Even the cynic will have to admit it was worth the wait.
In his first appearance under the Ultimate Fighting Championship flag in three years, 11 months and 19 days, Georges St. Pierre defied the odds and captured the middleweight title, as he choked Michael Bisping unconscious in the third round of their UFC 217 main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The dramatic conclusion came 4:23 into Round 3, making St. Pierre the fourth fighter -- Randy Couture, B.J. Penn and Conor McGregor are the others -- to have won UFC championships in more than one weight class.
St. Pierre relied on his patented jab, intermittent spinning attacks and tactical takedowns through two rounds. However, not all went according to plan. Bisping sliced and diced him with elbows from the bottom in Round 2, opening cuts on the side of his head and the bridge of his nose. St. Pierre shrugged off the damage in the third, leveled “The Count” with a short left hook and overwhelmed him with elbows from the top. He then advanced to the back, secured the choke and waited for Bisping to lose consciousness. It was yet another defining moment in a career filled with them.
In the aftermath of UFC 217 “Bisping vs. St. Pierre,” here are five fights that ought to be made:
Related » UFC 217 By the Numbers
Georges St. Pierre vs. Robert Whittaker: Where St. Pierre goes from here remains anyone’s guess. He could stay at 185 pounds, return to the familiar haunts of the welterweight division or elect to retire, though the latter option seems far less likely now than it did 24 hours ago. If he puts down roots as middleweight champion, he can set a course for a unification bout with Whittaker. The New Zealand-born Australian laid claim to the interim title at UFC 213 in July, when he took a five-round unanimous decision from Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero. Currently on the mend following knee surgery, Whittaker figures to be ready to go sometime during the first quarter of 2018.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Demetrious Johnson: Dillashaw waded through heavy fire to reclaim the undisputed UFC bantamweight championship, as he buried former Team Alpha Male stablemate Cody Garbrandt with punches in the second round of their co-main event. The 31-year-old Duane Ludwig protégé has rattled off three straight wins since he wound up on the wrong side of a contentious split decision against Dominick Cruz in January 2016. Afterward, Dillashaw called for a champion-versus-champion showdown with Johnson, the longtime UFC flyweight titleholder and the sport’s current pound-for-pound king. “Mighty Mouse” last competed at UFC 216 on Oct. 7, when he submitted Ray Borg with a fifth-round armbar to retain his 125-pound championship.
Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk: Namajunas rearranged the pecking order at 115 pounds, as she sprang a stunning upset on Jedrzejczyk and walked away with the UFC women’s strawweight championship. It all happened in a little more than three minutes. Namajunas leveled the Polish superstar with a clean left hook and then pounced for the finish, swarming with unanswered punches until referee John McCarthy had seen enough. With that, she had dethroned one of the sport’s most dominant champions while handing Jedrzejczyk the first loss of her professional career. Though there are plenty of viable contenders -- Jessica Andrade sits atop the list -- in the strawweight division, a rematch seems warranted here given the equity Jedrzejczyk built as champion.
Stephen Thompson vs. Colby Covington: Despite a loss and a draw in his two-fight series with champion Tyron Woodley, Thompson continues to hang around the top of the welterweight division. The South Carolina-based karateka fought brilliantly in claiming a unanimous decision over American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal. Thompson picked apart “Gamebred” from the outside, darting in and out with punches while incorporating some of his trademark kicks. By the time it was over, he had outperformed Masvidal in FightMetric’s significant strikes department, outlanding him by a 70-42 margin. Covington registered the most significant victory of his career at UFC Fight Night 119 on Oct. 28, when he cruised to a unanimous decision over Demian Maia. The fast-rising 29-year-old has won five straight.
Paulo Henrique Costa vs. Derek Brunson: Costa looks like the realest of real deals, as the undefeated former Jungle Fight champion dismantled Johny Hendricks in less than six minutes. A physical specimen with a Marvel superhero physique, Costa has finished all 11 of his opponents inside two rounds; and in just three Octagon appearances, the 26-year-old Brazilian has emerged as one of the UFC’s brightest young stars at 185 pounds. Brunson last competed in the UFC Fight Night 119 main event on Oct. 28, when he blew away Lyoto Machida with punches 2:30 into the first round of their encounter in Sao Paulo, Brazil.