tend to favor, while Cody seems more of the pure KO artist. Those KO type fighters are always a bit tough to predict in my eyes. Like the first Chuck/Randy fight, it feels like there’s always a path to beating this style of fighter if you can find it. My gut instinct is that Dillashaw can indeed find it, using his movement, volume, and game planning to score the points. What holds me back somewhat is that I could have written that exact same sentence about Dominick Cruz, and he did not find any success. So what does Dillashaw have that Cruz doesn’t? Answer: the knowledge of Garbrandt and the drive. Is that enough to turn the tide? I’m going to say it is. TJ Dillashaw, decision

Ram Gilboa: It’s a five rounds fight, that’ll play out on the feet. Two very good strikers, I’ll go with the puncher. Cody Garbrandt by TKO, round 2

Victor Rodriguez: I know that MMAth is for suckers and rubes, but if Cruz couldn’t hurt Cody consistently, how can TJ? Garbrandt not only showed off his boxing skills, but his wrestling was on point and his attacks on the ground were good. We might see Dillashaw on his back eating a few elbows, which would be impressive. I’m not sure that TJ has the answers in his toolkit to deal with the range, length, pressure, and counters that Garbrandt has. The king stays king. Cody Garbrandt by TKO, round 5.

Zane Simon: Garbrandt can match Dillashaw for speed and footwork, and should be able to scramble with him on the mat. Dillashaw holds the edge in volume striking, but Garbrandt is more capable fighting going forwards and backwards, while Dillashaw has trouble off his back foot. If Dillashaw has to keep coming forward, then he likely has to keep giving Garbrandt chances to counter him and land the better shots each round. Cody Garbrandt by decision.

Staff picking Garbrandt: Bissell, Ram, Nick, Dayne, Eddie, Mookie, Anton, Stephie, Phil, Victor, Zane, Tim, Lewis
Staff picking Dillashaw: Davies, Fraser

Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas

Anton Tabuena: Much like the main event, this is a bout where I think all the cards are stacked against the challenger, but I’m still hoping they both somehow push through those perceived disadvantages and pull off an improbable victory. After seeing tidbits of her growth and struggles both inside and outside the cage, I just can’t help but root for Namajunas here. Unfortunately, I think it would be very tough to outstrike or create enough nice scrambles to capitalize against Joanna, who has shown to be a dominant striking machine who is incredibly tough to take down and equally dangerous in the clinch. Joanna Jedrzejczyk by Decision.

Eddie Mercado: I love Rose! Now with that being said, she is going to get outclassed on the feet and will flounder at getting the fight to the ground. JJ by Unanimous Decision.

Ryan Davies: I would love this fight 2 years from now, Joanna champion is in the midst of her prime and Rose is on the cusp of achieving her potential. Rose won’t be able to out strike Jedrzejczyk and if Andrade couldn’t get Joanna down I don’t see how Namajunas will. Jedrzejczyk Unanimous Decision

Victor Rodriguez: Rose is a fantastic fighter, but she’s lacking in handspeed and movement compared to what is probably the best pure striker in the UFC right now - male or female. Joanna’s got excellent takedown defense, tremendous pressure, great cardio, and killer finishing instinct. It’s gonna be hard to land shots when you’re dealing with a buzzsaw like JJ. I trust Trevor Wittman to break things down in a manner that allows for Rose to create opportunities for her offense to break through, as well as being mindful of Joanna’s offense. I’m just not sure Rose is ready for this big a step up. Either way, we’re getting a hell of a fight, and you should be amped for this. Joanna Champion by decision.

Zane Simon: Beyond an edge in striking power, there really aren’t many advantages for Namajunas. Her hands aren’t as fast, her clinch game isn’t as complex, and trying to wrestle JJ is often a recipe for disaster. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via Decision.

Staff picking Joanna: Bissell, Ram, Phil, Nick, Dayne, Eddie, Davies, Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Stephie, Victor, Zane, Tim, Lewis
Staff picking Namajunas:

Jorge Masvidal vs. Stephen Thompson

Anton Tabuena: If Masvidal actually takes it to Thompson, we might be in for a real treat, but there’s also a decent chance this becomes yet another staring contest sprinkled in with a few fancy kicks. I really hope it’s the former, but if that happens, I think this is where Thompson could shine. Stephen Thompson by decision.

Eddie Mercado: Man, this is a tough one. I really want to call this a draw, but since Masvidal has an uncanny ability to lose a split decision, I’ll just go ahead with that. Stephen Thompson by razor thin split decision.

