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The Debate – Who should be Georges St-Pierre’s opponent upon his return?

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Just under one week ago, the UFC announced that the sports biggest possible comeback is signed, sealed and delivered: Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre is officially back.

A fighter who left the game on top as a champion, a fighter who barely even lost a round and a fighter who the UFC desperately need with their scarcity of available superstars will once again step foot into the Octagon in late 2017.

It’s a proposition that has slowly gained steam over St-Pierre’s three-year hiatus but the question begs to be asked, who should he face upon his return?

With such a big question looming large over the future of Canada’s favorite son, we’ve tasked some of the MMA Latest News crew to make their case for just who should be the man to stand opposite St-Pierre when the cage door closes:

The case for Anderson Silva, by Nick Dwyer (@NickDwyerMMA)

For the better part of a decade, this was the super fight the UFC had to make. Georges St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva- the greatest middleweight of all time against the greatest welterweight of all time. Two of the most successful champions in MMA history, who happened to peak at the same time, in the same organization. As fate would have it, this super fight was never made.

In today’s WME-IMG era of the UFC, it’s hard to imagine this fight wouldn’t have been put together. It was the hottest fight possible, between two long-reigning, dominant champions with huge fan appeal. Superfights simply weren’t proposed as frequently back then as they are today.

Now would this fight come with the same shine in 2017 as it would have 5 years ago? Of course not, but seeing George St-Pierre and Anderson Silva meet in the Octagon would still feel magical, and it’s a rare example of a non-title fight that could headline a PPV event.

Why risk throwing GSP into a fight with a top ten opponent after more than 3 years out of the sport? Could he pick up right where he left off? Sure, it’s possible, but why take that risk in his first fight back? Look no further than Anderson Silva’s uninspiring, controversial victory over ranked opponent Derek Brunson. That’s not the kind of fight we need to see these two legends in right now.

It’s the best option for Anderson Silva, the best option for Georges St-Pierre, it makes a lot of money for the UFC and would finally give fans the chance to see the greatest fight that never happened.

The case for Michael Bisping, by Darren Russell (@DRussellMMA)

Nobody deserves to welcome GSP back to the Octagon more than Michael Bisping.

When “The Count” avenged his most devastating defeat to Dan Henderson at UFC 204, he also overtook GSP in holding the most wins in the UFC with a total of 20.

Michael Bisping won TUF 3 way back in June 2006 and competed in the Octagon before the money, and the popularity came along. If anyone deserves a money fight, it’s him. He’s entering the final stages of his career and with recent victories over Anderson Silva and Luke Rockhold, he’s pushed his head right to the front of the queue.

Let’s face it, any GSP event in Canada would sell out. Bisping would bring an interesting edge to the fight with his heart, desire and I’m sure winning the fight is his “destiny”.

Bisping deserves the respect, the money and the limelight of this fight. He’s earned it more than any other fighter. Almost six hours of Octagon time in his career is astounding!

Do the right thing… give it to Mike!

The case for Nick Diaz, by Ruairi Carberry (@Ruairi67)

When the news broke late last week that Georges St-Pierre, would be returning to active competition, everyone in the MMA universe was clamoring to find out who he would face in the Octagon next.

Three years removed from his last fight inside a cage, St-Pierre watched from the sideline as new superstars emerged, old faces faded into retirement and the landscape of competition changed drastically with the introduction of USADA.

The former welterweight champion defended his title nine times before his self-imposed sabbatical. Despite the fact that the sport has changed dramatically St Pierre’s absence, his return is likely to be one of the biggest financial successes for the company this year. GSP, is still, a phenomenally skilled martial artist and one of the most gifted athletes to grace the sport.

He was one of the UFC’s marquee names before the McGregor/Rousey boom era, and because of this, it is important to place him in the cage with an opponent that will maximize the grandeur surrounding his return. Look no further than Stockton, California.

Nick Diaz and GSP have a turbulent history already. Having long accused St-Pierre of being afraid to share the cage with him, Diaz would get his chance to face the then-welterweight king at UFC158 Diaz lost the fight by unanimous decision, a lackluster affair that did not meet the expectations of the fans.

