It’s a Super-Fight no one ever expected. Not only is it 2017 and Michael Bisping is king of the middleweight division, but Georges St-Pierre has finally made his long-awaited return and decided to fight outside the division he ruled for so long. Strange days. Throw in the fact that these two will meet at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and your 2013 brain might just explode.
And yet here we are. Despite a combined total of over 11 hours of Octagon time between them, these two fighters aren’t just showing up for a paycheck. The middleweight title is officially on the line, and a win by either will have interesting implications on the future of the division. Bisping is on the cusp of retirement having finally achieved a belt and with a far less painful desk job awaiting him, while St-Pierre would be under pressure to rebound with a loss and fight again.
Strange days indeed. So now that the fight is signed, we should examine at how they match up on paper.
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Tale of Tape Matchup:
The traditional tale is yet another surprise for this matchup. It’s the former Welterweight Champ with all the advantages against the natural middleweight. St-Pierre is the younger man, with a four-inch reach advantage over the taller Bisping. And while both are listed as Orthodox strikers, GSP is well known to switch stance frequently when the situation warrants it.
However, St-Pierre was accustomed to being the much larger and rangier opponent for most of his career. He impressively managed to pack a lot of weight post-weigh ins, and in the era of the IV-ban, facing middleweights is understandable. But it also means he’ll be facing a more fairly sized opponent for perhaps the first time. St-Pierre routinely had large reach advantages over his opponents, so the four-inch differential here is actually less extreme than we’d usually see on a GSP fight.
The striking matchup will be very interesting from a stylistic perspective. Presumably, Bisping will try to keep it standing, where he normally employs a rangy and busy style of striking that does well on the judges’ scorecards. St-Pierre is similar on paper, but more accurate and evasive, while not quite as busy. Bisping has been willing to throw frequent combinations, counting on his cardio to outpace opponents with each round. While St-Pierre has counted on getting the better of exchanges with his high precision and excellent strike avoidance, while slowing the fight down to his desired speed.
When it comes to power, both men have recorded eight knockdowns to date, but GSP has scored them at a higher rate. That’s because he uses a high mix of jabs, and his fewer power head strikes also include kicks. But when it comes to receiving head strikes, although Bisping has been knocked down more frequently, it’s St-Pierre with the statistically more vulnerable chin. Though only finished by strikes once, GSP was often wobbled on those rare occasions when some actually landed a decent head strike.
The ground game strongly favors St-Pierre on paper. He has frequently changed levels with excellent takedown success and defense, resulting in a dominant share of mat time in control. Conversely, Bisping attempts few takedowns, doesn’t spend much time on the ground, but has done well defending takedowns and getting back to his feet.
Whenever St-Pierre has gotten into trouble, or simple recognized an opportunity to safely win a round on the ground, he’s had the skills and inclination to fall back on his wrestling. But Bisping has proven a stout defender and has faced plenty of opponents with similar gameplans. Should he manage to keep the fight standing early, it could affect the course of the remaining rounds and St-Pierre’s strategy.
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Georges St-Pierre -150
Michael Bisping +130
Current odds have GSP favored over Bisping, despite the move up in weight class, but only slightly. Surely, all eyes will be on the condition of the two men given both of their extended layoffs and advancing age. The wrestling of St-Pierre continues to be a great neutralizer. And while GSP appears to vulnerable to power strikes on paper, Bisping isn’t known for power so much as volume. Perhaps these reasons have the market accepting a multi-year layoff as less of a deal breaker.
But we certainly can’t count Bisping out. He’s found the chins of Anderson Silva and Luke Rockhold, and a similar strike on GSP could be a shocking fight-ender. Bisping is also one of the best at staying off his back against pressure wrestlers who lack a power strike threat. So this matchup could sit right in his wheelhouse of defending takedowns, then just out-kickboxing St-Pierre from long-range.
The Over/Under is set at 4.5 rounds, slightly favoring the Over at -130. That means the market currently sees it as a coin flip as to whether this fight goes the distance. Both men are known for going the distance, but with each year become more vulnerable to finishes. This will be one of those fights where anything could happen. It could be a competitive back and forth strategic duel, or a fight that ends with a lights-out, potentially career-ending bang.
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