Ryan Davies: This could be a striking masterpiece or two guys waiting around for the other to throw. Masvidal 2.0 is a fighter that isn’t leaving his future in the hands of the judges, but getting overly aggressive against Thompson and his Daniel Russo like skills could spell disaster. Masvidal, in my opinion is top 3 pound for pound when it comes to mma striking,he doesn’t possess one punch power but the cumulative damage will get it done. Masvidal Knockout 3rd

Phil Mackenzie: This feels like such a Masvidal fight- he could well win it by marching inside, feinting the jab, disrupting Wonderboy's stance with kicks, and attacking in the clinch. Or. He could just hang out at range and wait for Wonderboy to do something weird. The most tragic thing about Masvidal is that in the Henderson or Maia fights, he didn't take his foot off the gas, he just lost, albeit in achingly close decisions. Wonderboy has given us 75 straight minutes of near-unadulterated tedium, apart from the bits where he was getting beaten up. I hope Masvidal can bring (or beat) something more interesting out of him. Stephen Thompson by split decision

Victor Rodriguez: The only bad thing I can say about this fight is that it’s only three rounds. Masvidal knows he can’t just hang back and wait for the opportunity to counter. He’s going to have to walk Wonderboy down and make him sweat, then connect to the body while checking leg kicks and pressuring against the cage. From there, Masvidal softens him up by limiting his movement and outboxes him. I expect a takedown attempt or two to keep Thompson guessing, but this will mostly be a stand-up affair. Jorge Masvidal by KO.

Zane Simon: I think this is a better matchup for Thompson than some people are willing to admit. My guess is that Thompson is able to land rangy strikes that frustrate Masvidal that then gets Masvidal to be aggressive and start walking in to exchanges where Thompson can land his counter shots. I’m excited to see if Masvidal can eat those and make Thompson pay in return, but I just don’t think Masvidal is quite explosive enough to take Thompson out of his game. Stephen Thompson by decision.

Staff picking Masvidal: Ram, Davies, Stephie, Nick, Victor, Tim, Lewis
Staff picking Thompson: Bissell, Dayne, Eddie, Mookie, Anton, Fraser, zane

Paulo Borrachinha vs. Johny Hendricks

Anton Tabuena: Hendricks should win this one, but I just really have lost faith in seeing him back in his championship form at this point. Bad weight cuts and lack of discipline have done a number on him, and I’m not sure we will ever see that powerhouse wrestler who carries the touch of death on his left hand anymore -- even after a couple of months with Greg Jackson. Borrachinha by TKO.

Ryan Davies: I would much rather pick this fight post weigh ins, but based on what we have seen out of Hendricks lately it’s near impossible to take him over a star in the making like Borrachinha. If Hendricks can withstand the early onslaught he may be able to win a war of attrition. A 23 year old Borrachinha gassed in a 2 round fight on TUF Brazil 3 losing to eventual finalist “Lyoto” Alexandre. Time, desire, USADA there is just too much stacking up against Hendricks. Borrichinha TKO 1st

Phil Mackenzie: Am I? Am I really thinking of picking Hendricks? This feels a lot like Maynard-Ishihara, where we have a washed fighter who nonetheless has a fairly overwhelming depth of skill in wrestling, against a one round finisher. If Borrachinha hurts Hendricks it's probably over. If a new(?) and improved(?!?) Jackson-Wink Hendricks takes Borrachinha down in the first? Hmmmm. Wait, no. I just heard that weigh-in rant. He's still struggling to make 185 and he sounds completely nuts. Paolo Borrachinha by TKO, round 1.

Victor Rodriguez: Hendricks barely made weight, and not every fighter makes drastic improvements in their first fight with a new camp/team. Jackson/Winklejohn have done great things for some fighters, but this is still Johny Hendricks. He’s good, but he’s stubborn and not in the best shape anymore. He’s also undersized and facing a physical specimen that hits hard and has very accurate strikes. Good luck taking him down, too. Besides, it’s not like he’s a slouch on the ground. Again, gotta stay away from the least reliable of the two. Borranchinha by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Technically, Borrachinha doesn’t have many advantages here. He’s a slightly more potent offensive striker, but not quite a clinical one yet, and with a bad gas tank too. Physically however, he has a ton of advantages. And sometimes the physical side is all that matters. Paulo Borrachinha via KO, Round 1.

Staff picking Borrachinha: Bissell, Ram, Nick, Eddie, Davies, Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Stephie, Phil, Victor, Zane
Staff picking Hendricks: Dayne, Tim

Poll

Who wins the UFC 217 main event?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Bisping by stoppage
    (947 votes)
  • 15%
    GSP by stoppage
    (526 votes)
  • 18%
    Bisping by decision
    (619 votes)
  • 36%
    GSP by decision
    (1240 votes)
  • 1%
    Draw (Bisping keeps title)
    (49 votes)
3381 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins the UFC 217 co-main event?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Garbrandt by stoppage
    (1430 votes)
  • 10%
    Dillashaw by stoppage
    (283 votes)
  • 14%
    Garbrandt by decision
    (374 votes)
  • 21%
    Dillashaw by decision
    (562 votes)
  • 0%
    Draw (Garbrandt keeps title)
    (18 votes)
2667 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins the first title fight at UFC 217?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Jedrzejczyk by stoppage
    (1240 votes)
  • 11%
    Namajunas by stoppage
    (308 votes)
  • 36%
    Jedrzejczyk by decision
    (943 votes)
  • 3%
    Namajunas by decision
    (81 votes)
  • 0%
    Draw (Joanna retains title)
    (9 votes)
2581 votes total Vote Now