Jorge Masvidal is in Shanghai, ready to fight Michael Bisping on Saturday (or in London)

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SHANGHAI – If Michael Bisping wants a fight, Jorge Masvidal will give him one – now, on Saturday, in his retirement fight, or whenever.

Masvidal wasn’t initially jazzed about a nearly daylong flight to China, but when the UFC headed to Shanghai – with late replacement Bisping in the headliner – “Gamebred” couldn’t say no.

After all, there’s an ever-so-slight chance it could lead to an actual fight with Bisping – in the octagon, anyway, if Kelvin Gastelum (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) is forced out of the UFC Fight Night 122 headliner against Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC)

“Yeah, I would go up in a heartbeat,” Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC), who’s No. 12 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, today said. “I didn’t want to be on a long flight, but when I heard Bisping was taking the fight, I said, ‘For sure take me to China just in case Gastelum does’t make over there.’

“But I don’t like the dude, so I’ll fight him at any weight class, any weight – doesn’t matter.”

During UFC 217 fight week earlier this month, Masvidal and Bisping had a few well-documented run-ins following a seemingly innocent Twitter beef. But tempers flared when the vets crossed paths in real life, and it’s apparently arrived in Shanghai, which hosts Saturday’s UFC Fight Pass-streamed UFC Fight Night 122 event at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Masvidal, who’s in China as a guest fighter for public-relations and fan events, crossed paths with former middleweight champ Bisping, who recently replaced Anderson Silva at UFC Fight Night 122, on his way to a fighter Q&A event.

“Actually, just as I was heading over here, I saw him – f*cking what’s his face,” Masvidal said of Bisping. “But I can’t stand the dude.

“He started saying, ‘shame, shame, shame.’ And he’s with his wife or his kids, or some type of girls are with him. I don’t want to make a scene in front of them, but he’s just a coward. As long as (media events are) happening, he’s going to talk, and he’s going to do sh*t. But if it’s just me and him, and we go somewhere to talk, he’s not going to do that.”

Masvidal, who previously competed at lightweight before a somewhat permanent move to welterweight in 2015, said he’s willing to move up another weight class for a fight with Bisping. So far, it looks like Gastelum, who’s struggled with past weight cuts, is good to go for Saturday. That means a late-notice slot for Masvidal is looking less and less likely. However, if Bisping is game and still wants to retire after UFC Fight Night 127, which takes place in March 2018 in “The Count’s” native England, Masvidal is willing to be his final opponent.

“I already made it clear: I’ll fight that guy anywhere, bro,” he said. “I’m not going to say I’d do it for free because then the UFC might not pay me, but I’d fight him anywhere.

“For him, it’s whatever, whenever. I dislike the guy genuinely.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 122 and UFC Fight Night 127, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Michael Bisping and UFC 217's other losing fighters?

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(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 217’s winning fighters?)

UFC 217 was not a good night for champions. All three titleholders who entered the octagon dropped their belts with a stoppage loss on Saturday’s pay-per-view card at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The fairytale title reign of Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) came to a halt in the main event when he dropped the middleweight title to Georges St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) with a third-round technical submission.

Prior to that, Cody Garbrandt (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) had their undefeated records, as well as UFC titles, taken away with knockout losses to T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) and Rose Namajunas (7-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC), respectively.

Also on the main card, former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks (18-8 MMA, 13-8 UFC) continued his career slide while Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC) experienced another disappointing setback.

After every event, fans wonder whom the losing fighters will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 217’s losing fighters.

* * * *

Johny Hendricks

Rashad Evans

Should fight: Rashad Evans
Why they should fight: Hendricks’ career slide took arguably it’s most worrisome turn when the former champ suffered a second-round TKO loss to rising middleweight prospect Paulo Costa.

After being forced out of the welterweight division due to multiple failed weight cuts, Hendricks won his 185-pound debut earlier this year. He lost his subsequent fight against veteran Tim Boetsch, but after falling short against a previously unproven prospect, he’s in a challenging position.

