Like a Rocky-style script, UFC 217 has managed to sculpt a clash between a seemingly mentally washed-up former welterweight legend and a one-time journeyman-turned champ, for the middleweight championship of the world.
From claims it’s a circus show to the most fascinating UFC clash this year, every cage fan has an opinion about the match-up of Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre and Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping at the hallowed Madison Square Garden. Our UFC odds expert Mark Sylvester is one of them.
Michael Bisping is living proof that fairy tales are real – if fairy tales featured big angry men from Manchester, whose trash-talk could make a Pittsburgh steelworker blush.
After a decade at the UFC coalface, and always seemingly one fight from a tilt at the crown, ‘The Count’ finally got his chance in the blood-flecked limelight last year. And he seized it with both hands, literally, as he rocked the Octagon world by burying middleweight champ Luke Rockhold under a meteor shower of strikes.
And, just in case we missed that happy-ever-after moment, Bisping defended the title in October last year by weathering an onslaught of hammers from Dan Henderson to snatch a unanimous win on the cards.
It was a performance of pure heart, wrapped around an arsenal of big bombs, which he’ll need to replicate against the near-mythical MMA machine that is GSP.
But there’s no doubt that Bisping has the right set of skills to retain his belt and notch up a sixth cage win on the bounce.
Maybe the most important one is size.
— Caroline Pearce (@CarolinePearce) November 1, 2017
There’s a saying in the fight game that a good big’un always beats a good little’un. Ok, not always true, but a decent rule of thumb. At 6ft 1in Bisping has a two-inch height advantage.
And while both will come in at the 185lb middleweight limit, Bisping’s basically a light heavyweight squeezed into a middleweight locker, while ‘Rush’ is a welterweight carrying some extra timber.
Bisping’s 30-7 MMA record includes 16 KOs and he has the all-time fourth-best stoppage record in UFC, littered with brutalising fists, knees and feet. If GSP tires Bisping has the firepower to clip him. A Bisping stoppage carries a 3/1 price tag.
But the Brit bad boy will have to make sure his wits are cleaned, polished and wearing their Sunday best because if ‘St’ wasn’t Rush’s middle name, ‘Tricky’ would be.
The Canadian superstar has just two reverses on his near blindingly clean 25-2 record, the last coming way back in April 2007 when Matt Serra refused to back down in front of MMA royalty and finished him with a blood-curdling cocktail of fists and elbows.
Matt Hughes was the unfortunate fighter caught in the thunderstorm of a GSP backlash, as Rush claimed the interim welterweight belt by going through him like an express train through a pyramid of baby lambs.
He ended it with a second-round armbar, and the Canadian’s world-class grappling could be a showstopper in his box of tricks against Bisping.
The champ is famous for the odd moment when his concentration goes for a walk around the block.
If that happens GSP has a shot at a decent submission attempt.
You’ll get a successful one at a dizzying 11/2.
I honestly can’t see GSP having the power to ice the former light heavyweight, but we all know he has near supernatural ring craft, and he’ll stick that famous jab into Bisping’s face like a jackhammer.
That, and his ability to slip strikes and defend takedowns could see him take this over the line by a slightly busted up nose. A GSP decision comes in at 2/1.
Of course, GSP has been out of the frontline since his controversial 2013 warzone win over Johnny Hendricks, apparently with his mental locker empty.
No doubt he has trained like a Spartan warrior since then, and he’s promising to return refreshed and with new, even shinier tools at his disposal.
GSP is simply an icon.
Three-time welterweight champ, with nine consecutive title defences and most ever wins in UFC title fights at 12. He’s a tactical, calculating MMA robot with laser-guided hands and 24ct wrestling skills.
He’s one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters ever.
— Georges St-Pierre (@GeorgesStPierre) November 1, 2017
The problem here is that, in this fight, they’re the wrong pounds. There are simply too many of them.
And Bisping, the former 205lber, is a fighter transformed.
Always a skilful grafter with the work rate of a pit pony, he’s managed to file some of the rough edges of that talent and looks like a real champion of UFC.
This will be a grinding battle, with GSP trying to bring his superior athleticism to the party. But Bisping is as tough and ruthless as they come. And he’s not letting go of that hard-won belt while there’s blood in his veins.
It’ll likely go the distance and Bisping will look like he’s been hit by a runaway skip.
But he’ll get the nod on points. Trust me.
Grosvenor Sport Price Boost:
Bisping to win by decision,
was 12/5 now 11/4.
Bisping to win by KO, 3/1.
St-Pierre by decision, 2/1.
St-Pierres by KO, 5/1.