On November 4, inside the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, one of the best fighters of all-time, Georges St-Pierre, will make his epic return to the UFC’s octagon. What makes this long-awaited return all the more captivating, is that St-Pierre won’t be returning to the division he reigned over for five years, which included nine title defenses. No, he will move up 15 pounds and make his middleweight debut. And in a title fight against the man with the most wins in UFC history, Michael Bisping. It is a “money fight” filled with intrigue and historical implications, so of course, many personalities from the MMA sphere have thoughts and opinions on who will win the main event of UFC 217.
Fighters and Trainers Make Picks for St-Pierre vs Bisping
When Bisping versus St-Pierre was first announced in March (then delayed to another announcement in August) opinions from the MMA community work mixed on this latest instance of the UFC’s questionable matchmaking ethics. Bisping would once again forego facing a legitimate number one contender to instead seek out a fight he felt had more sizzle to casual fans. While St-Pierre—the undisputed best welterweight ever—would jump the line of contenders, despite never competing at 185 pounds. This would then force an interim-title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker. Two men who each seemed deserving of title opportunities.
Despite the reservations of fighters, fans, and pundits, the idea of St-Pierre returning from a four-year sabbatical to attempt to be only the fourth man in UFC history to hold titles in two divisions is just too gripping a narrative to dismiss. Not too mention, a win for Bisping would leave him as the only man to have beaten both St-Pierre and Anderson Silva during his impressive career. A fight this notable means that opinions on who will win, and how it plays out, are readily available from many personalities within the industry.
The questions fans have about this fight are the same ones being asked by the pros. Will “GSP” overcome ring rust? Is Bisping too big for the former 170-pound kingpin? Can the fight be turned into a wrestling match? Does “The Count” have an edge because he’s been a more active fighter?
Below are opinions from fighters and trainers from within the sport. Some are legends who coach new ones. Some are rising contenders on the cusp of championship gold. Others are younger fighters whose fandom grew from watching these two men. And some thoughts are the musings of trainers unhappy with the match in general. It is wide-ranging and colorful like the sport itself.
Din Thomas – UFC Legend, co-Star on Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight, and head coach for UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley
“I think ‘GSP’ wins the fight. Sure, hes been gone for four years, but I’m sure he’s been studying the game throughout. He has always been a very intelligent and safe fighter. He could fight anybody but there is something he finds safe in fighting Bisping in his return. (St-Pierre) also works alongside one of the best brains in Martial Arts with John Danaher. They will craft and string together a fight plan that gets the job done without taking punishment.”
Colby Covington – Rising UFC welterweight facing Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 119 this Saturday:
“Bisping wins because this is the post-USADA era, and everyone knows ‘GSP’ was juiced up on HGH. Georges St-Pierre’s only coming back for his retirement check from pay-per-view.”
Dr. Paul Gavoni – American Top Team striking coach who has trained Jeff Monson, Brad Pickett, Matt Schnell and Jaime Alvarez during his career. Contributor for BloodyElbow:
“Nobody can really predict the winner of this with any confidence, as the variables outside of the style match-up will likely have the largest influence on the outcome. Stylistically, St-Pierre wins this fight if it occurred prior to his vacation from the sport. However, though Bisping is a proven striker, cage rust will be St-Pierre’s biggest opponent when they meet in the Octagon. Still, St-Pierre is intelligent and has likely been preparing for his comeback long before accepting this fight. If he can get through the first round, I think we will see his hand raised. But the question is IF. Though Bisping isn’t known as a big puncher, St-Pierre hasn’t received a punch under UFC fight conditions in a long time. At his age, and given the layoff, his heart may be willing but his chin might be ready to throw in the towel. We will see.”
Marc Diakiese – 12-1 rising UFC lightweight fighter:
“I’ll have to go with Bisping. He’s been very active for the past few years and Georges has been out for a while. The game has evolved, and I think at the moment Bisping has an advantage.”
Adam Piccolotti – 9-1 Bellator lightweight contender:
“This fight is one big x-factor. What Georges St-Pierre shows up? He has always been one of my favorite fighters and his skills spoke for themselves throughout the years, but with a questionable performance [against Johny Hendricks], and a ton of time off, it’s hard to say which ‘GSP’ shows up. Bisping has been constantly overlooked for pretty much his entire career, and although he is the champ, and people aren’t writing him off, I still think he’s being overlooked. My pick is still with my heart, ‘GSP’ by decision in a close fight.”
Jaime Alvarez – 7-3 American Top Team Fighter and alum of The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions:
“My pick is Bisping. Georges St-Pierre coming up in weight-class, after such a long layoff, is not going to go well. Plus, I don’t believe Bisping is the best middleweight in the UFC. He wouldn’t last three rounds with any of the top-five middleweights.”
Tony Ricci – Strength and conditioning coach for Chris Weidman and Elias Theodorou. Multi-discipline black belt:
“In a fight that should never have happened, in which I have more interest in watching reruns of Will and Grace (and I am only attending to watch Joanna) I will take Bisping in an uneventful fight via TKO in the fourth, only because of size. I love ‘GSP,’ but blatant disregard for merit-based title fights does not interest me.”
Linton Vassell – Bellator light heavyweight contender. Faces Ryan Bader at Bellator 186 November 3:
“My pick is Bisping, He will be the bigger of the two, and has been active in the last four years, where ‘GSP’ has been away from the business, so I feel that this will be a big advantage on his side. Bisping will have size and power on his side, and he has amazing cardio also.”
Fernando Gonzalez – Surging welterweight contender, 7-1 inside the Bellator cage:
“My pick on Michael Bisping versus Georges St-Pierre? Despite not being a big fan of the guy, I would have to go with Bisping.
Reason one, ‘GSP’ has never fought in the UFC with high-level competition at 185 pounds, or with a more seasoned fighter like Michael Bisping. Reason two, ‘GSP’ has proven to have mental issues in self-belief. That being as it is, his first fight back, and in a new weigh- class, and the magnitude of the fight, in my opinion will prove to be too much for him on the day of the fight. And reason three, this will be the first time ‘GSP’ fights someone bigger then him, and with the same gas tank. I believe someone with a lot of cardiovascular endurance will test ‘GSP’s’ heart, and also Bisping can take a beating. I can see him come back and winning the fight in the fourth or fifth by stoppage.”
Brad Pickett – retired UFC and WEC star. One of only two men to have beaten Demetrious Johnson:
“It’s a hard one, as Georges St-Pierre has been out for such a long time, and the game has moved on so much. ‘GSP’ was a fighter with great fight IQ, which you won’t lose overnight. And he’s also coming back at a weight-class higher. Bisping is from the old generation but has stayed in the game with some notable wins lately. Bisping wins by decision.”
Phil Daru – Strength and conditioning for Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Dustin Poirier and Colby Covington. Co-host of the Fight Strength Podcast, and former pro-fighter:
“[Georges St-Pierre’s] going to wrestle f*ck the s*it out of Bisping.”
What are your picks for who will win this super-fight between two of the best fighters of the last decade? Leave them in the comments.