Hendricks is just 1-5 in his past six UFC fights dating back to March 2015. He moved his camp to Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., in hopes of finding new results, but it didn’t go his way. As long as Hendricks decides he wants to fight, he’s going to be a notable name who will have a job with the UFC or elsewhere.

“Bigg Rigg” desperately needs to win his next fight, and fighting someone who’s at a similar stage in his career might be the only thing to help him regain his confidence and form. Fellow ex-champ Evans (19-7-1 MMA, 14-7-1 UFC) is no gimme fight when he’s on point, but even the current version of Hendricks would likely be a favorite.

Jorge Masvidal

Dong Hyun Kim

Should fight: Dong Hyun Kim
Why they should fight: Just when Masvidal appeared to be on the cusp of a welterweight title shot, he suddenly finds himself on a two-fight losing skid after suffering a unanimous-decision defeat to Stephen Thompson.

Masvidal fell short against the two-time title challenger and is now in a difficult position. His two losses came against the best in Thompson and Demian Maia, but in a similar situation to when he was fighting at 155 pounds, Masvidal has had trouble winning at the most crucial moments.

Nevertheless, Masvidal isn’t going anywhere and will attempt to fight his way back into the mix. Kim (22-4-1 MMA, 13-4 UFC) is coming off a loss to Masvidal’s teammate Colby Covington, and he’d surely be happy to follow up on his good friend’s handiwork with a showdown against “Stun Gun.”

Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Should fight: Namajunas
Why they should fight: After putting together one of the most dominant title runs in UFC history, Jedrzejczyk finally experienced her first career setback with an upset loss to Rose Namajunas to drop the 115-pound title.

Although it was a surprising and disappointing outcome for the Polish fighter, it’s obvious what has to happen for her next: an immediate rematch with Namajunas. The UFC often gives dominant titleholders an immediate chance to regain the belt, and Jedrzejczyk has more than earned that opportunity.

If there were a clear No. 1 contender who had been overdue for a title shot, then perhaps there would be an argument to go a different direction for Namajunas’ first title challenger. No such contender exists, so Jedrzejczyk vs. Namajunas 2 should be next.

Cody Garbrandt

Should fight: John Lineker
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Garbrandt should fight Lineker (30-8 MMA, 11-3 UFC) next after his title-fight loss.

Michael Bisping

Should fight: Luke Rockhold
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Bisping should have his trilogy bout with Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) following his title-fight loss.

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Stephen Thompson ready to talk trash? 'People would just tell me to shut up'

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NEW YORK – Former UFC challenge Stephen Thompson is willing to fight his way to another title shot – because he knows he can’t talk his way into one.

“I am who I am,” Thompson said. “If I start talking trash now, then people would just tell me to shut up. ‘Stephen, we know that’s not you.’ You know what I mean?”

Thompson (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) was discussing his options after a hard-fought but clear-cut unanimous-decision victory over fellow welterweight Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC) on Saturday’s UFC 217 pay-per-view min card at Madison Square Garden in New York.

It was Thompson’s first fight since recovering from a knee injury following two fights (a majority draw and a majority-decision loss) to champ Tyron Woodley.

Now, Thompson, who entered UFC 217 in the No. 2 spot in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, is just looking for opponents who can help him prove to UFC matchmakers that he deserves a third shot at the belt.

“Of course, coming out here with a knockout would’ve been awesome,” he said backstage at UFC 217. “But it didn’t happen. I knew it was going to be tough.”

He thanks Masvidal both for a tough challenge and “Gamebread’s” ability to sell the fight. After all, trash-talk isn’t Thompson’s thing.

“If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have this fight here, right now,” said Thompson, who credited Masvidal’s social-media callout for getting the fight booked.

As for what’s next, Thompson said he’ll happily fight the winner or the loser of UFC on FOX 26’s upcoming headliner between former champs Robbie Lawler (28-11 MMA, 13-5 UFC) and Rafael dos Anjos (27-9 MMA, 16-7 UFC). He also knows there’s a whole mess of up-and-coming 170-pounders – Mike Perry, Darren Till and Colby Covington, for example – who could present tough fights.

