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UFC 217 ‘Bisping vs. St. Pierre’ Preliminary Card Preview



For the second year in a row, the UFC returns to the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ for what once again looks like the biggest card of the year, with the main card featuring three title matches.  While this year’s undercard isn’t as strong as last years, which featured the likes of Frankie Edgar and Khabib Nurmagomedov, it still features several outstanding matchups, some of which have top ten implications in their respective divisions, and is capped off by an excellent matchup between two surging lightweights.

Fight Pass Prelims — 6:30/5:30 p.m. ET/CT

Bantamweight Bout
Ricardo Ramos (10-1, 1-0 UFC) vs. Aiemann Zahabi (7-0, 1-0 UFC)

The card kicks off with an excellent matchup of young bantamweights featuring Canadian super prospect Zahabi against Brazilian American Ramos. Zahabi is the younger brother of Tri-Star head trainer Frias Zahabi and made his UFC debut in February, decisioning Reginaldo Vieiria over three rounds. Before entering the UFC, Zahabi had won all six of fights by first round stoppage. His opponent Ramos was discovered on Dana White’ Looking For A Fight and earned a contract after his second appearance on the show. He also made his UFC debut in February, decisioning Michi Tanaka out of the UFC. Ramos has seven wins by submission and will probably be looking to take the fight to the ground, but Zahabi should be able to handle the fight wherever it goes. But if the MSG atmosphere gets to any of the fighters, it may very well be one of these two. Whoever stays the most composed will be crucial here.

Heavyweight Bout
Alexey Oleynik (55-10-1, 4-1 UFC) vs. Curtis Blaydes (8-1, 3-1 UFC)

This matchup features two of the more interesting contenders in the heavyweight division. Oleynik is having a big year in 2017, first inexplicably finishing Viktor Pesta with an Ezekiel Choke from the bottom in January, then surviving a heavy onslaught to choke out Travis Browne and maybe end his career in July. This all came on the heels of lackluster performance against Daniel Omielanczuk, whom Bladyes just happened to beat in his last fight.

Blaydes is a powerful wrestler who is riding a three-fight winning streak, after he had the severe misfortune of making his UFC debut against Francis Ngannou. Oleynik may be the best submission artist right now in the heavyweight division, but this reeks of the kind of fight where two grapplers could cancel each other out. If that occurs the advantage could go to Blaydes, who has finished six of his wins by strikes. But if Oleynik can get the bigger man down (a big if), “The Boa Constrictor” should be able to do his thing. It is a very interesting matchup and in a thin heavyweight division, a win gets either guy closer to a title shot.

Light Heavyweight Bout
Ion Cutelaba (13-3, 2-2 UFC) vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk (12-2, UFC Debut)

The Fight Pass Featured Bout features what looks to be a very fun matchup between two excellent strikers. UFC fans know Moldova’s Cutelaba as The Hulk, as the young light heavyweight has donned the green paint for several weigh ins in the past, and he certainly looks the damn part. He blew Henrique de Silva away in just twenty-two seconds in June and does everything he can to intimidate his opponents.

One must wonder if Oleksiejczuk will be intimidated in his UFC debut. One of the top fighters in MMA crazy Poland, Oleksiejczuk is riding a nine-fight winning streak and has stopped his last three opponents. He also has some skills on the ground and given Cutelaba has had issues on the ground with both Misha Cirkunov and Jared Cannonier, it would be wise of the Polish fighter to put him there. But given these two fights track records, if they stand and bang it will be exciting-for however long it lasts.

UFC 217 Prelims (FS1) — 8/7 p.m. ET/CT

Welterweight Bout
Mickey Gall (4-0, 3-0 UFC) vs. Randy Brown (9-2, 3-2 UFC)

The Dana White Looking For A Fight mythical title is on the line here between two fighters from the New York/New Jersey scene, both of whom were discovered on the YouTube show’s first episode. Of course, it was Mickey who shot to fame, getting the much-coveted fight with former WWE Champion CM Punk, and beating him into submission last September. Gall followed that up with a much more credible victory, defeating Looking For A Fight’s golden boy, Sage Northcutt by second round submission last December. Gall hasn’t fought since, but the twenty-five-year-old fighter has no doubt used the time off wisely.