Although it was not a fight of the year contender, the bout was competitive throughout. GSP controlled the tempo of the fight by controlling Diaz on the mat. The time that was spent on the feet saw both scores with strikes. A couple of tactical changes from either man could see an extremely excitable second edition.

Despite the fact that action was not as exciting as anticipated, the build- up to the fight was extremely entertaining. Diaz and GSP are polar opposites to each other, and as everyone knows opposites attract. The rivalry has not died down even though their first fight took place over three years ago.

While speaking with BloodyElbow in August, St-Pierre claimed he would win the fight far more convincingly if it were to happen a second time. “I don’t mind, I am not afraid of Nick Diaz, I beat him last time, and I’ll beat even worse, I’ll beat him way worse next time that I’ll fight him.” Diaz’ response was outlandish and entertaining, as expected. Speaking to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Nick claimed that GSP had failed to make the contracted weight for their championship bout in Canada. On top of that Nick made another claim about that night in Montreal that caused a stir; “First of all somebody frickin’ drugged me.” Nick Diaz, is adamant that he will not return to competition unless it is a money fight. He has reportedly turned down prospective bouts with Robbie Lawler and current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. GSP, like Diaz, is a bonafide star and if the two met for the second time it would be one of the biggest events of 2017.

Many feel that a return to competition for GSP means an immediate title fight at 170 pounds. A potential fight with Michael Bisping has also been discussed. St-Pierre is renowned for his ability to neutralize opponents attacks by taking the fight to where an individual is least comfortable. It is a large part of the reason he has taken little damage relative to the miles he has clocked inside the cage. To ask anyone to return after such a long absence and jump straight to the top of the food chain is ridiculous. Even if you are Georges St-Pierre.

Diaz’ last competed two years ago against Anderson Silva. He is still widely considered one of the best welterweight fighters in the world. GSP should return against somebody with significance in the division, that has name value and will test his skills considerably. That someone is Nick Diaz.

The case for Johny Hendricks, by Graeme Harper (@GraemeHarp)

Admittedly, this fight is the most lacking in terms of opponent ‘star power’ but it’s certainly the fight that makes the most sense.

Over three years ago, both Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks went toe-to-toe in the middle of the Octagon and to this day, the result of that fight is bitterly argued between fans and ultimately split the three ringside judges on the night. It was a fight that hinged on a lone opening round and now that GSP’s return is official, running this fight back is a must from a timing and logistical standpoint.

When St-Pierre left in 2013, he had cleaned out two generations worth of talent at welterweight. It is without question that he is greatest ever fighter to compete at 170 lbs – and in my own personal opinion, the best to ever do it – but expecting the Canadian to challenge the new breed successfully is just one step too far. Throwing a ring rusty St-Pierre into the deep end of a division he has nothing left to prove in is a decision that makes little to no sense and neither does feeding him to a fighter on the top of their game.

With Georges St-Pierre returning from a three-year hiatus, he needs to be eased back into the rigours of the fight game and with Johny Hendricks standing opposite, ‘Rush’ will at least have the comfort of preparing and fighting an opponent from his past and would also have the opportunity to put a contentious result and debate to bed.

If St-Pierre were to jump the queue for a title shot at either 170 or 185 lbs, the UFC will officially wave the white flag for meritocracy within the promotion. If the UFC pairs St-Pierre with Anderson Silva or Nick Diaz, they’re either putting on a fight that is years past its sell-by date or a  rematch of a completely one-sided fight against a fighter who hasn’t won since 2011. If the UFC put Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks into the cage one more time, however, the UFC are protecting a much-needed draw; they are providing an opportunity to end an unresolved controversy and they are treating everyone from the fans to the fighters with the respect that they deserve.

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Events

*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results

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The UFC returns to Canada for the final Fight Night card of 2017. In the cold of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC will host eleven of the originally twelve scheduled fights. Unfortunately, Tim Elliot will not fight in the north country. His scheduled opponent, Pietro Menga, a newcomer to the promotions roster, failed to make weight after taking the bout with just over a weeks notice.

An exciting main card will be capped off with a potential contender eliminator bout featuring, Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos. The former champions (Lawler at welterweight, Dos Anjos at lightweight) both put together impressive win streaks which dispatched top contenders in their respective divisions. Elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on the outspoken Mike Perry.