But right now, No. 3-ranked Lawler and No. 11 dos Anjos are his first choices.

“Like I said, man, my eyes are forward, and I’m not giving up that title,” Thompson said.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC 217 results: Stephen Thompson outworks, outstrikes game Jorge Masvidal

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Stephen Thompson had his first chance since a pair of fights for the welterweight title to prove he’s worthy of another crack.

But with a mostly dominant unanimous decision win over Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC), Thompson (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) had to admit the performance wasn’t his best – but that he’ll keep striving to get another shot at champ Tyron Woodley. “Wonderboy” won with a pair of 30-27 scores and a 30-26.

The welterweight bout was part of the main card of today’s UFC 217 event at Madison Square Garden in New York. It aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Thompson took the center and pushed Masvidal to the outside. Thompson kicked high 50 seconds in, but had it blocked. Thompson continued to work hard-to-track kicks from his karate stance. Midway through, Thompson got inside for a pair of punches. Thompson landed to the body, but Masvidal landed one of his own not long after. With 90 seconds left, Thompson landed a side kick that planted Masvidal on his butt. He jumped up and instantly was more aggressive. A straight left was on the money for Hendricks with 25 seconds left.

Thompson landed a high kick 30 seconds into the second round, but Masvidal mixed things up and staggered Thompson with a combo. About 100 seconds in, Masvidal got planted by a Thompson punch, but didn’t want to wait on the ground. Thompson was content letting Masvidal try to chase him down and constantly circled side to side. With less than a minute left, Masvidal clipped Thompson, but he wasn’t in enough trouble for things to be urgent.

A minute into the third, Thompson landed a 1-2 combination. Ninety seconds in, Thompson threw a solid spinning kick that was just off the mark. Masvidal tried to fight with urgency, but Thompson wasn’t often there to get hit. At the end of the fight, Thompson caught a Masvidal kick and took him to the canvas, then helped Masvidal up with a smile.

Thompson got back in the win column after a majority draw with Woodley and majority decision loss to him in back-to-back title fights. Masvidal lost for the second straight time.

Up-to-the-minute UFC 217 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan, Mike Bohn, Ken Hathaway and Abbey Subhan contributed to this report on site in New York.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

Listen to UFC 217's Jorge Masvidal explain why fighting at MSG means so much

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For Jorge Masvidal, it simply doesn’t get any better than fighting at Madison Square Garden.

Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC) will compete inside the famed arena on Saturday night, when he faces Stephen Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) in a pivotal welterweight bout on the UFC 217 pay-per-view main card.

It’s an opportunity of a lifetime that isn’t lost on Masvidal as The Garden has played host to some of the biggest fights in history, including Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta and Rocky Marciano vs. Joe Louis, just to name a few.

It’s also where Masvidal’s favorite fighter of all time, Roberto Duran, won his first world boxing title when he TKO’d Ken Buchanan in the 13th round on June 26, 1972.

Check out the video above to hear Masvidal explain why it means so much to fight at MSG.

And for more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Jorge Masvidal weighs in on possibly having to fight his friend, Colby Covington

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UFC veteran Jorge Masvidal moved up to welterweight to ease the strain on his body from cutting weight and seek out better career prospects.

While he’s a lot more comfortable preparing for fights, the decision also has brought the uncomfortable possibility of facing his longtime teammate, Colby Covington.

Covington is the hot new thing in the UFC welterweight division after a win over multi-time title contender Demian Maia and a controversial rant against Brazil. A title shot isn’t out of the realm of possibility if Covington can earn another high-profile victory.

Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC) is rooting for Covington (13-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) to get a title shot. But as Masvidal prepares to take on two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC), his teammate’s success raises a difficult question: Would they set aside their friendship if they had to?

“The goal’s still the same – not fight each other and destroy everybody else,” Masvidal, who meets Thompson on the pay-per-view main card of Saturday’s UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden, told MMAjunkie Radio. “But obviously we both want the title, because when you finally get to make some decent money is when you have that belt wrapped around your waist. We obviously both have mouths to feed, so it gets complicated there.”