Brown debuted before Gall and is the most prolific fighter from the show so far. After two stoppage victories, including a big knockout of Brian Camozzi last November, Brown lost via decision to Belal Muhammad in February in Brooklyn. Muhammad looked like the stronger fighter that night and Gall should have the same advantage on Saturday. Brown is the better striker, but Gall is the better wrestler and groundfighter and I expect this fight to end up right where Gall once it sooner or later.

Light Heavyweight Bout
Ovince St. Preux (21-10, 9-5 UFC) vs. Corey Anderson (9-3, 6-3 UFC)

This is an excellent matchup between two ranked light heavyweights that wasn’t actually supposed to happen. The seventh ranked Anderson was scheduled to fight Patrick Cummins, who pulled out about three weeks ago with a staph infection. But the sixth ranked Saint Preux volunteered to step in and why not, as Preux has returned from a three-fight losing streak to win two in a row, both with his patented move, the Von Flue Choke.

After needing only 110 seconds to choke out Yushin Okami with the move just six weeks ago in Japan, Saint Preux saw a great opportunity to continue his resurgence and grabbed it. But it is unlikely that Anderson will put himself in Saint Preux’s best move the way that Okami did. The TUF 19 champion Anderson is still only twenty-eight years old, but his career has been a constant story of two steps forward, one step back. He is trying to rally off a first-round knockout loss to Jimi Manawa, and while he is faster and the better wrestler that Saint Preux, Saint Preux is a strong guy and they are probably equal in the striking. It’s a really good matchup, but one has to wonder how Anderson will adjust to the short notice opponent. Saint Preux may have just picked his spot to perfection…

Heavyweight Bout
Walt Harris (10-6, 3-5 UFC) vs. Mark Godbeer (12-3, 1-1 UFC)-Heavyweights

This was a fight that was supposed to happen last month at UFC 216, but when Derrick Lewis fell out the day of his fight with Fabricio Werdum, Harris stepped in and even though was submitted by armbar in the first round, he took virtually no damage, and is right back in there against Godbeer. Harris had been on a nice run before then, winning three of four fights, all by knockout, including a stoppage over the highly regarded Chase Sherman. Meanwhile, Godbeer, the former BAMMA heavyweight champion in the UK is coming off of his first win in the UFC in March over Daniel Spitz. It’s a great showcase for both men, and on paper it looks like it will be a battle of two very good strikers, and that’s always fun, especially in the heavyweight division.

Lightweight Bout
Joe Duffy (16-2, 4-1 UFC) vs. James Vick (11-1, 7-1 UFC)

The prelims conclude with an excellent matchup between two lightweights on the verge of the top fifteen in MMA’s best division. Ireland’s Duffy should have the crowd support in New York City and he will need all of it as he faces the world’s biggest lightweight. Duffy is a former Cage Warriors champion best known for beating Connor McGregor by submission in 2010, when both were just young fighters in Ireland. Duffy has done well in the UFC and has won two in row since his lone promotional lost against Dustin Poirier in January 2016.

Duffy is also a former pro boxer and may be the best bodypuncher in the UFC. He might need that against Vick, who at six-foot three looks more like a light heavyweight that a lightweight, and he also knows how to use his height, whether it’s using his reach and imply that force known as tall pressure. He also a nightmare to handle on the ground with his body tight. He suffered his only loss last June to Benil Dariush, but he has been a force in 2017, dominating Abel Trujillo and Marco Polo Reyes. A win puts either in the top fifteen, possibly in line for a big fight and the styles match up very well. This isn’t one to miss.

"Frank has been a wrestling fan since he was two years old. (Don't worry, he's got proof.) He's also a huge boxing and UFC fan and has a long standing love affair with Popeyes Chicken. He still owns a VHS copy of the first Ring of Honor show ever and was watching NXT before it was cool (or good). Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightFanaticPod and on Tumblr at FrankTheFightFanatic." He's also starting his own podcast soon!

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