The card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30/1:30 ETPT.

UFC Winnipeg Official Results:

MAIN CARD – FOX – 8PM/5PM ETPT

  • #2 Robbie Lawler (28-11) vs. #4 Rafael Dos Anjos (27-9) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Rafael Dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
  • #3 Ricardo Lamas (18-5) vs. Josh Emmett (12-1) – Catchweight bout (148.5 lbs)
    • Result: Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punch) 4:33 round 1
  • #10 Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • #3 Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-3) – Light Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov via TKO (punches) 2:45  round 1

PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 5PM/2PM ETPT

  • #14 Jared Cannonier (10-2) vs #15 Jan Blachowicz (20-7) – Light Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Julian Marquez (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (7-2) – Middleweight bout
    • Result: Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart via submission (standing guillotine) 2:42 round 2
  • Chad Laprise (13-2) vs. Galore Bofando (5-2) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando via TKO (punches) 4:10 round 1
  • Nordine Taleb (13-4) vs Danny Roberts (14-2) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts via KO (head kick and punch) :59 round 1
  • John Makdessi (14-6) vs Abel Trujillo (15-7) – Lightweight bout
    • Result: John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Alessio Di Chirico (10-2) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) – Middleweight bout
    • Result: Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose via KO (knee) 2:14 round 2

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 4:30PM/1:30PM ETPT

  • Jordan Mein (29-12) vs. Erick Silva (19-8) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
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Fight Announcements

Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando

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The UFC has now added more bouts to the front end of their 2018 schedule. Gilbert Burns (13-2, 5-2 UFC) will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2, 6-2 UFC) in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.

Alongside a few other high-profile fight announcements, is the addition to the UFC Orlando, Florida card. The two lightweights will join Jake Collier and Marcin Prachnio, as the second fight set for the event.

It has been a while since the UFC hosted an event in the state of Florida. Last seen by the Floridians was UFC on Fox: Texeira vs. Evans, on April 16, 2016 in Tampa Bay. The card was a success, despite the cancellation of its planned main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Drawing a gate of $1.05 million and 2.13 million viewers.

Gilbert Burns signed with the UFC after accumulating an undefeated record of 8-0. His first loss came in his home country of Brazil, as Rashid Magomedov defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3, in November of 2015.

In his most recent bout, Burns defeated Jason Saggo by KO with five seconds remaining in the second round at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch.

Aubin-Mercier will come into the contest as a winner in his last three bouts. The Canadian fighter trains out of the Tristar gym, alongside legends such as Georges St. Pierre and head coach, Firas Zahabi.

In 2011, Aubin-Mercier was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Competing in the welterweight bracket, he became a finalist by defeating both, Jake Mathews (unanimous decision) and Richard Walsh (rear naked choke). In the finale, Aubin-Mercier lost to Chad Laprise by split decision.

UFC Orlando will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.

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Fight Announcements

Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida Officially Headlines UFC Belem

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Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida is officially booked to headline UFC Belem in Brazil.

Following his unanimous decision victory over Markus Perez on last weekends, UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Swanson, undefeated middleweight, Eryk Anders, called for the match-up with former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. The UFC heard, and obliged.

First reported by The MMA Kings (@mma_kings.)

Anders holds a 2-0 undefeated record in the UFC. The Alabama native made his promotional debut against Rafael Nata in July of this year. A bout he took on short notice, replacing Alessio di Chirico whom withdrew from the fight due to a neck injury. Anders defeated Natal by knockout in the first round that night at UFC Long Island.

Prior to his indoctrination to MMA, the undefeated middleweight played for the University of Alabama football team, between 2006-2009.

Machida recently returned to the UFC roster after an 18-month suspension handed down by USADA, stemming from a failed out-of-competition test leading up to his April 2016 contest against Dan Henderson.

In his return to the octagon, Machida faced Derek Brunson in the main-event of the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “The Dragon” lost the bout via first round KO.

UFC Belem, Brazil is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018, at the Mangueirinho Arena. The card will also feature the flyweight debut for Valentina Shevchenko as she faces Priscila Cachoeira

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