Masvidal doesn’t sound overly eager to address the issue. He also points out an option that might keep them from having to do so down the road, though it puts added strain on his body.

“I can go down to 155 (pounds) and revive that whole division while Conor (McGregor’s) doing whatever he’s doing and not defending that title,” Masvidal said. “I could go there and bust up (Tony) Ferguson and then fight Conor while things clear up at 170. There’s lots of ways this thing could go down.

“But right now, I don’t think about any of that, man. I’ve got an opponent ahead of me. He’s got two hands, two feet, and the only thing I’m worried about is snapping his jaw. So whatever happens after that happens.”

Masvidal and Covington share a friendship that stretches back to their early days as MMA fighters. Masvidal staunchly defended his teammate’s behavior following his fight with Maia and said he could handle himself if it brought any additional danger. Amid an apparent fracture within their longtime gym, American Top Team, Masvidal stands by Covington.

Even with the possibility of a future showdown, Masvidal carries a lot of pride for what he and his friend have been able to do in the sport.

“Me and Colby have talked about this for a long time,” he said. “It’s crazy because we talked about it when we were dead broke, sharing an apartment, fighting for table scraps. And now we’ve set out (to do) what we’ve accomplished. We’ve put ourselves in the position to take over.”

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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UFC 217 staff picks: With 3 title fights, who's picking upsets at Madison Square Garden?

Bisping
vs.
St-Pierre
Garbrandt
vs.
Dillashaw
Jedrzejczyk
vs.
Namajunas
Masvidal
vs.
Thompson
Costa
vs.
Hendricks
MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2017: 97-67
stpierre2017
St-Pierre
(56%)
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
(64%)
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
(83%)
thompson2017
Thompson
(73%)
costa2017
Costa
(72%)
Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2017: 108-62
stpierre2017
St-Pierre
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
costa2017
Costa
Ben Fowlkes @BenFowlkesMMA
2017: 106-64
trophy copy 2016 Champion
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
thompson2017
Thompson
costa2017
Costa
Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2017: 106-64
trophy copy 2015 Champion
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
costa2017
Costa
Steven Marrocco @MMAjunkieSteven
2017: 105-65
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
costa2017
Costa
Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2017: 103-67
bisping2017
Bisping
dillashaw2017
Dillashaw
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
hendricks2017
Hendricks
Fernanda Prates @nandaprates_
2017: 100-70
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
thompson2017
Thompson
costa2017
Costa
Matt Erickson @MMAjunkieMatt
2017: 98-72
bisping2017
Bisping
dillashaw2017
Dillashaw
namajunas2017
Namajunas
thompson2017
Thompson
hendricks2017
Hendricks
George Garcia @MMAjunkieGeorge
2017: 97-73
stpierre2017
St-Pierre
dillashaw2017
Dillashaw
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
hendricks2017
Hendricks
John Morgan @MMAjunkieJohn
2017: 97-73
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
thompson2017
Thompson
costa2017
Costa
Mike Bohn @MikeBohnMMA
2017: 96-72
trophy copy 2014 Champion
bisping2017
Bisping
garbrandt2017
Garbrandt
jedrzejczyk2017
Jedrzejczyk
masvidal2017
Masvidal
hendricks2017
Hendricks

The UFC is back in the “Big Apple” this week for its second show at the famed Madison Square Garden.

UFC 217 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

(Click here to open a PDF of the staff picks grid in a separate window.)

In the main event, middleweight champion Michael Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) puts his title on the line against returning former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC), who is fighting for the first time in four years. And while St-Pierre is a slight favorite with the oddsmakers, it’s Bisping who has an 8-2 advantage from our 10 MMAjunkie editors, writers and radio hosts.

In the co-feature, bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt (11-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) meets former champ and ex-teammate T.J. Dillashaw (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) in a major-league grudge match. The favored Garbrandt, still at Team Alpha Male, is a 7-3 choice over Dillashaw from our pickers.

