It was as if he never left.
Georges St. Pierre choked Michael Bisping unconscious in the third round of their UFC 217 headliner, as he captured the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown at Madison Square Garden in New York. Bisping (30-8, 20-8 UFC) went limp in the clutches of a rear-naked choke 4:23 into Round 3, his days atop the 185-pound weight class at an end.
In his first appearance since Nov. 16, 2013, St. Pierre (26-2, 20-2 UFC) surpassed all reasonable expectations. He worked over Bisping for the better part of two rounds with a punishing jab while integrating spinning kicks and takedowns. However, the champion started to turn the tide in the closing minutes of Round 2 and figured to carry the momentum forward with his superior cardio.
St. Pierre executed a takedown inside the first 30 seconds of the third round, only to encounter a series of short elbows from the grounded Englishman. When they returned to their feet, St. Pierre was bleeding from cuts to the side of his head and the bridge of his nose. He was undeterred by the damage. St. Pierre dropped Bisping with a short left hook, pounced with a series of crushing elbows and then maneuvered to the back, cinching the choke in one fluid motion.
The win made St. Pierre the fourth man in UFC history to claim titles in multiple weight classes, joining Randy Couture, B.J. Penn and Conor McGregor.
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Dillashaw Dethrones Rival Garbrandt
T.J. Dillashaw took out former Team Alpha Male stablemate Cody Garbrandt with second-round punches in the co-main event, becoming the undisputed UFC bantamweight champion for a second time. Dillashaw (15-3, 11-3 UFC) finished it 2:41 into Round 2.
Garbrandt (11-1, 6-1 UFC) had the Elevation Fight Team standout in real trouble near the end of the first round, where he knocked down Dillashaw with a clean right hook and swarmed with follow-up punches until the horn sounded. The challenger retreated to his corner on unsteady footing but came out for Round 2 with a renewed sense of purpose. Dillashaw sat down an off-balance Garbrandt with a head kick, allowed him to rise to his feet and got back to work. A blinding exchange ensued, and Dillashaw found the mark with a right hook. Garbrandt collapsed to the canvas, where he was met with a volley of unanswered blows that closed the deal.
Dillashaw, 31, has pieced together a three-fight winning streak since his controversial decision loss to Dominick Cruz in January 2016.
Namajunas Stuns Favored Jedrzejczyk
Rose Namajunas turned the mixed martial arts world upside down, as she took care of Joanna Jedrzejczyk with first-round punches to capture the undisputed UFC women’s strawweight championship. Jedrzejczyk (14-1, 8-1 UFC) bowed out 3:03 into Round 1, suffering her first defeat as a professional in a remarkable upset.
Namajunas (7-3, 5-2 UFC) was measured and confident. She got Jedrzejczyk’s attention early, when she floored the off-balance Pole with an overhand right. Moments later, Namajunas decked the champion with a vicious left hook and pounced with follow-up punches until the job was done.
A finalist on Season 20 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the 25-year-old Namajunas has won five of her past six bouts.
Thompson Befuddles, Outpoints Masvidal
Darting punch combinations and a variety of kicks carried Stephen Thompson to a unanimous decision over American Top Team mainstay Jorge Masvidal in a three-round welterweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Thompson (14-2-1, 9-2-1 UFC): 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27.
Outside of leg kicks and the occasional left hook, Masvidal (32-13, 9-6 UFC) was outmatched in the standup exchanges. Thompson picked apart the Miami native while circling on the outside. He knocked down an off-balance Masvidal twice, first with a side kick to the chest and later with a sneaky right hand. Thompson shut down a few takedown attempts, denying Masvidal’s bid to change the direction of the fight.
The win was Thompson’s first since June 2016.
Unbeaten Costa Overwhelms Hendricks
Former Jungle Fight champion Paulo Henrique Costa put away Johny Hendricks with punches in the second round of their middleweight feature. Hendricks (18-8, 13-8 UFC) bowed out 1:23 into Round 2, as the “Bigg Rigg” lost for the fifth time in six outings.
Costa (11-0, 3-0 UFC) walked down the Jackson-Wink MMA representative with power punches to the head and brutal kicks to the body. Hendricks spent most of the fight in a state of retreat, trying to keep his head attached to his shoulders. Costa proved relentless and made his move in the middle stanza. There, he uncorked a right hook and right uppercut that had Hendricks diving at his legs. Sweeping rights and lefts followed, and referee John McCarthy moved in to prevent further damage.
The 26-year-old Costa has finished all 11 of his opponents.
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