Defending champions historically win about two out of three times in UFC title fights, but the trend might have to be set aside when one of the challengers is Georges St-Pierre.
According to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, middleweight champion Michael Bisping (-115) and St-Pierre (-115) are in a pick-’em for their championship fight, which will be the last of three title bouts on the UFC 217 main card at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday.
All time, reigning champions in bouts where an undisputed title is on the line are 135-52 (72 percent) in UFC history, and the defense record is 90-52 (64 percent) when one excludes the great champions who defended their belt seven or more times.
Of course, St-Pierre, who’s returning after a three-year absence, is in that latter group. The dead-even line could reflect a wish from fans that GSP will have his vintage form, even though that would involve having the same endurance while carrying the extra mass required for a middleweight.
Bisping has a good chance to win if he can set an early tone against St-Pierre and have a submission defense that keeps GSP from using his famed wrestling. However, the history of titleholders standing a better chance of winning the longer a fight goes – the champion is 54-12 in championship fights that go to a decision – could be more applicable to St-Pierre than Bisping.
If St-Pierre can weather an anticipated early storm from Bisping, there’s a chance he could complete his comeback victoriously.
The line for the bantamweight championship bout between titleholder Cory Garbrandt (-185) and challenger T.J. Dillashaw (+150) reflects a betting propensity to favor strikers with a fan-friendly style.
Dillashaw is prone to hanging in the pocket too long, which could be an Achilles heel against a great striker such as Garbrandt who pretty much goads opponents to respond by throwing combos and kicks. This does seem like a situation set up for Garbrandt to get a signature dominant victory.
Women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (-600) is a huge favorite on the UFC 217 odds against Rose Numajunas (+400) as she attempts to tie Ronda Rousey’s UFC women’s record of six consecutive title defenses. Jedrzejczyk’s last four wins have been by unanimous decision. It is tough to go against Jedrzejczyk’s experience and skill, but a submission artist like Numajunas at 4-to-1 rates a look.
Stephen Thompson (-185) is favored against Jorge Masvidal (+150) in a bout between welterweights who are each coming off a loss and are each strong in the standup, particularly Thompson with his long-legged kicks. If Masvidal, who’s more of a puncher in the stand-up, can get the fight to the ground, there’s a chance for him to score an upset. There’s a strong
possibility of a decision, as only one of Masvidal’s 12 losses has been a knockout.
The main card begins with a middleweight matchup as Paulo Borrachinha (-240) takes on veteran Johny Hendricks (+190) in a fight that’s very likely to produce a knockout, one way or the other. Borrachinha is a bona fide knockout artist, who has nine KOs included in his 10-0 record in the UFC promotion, and has a three-inch height advantage.
Hendricks’ strong jaw and submission defense should at least mean the fight will go more than one round.