The third title fight on the main card features the heaviest favorite at the event, women’s strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC), who takes on challenger Rose Namajunas (6-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC). Jedrzejczyk is a 4-1 favorite trying to tie Ronda Rousey’s record for most consecutive UFC women’s title defenses, and only one brave soul is picking against her.

Also on the main card, Jorge Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC) meets Stephen Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) in a welterweight bout. Masvidal is a slight underdog, but has a 6-4 edge in the picks. And to open the pay-per-view, Paulo Costa (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) fights former welterweight champ Johny Hendricks (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC) at middleweight. Costa (who recently announced a name change from Paulo Borrachinha) is a 6-4 pick, as well.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, St-Pierre, Garbrandt, Jedrzejczyk, Thompson and Costa are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Round 2: Michael Bisping and Jorge Masvidal had another altercation ahead of UFC 217

Dann StuppYou know middleweight champion Michael Bisping and welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal just couldn’t let it go.

Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) and Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC), who meet in separate bouts on Saturday’s UFC 217 main card, got into a heated altercation at the fighters’ hotel in New York on Wednesday – one full of profanity.

Well, Round 2 took place today.

It happeed prior to today’s early and official UFC 217 weigh-ins, and the trash-talk was again in full force (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

UFC 217 takes place this at Madison Square Garden in New York and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass. Bisping meets challenger Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) in the championship headliner, and Masvidal fights fellow welterweight contender Stephen Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) in a key main-card bout.

However, according to Masvidal, as he mentions in the latest video, he expects to fight Bisping some day.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 217 in-depth breakdown: Stylistic matchups, fight picks, best bets and fantasy studs

MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC 217’s main-card bouts.

UFC 217 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Michael Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC)

Michael Bisping

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 38 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 75.5″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Dan Henderson (Oct. 8, 2016)
  • Camp: RVCA Gym (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ UFC middleweight champion
+ “TUF 3” winner
+ Regional MMA titles
+ 18 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 12 first-round finishes
+ Excellent feints and footwork
^ Manages distance well
+ Consistent pace and pressure
^ Good cardio and conditioning
+ Accurate left hook
+ Underrated wrestling
+ Good guard retentions and getups
– Dropped in 4 of last 6 fights

Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC)

Georges St-Pierre

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 36 Weight: 185 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Johny Hendricks (Nov. 16, 2013)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Excellent

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC welterweight champion
+ Kyokushin karate black belt
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 8 KO victories
+ 5 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ Intelligent and tactical fighter
+ Well-versed striker
^ Conducts well off of the jab
+ Tremendous takedown ability
^ Changes level, chains, transitions
+ Excellent top game
^ Superb passing and ground strikes
– Coming off of a 4-year layoff

Summary:

The main event in Madison Square Garden is a superfight for the middleweight title as champ Michael Bisping welcomes back Georges St-Pierre.

A longtime staple of the UFC, Bisping’s better days were thought to be behind him after the veteran sustained an eye injury that was cause for concern and inconsistent performances alike. But after a storybook resurgence that came to fruition in 2016, the Englishman earned his long-sought title after beating the likes of Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson.

Seeking another legendary name to add to his resume, Bisping has accepted the challenge of a returning champion who’s also chasing history.

Considered the greatest welterweight of all time, St-Pierre was one of the few to walk away as champion, as well as a pound-for-pound great. Now, nearly four years after his last appearance in the octagon, St-Pierre has decided to return north of his usual weight class while attempting to become just the fourth fighter to achieve gold in two divisions.

With the intangible of St-Pierre’s extended layoff, it can be difficult to forecast what style or state the former welterweight champ will return in.

Given St-Pierre’s insane work ethic, resources and obsessive nature, I am sure he’s coming into this contest in serviceable, battle-ready condition. Still, I would not be surprised to see a different version of the French-Canadian, who has had multiple iterations to his game throughout his career.

Coming from a Kyokushin karate base, St-Pierre’s striking style shone through in his initial ascension up the UFC ranks.

Embracing his sport karate stylings, St-Pierre would almost bounce in and out of range, working particularly well when striking off of his lead leg. And even though he could win fights on the feet, the French-Canadian was a complete fighter who was quietly crafting his wrestling game (with the help of Olympians) for the challenges ahead.

