The world-famous Madison Square Garden in New York City was home to an absolutely spectacular night of fights, with seven TKOs, one submission, just two decisions, and a rare DQ. Tonight saw all three titles that were up for grabs change hands and an unprecedented five performance of the night bonuses.
The early part of tonight’s card was filled with rule-bending, rule-breaking, and even the use of instant replay. The second fight of the evening saw a crazy situation where Curtis Blaydes flicked Oliynyk’s ear with an illegal head kick, which led to the fight being called off. The doctor examined Oliynyk and decided he couldn’t continue, but after examining the replay, it was decided that the kick could not have contributed to that, so the result was a TKO victory for Blaydes.
In the next bout between Mickey Gall and Randy Brown, Gall grabbed the cage about a dozen times, got a dozen warnings, and even grabbed Brown’s gloves several times, but never received a point deduction. Brown ultimately took a comfortable decision, but the amount of leeway provided to Gall was, well, galling.
Just two fights later, Walt Harris landed an egregiously late strike on Mark Godbeer after kneeing him in the pills. The “Big Ticket” landed the illegal knee, the ref yelled “Time, time, time” right beside Harris, and even put his hands on him, but Harris threw and landed a huge head kick regardless. Harris was disqualified as a result.
Rose Namajunas came into UFC 217 as the biggest underdog on the card, an immense +550 on some books. She didn’t seem bothered by the doubters in the slightest, remaining the picture of calm composure all through fight week, even as the champion worked to get under her skin. When the cage door closed, “Thug” Rose came to life, dropping multiple-time Muay Thai world champion and strawweight queenpin Joanna Jedrzejczyk within the opening moments.
Joanna seemed unperturbed by the first knockdown, more off balance than rocked, and was immediately back to her feet. The second knockdown that came minutes later was another matter. A stunning left hook dropped Jedrzejczyk hard and the followup ground-and-pound actually led to the champion tapping to strikes. Rose Namajunas became the strawweight champion at just 25 years old, and got a $50,000 bonus to accompany the 8lbs of gold they put on her waist.
TJ Dillashaw regained his title in a grudge match with former teammate and training partner Cody Garbrandt. At first, it looked like things weren’t going to go Dillashaw’s way, with Garbrandt dropping him in the first round in a move very similar to the one on the video Garbrandt released of a Team Alpha Male sparring session between him and TJ.
The second round went very differently. Dillashaw dropped Cody with a left high kick early, and while the champ seemed to recover, a furious right hook in the middle of an exchange in the pocket put garbrandt down with his eyes rolling back in his skull. This time, Dillashaw pounced, and with one knee on Garbrandt’s chest, proceeded to pound Cody out until the referee intervened to stop the fight. The performance earned Dillashaw $50k in bonus money
Georges St-Pierre was the lone title challenger to come in as the favorite tonight and he showed that he deserved that honor by finishing Michael Bisping in the third round. If anything, the former welterweight king looked better than ever tonight, and although he definitely seemed to slow down as the fight went on, he was matching Bisping strike for strike on the feet and outclassing the Brit in the wrestling department.
In the end it was a crisp left hand that dropped the middleweight champ and GSP wasted no time in following up with a barrage of hellacious elbows, transitioning into a rear-naked choke as soon as the Englishman turned his back. Bisping fought the choke until the end, going unconscious rather than tapping, and GSP walked away 50 G’s richer for putting him to sleep.
Half Performances of the Night: Ovince Saint Preux and Ricardo Ramos
Both Ovince Saint Preux and Ricardo Ramos received half bonuses of $25,000 each for their performances tonight. Saint Preux for knocking Corey Anderson stiff as a board with a beautiful left high kick in their fight, and Ramos for deading Aiemann Zahabi with a spinning back elbow in the opening bout of the night. The UFC apparently couldn’t stretch their bonus budget by another $50,000 for tonight’s huge PPV, but both guys at least received some reward for their finishes.