Not only did St-Pierre steadily develop into one of the best wrestlers in the division, but he – more importantly – used his newfound skills to fuel his love for strategy.

After his first career loss in what was a title fight with UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, St-Pierre began to gameplan much more wisely for his opposition. Against former welterweight title challengers in Frank Trigg and Sean Sherk, we saw St-Pierre do the unthinkable by out-wrestling two of the most accoladed wrestlers in the division to score spirit-crushing stoppages.

Although St-Pierre eventually earned his first welterweight belt, he quickly lost it to Matt Serra in what was one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.

From that point on, St-Pierre further hedged his bets in regards to preparation and strategy. After winning back his belt from Serra, St-Pierre continued to pile up victories before retiring following 12 straight wins.

Despite St-Pierre’s conservative style drawing criticism from some, the dominance of his game paints a pretty clear path for him in this matchup.

Bisping, a stick-and-move stylist, should have the on-paper advantages for as long this fight stays standing.

Coming from a kickboxing base, we saw Bisping steadily evolve his style over the years. After his knockout loss to Henderson, the Englishman made a concerted effort to come back better and sounder than before.

Since then, we have seen Bisping improve upon his hand and head positioning, as well as sitting down more on his punches. Although his high-output approach still makes him hittable by nature, we have seen Bisping minimize these scenarios since joining forces with Jason Parillo.

A striking coach with strong boxing roots, Parillo has helped many notable fighters grow, including lightweight legend B.J. Penn. In turn, we now see Bisping move much more fluidly with his footwork, which fuels his pulling and returning preferences.

Applying angles appropriately, Bisping will also change his level more, which can open up his options and make him harder to hit. What is most impressive about the Englishman’s renaissance is the fact that he is doing it with only one healthy eye.

Shortly after his loss to Vitor Belfort, Bisping sustained an eye injury that required surgery, albeit not corrective.

Despite initially struggling in his return fight against Tim Kennedy, Bisping has since shown he can come back into combat, carrying a heightened sense of urgency and awareness about his game. Coupled with the byproducts of gelling with his striking coach, we have seen Bisping have his best years during what is arguably the winter of his career.

Still, striking improvements aside, Bisping has demonstrated that he is not beyond being taken down, which sets up the key dynamic for this fight.

Whether it’s through offensive or reactionary takedowns (that take place against the fence or in the open), I see St-Pierre inevitably getting Bisping to the ground.

The question, however, is: What will he be able to accomplish while there?

One of the best guard passers and ground strikers to grace the octagon, St-Pierre will undoubtedly have an array of options he can employ. That said, he will also be facing one of the best get-up artists in the game.

Although wrestling pressure has been Bisping’s traditional foil, he surprisingly succeeds little control time in both wins and losses. Facilitated by active hips, the Englishman beautifully utilizes a butterfly or half-guard to create enough space to stand or scoot his way to the fence.

Not afraid to turtle and stand if he needs to, Bisping displays excellent grip and hip awareness, making it difficult to grab his back in the process of getting up. St-Pierre has shown the ability to take an opponent’s back smoothly, but his conservative sensibilities had him opting for ride positions toward the latter part of his career.

Don’t get me wrong: St-Pierre electing high-percentage options is not bad in theory, but I see his style allowing Bisping to get back to this feet if the French-Canadian isn’t willing to put his pieces on the line when it comes to fighting for position.

So, with the most recent iteration of St-Pierre in mind, I have a hard time seeing Bisping getting submitted or stopped on the floor unless compromised prior. Nevertheless, takedowns score and will likely bank St-Pierre rounds, which leads me to my next question: How long will he be able to employ his transition game?

St-Pierre was known for his conditioning and pace prior, but he is coming into this fight at least 15 pounds heavier than usual, with an additional four years of ring rust on his back. Whether it’s the weight of the moment or the literal pounds put on, St-Pierre will have some on-the-job intangibles to work through.

Furthermore, the stereotype of St-Pierre’s biological makeup and transition game shine less brightly when re-watching his last three fights – matchups that ended up putting the most miles on him, statistically speaking.

Not only did the former welterweight kingpin, in my opinion, appear to be a beat slower in transit (to what was an already slimmed down and refined game), but St-Pierre also seemed to struggle with his accuracy and output numerically.

We even saw Nick Diaz, who has an otherwise vacant double-leg defense, stuff legitimate takedown attempts from St-Pierre in their last two rounds of action. It was also in the mid to late rounds in which we saw St-Pierre sustain the most damage in each of his final three performances.

These type of trends usually don’t decrease over time, but the oddsmakers and public seem to be much more optimistic for the returning legend given how competitive the betting lines have been.

Part of me is happy to see St-Pierre back, and finally taking a step up in the size of his competition. However, I also feel he’s reaching into the wrong cookie jar for multiple reasons.

In the fight game, timing is typically the first thing to go, and we’ve seen it tax the greatest names in this sport. If St-Pierre cannot find his finish on the floor, then I see him eventually succumbing to Bisping’s pace and pressure before the final bell.

Official pick: Bisping insde the distance

Official outcome: To be determined

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 217's Jorge Masvidal: Post-fight stupidity might be needed to earn title shot

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NEW YORK – Jorge Masvidal is not very pleased with the direction the sport has gone in terms of earning UFC title shots. However, he knows he might just have to play into the trend in order to get one in the welterweight division.

Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC), who meets Stephen Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) on Saturday at UFC 217, has been circling a title shot for the past few fights. He could have solidified one with a victory over Demian Maia earlier this year, but ultimately came up short in the fight.

Now Masvidal, 32, is back in position to potentially set up a bout with champ Tyron Woodley (18-3-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC). Thompson is coming off two failed bids against Woodley, and if Masvidal can beat him he thinks it would be enough to validate a crack at the gold. However, given the state of the sport, he knows something extra is probably needed.

“You know what’s more important than winning is the post-fight speech,” Masvidal told MMAjunkie at today’s UFC 217 media event. “That’s what goes viral. If I do something pretty stupid, then yeah, I’ll probably get the title shot. I don’t know if I need to jump over the cage and get in somebody’s face or do like that (expletive) (Michael) Bisping and spit on people’s corner. I don’t know what I’m going to do have to do, but it’s going to have to be something of retardedness.

“That’s the age that we live in. It’s reality TV and Kim Kardashian and them have brainwashed people into thinking that’s what life is about: the more wretchedness, the more you get seen and stuff. So if I do something stupid after the fight, no matter how boring the fight might have been, I’ll get a title shot.”

UFC 217 takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Masvidal vs. Thompson airs on the pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Potential post-fight antics aside, Masvidal, No. 9 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, said he’s largely looking forward to the matchup with No. 2-ranked Thompson. He does have some reservations, though, and that’s about how his opponent will approach things once in the octagon.

Thompson’s second title fight with Woodley at UFC 209 earned nearly unanimous criticism as one of the more underwhelming contests of the year. Masvidal knows he could be in for a frustrating night if Thompson doesn’t engage, but he said he’s mentally prepared to deal with that and implement his gameplan.

“Hopefully he doesn’t come on his bicycle and just (expletive) not fight,” Masvidal said. “I’m going to look to break his face like I always do. I just want to fight. He wants to dance and (expletive), that’s different. I want to fight. Hopefully he came with the same mindset, to fight.

“I’m going to deliver. I’m not worried about what he’s going to do at the end of the day. It will just give more action to the fans if he does fight. But whether he fights or not, it’s not going to be his night.”

Masvidal hopes to put on a type of performance which will prove a title shot is necessary without going outside of his character with some “retardedness.” Whether he will deliver, though, remains to be seen.

“I’m No. 1 after this fight,” Masvidal said. “When I took this fight he was No. 1 in the division. Me beating him puts me as No. 1, by a lot. He went 10 rounds with the champion, both fights were extremely close, so it’s a no-brainer I think.”

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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