This week the UFC returns to Madison Square Gardens for UFC 217, with Michael Bisping pitted against Georges St-Pierre returning after four years in retirement. While much noise has been made about the main card it’s time to look at the prelims and understand why there are at least three reasons to be tuning in early.
Looking for a friend
Mickey Gall makes his return after nearly a year on the sidelines coming up against old training partner Randy Brown. Gall recently spoke on the MMA Hour about how he had previously trained with Brown and considered him a friend. This all changed when Brown tweeted Dana White looking to start discussions about the bout taking place, which has now created a match-up that runs deep in both fighters.
Gall and Brown first made an impression on UFC fans with their impressive performances on Dana White’s Looking For A Fight series. Gall looks to extend his current three-fight win streak as he takes on his first real test at 170lbs, previously beating Sage Northcutt a true 155lb fighter and debutants CM Punk and Mike Jackson. After a busy 2016 for Randy Brown with four fights, he’s had a less busy 2017 with this being his second fight after a tough fought battle with Belal Muhammad stopping his two-fight win streak.
Can Gall prove himself against the more seasoned UFC 170lb’er by utilising his jiu-jitsu prowess against an opponent who’s only stoppage loss has come via rear-naked choke. Gall in the build-up to the fight has also suggested that his stand-up game has now become top tier amongst the division so will we see something new come from the young evolving fighter. One thing for sure is Brown will definitely want to meet him in the middle of the Octagon with his 5 out of 9 wins coming via knockout. So will we see the traditional striker vs grappler match-up or will we see Mickey Gall showcase more than just his grappling prowess?
Mark Godbeer’s Return Ticket
In a rather unexpected turn of events at UFC 216, Derrick Lewis withdrew from his fight Fabricio Werdum after being left temporarily paralysed in bed. Walt “The Big Ticket” Harris got the call and stepped up on days notice losing swiftly by armbar to Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, Werdum. This rapid turn of events left the UK’s own Mark Godbeer without an opponent asking himself who he’d be fighting next. Thanks to the minimal damage Harris sustained during his fight with Werdum, the fight was swiftly rebooked.
Godbeer is looking to build momentum after his first UFC win, a unanimous decision over Daniel Spitz. Harris on the other hand to looking to rebound back from his short-notice fight against Werdum which halted his two-fight win streak. This is sure to be a fight that ends fast with both men’s combined record of 22 wins with 19 finishes by knockout. This is Harris’ eighth fight and he’ll be wanting to kick on soon to make a run at the top ten, with the Heavyweight division considered by some to be the shallowest it won’t take many wins in a row to be talked about for a place in the rankings. The same path can also be foreseen for Godbeer who will look to better previous attempts at UFC Heavyweight success by a Brit by beginning a streak to continue on into 2018.
This is a real “don’t blink” fight, so will we see the rise of a new English Heavyweight Star or the resurgence of Walt Harris’ heavy hands?
Duffy’s first fight of seven
Joseph Duffy’s last outing was nothing short of a perfect performance albeit the finish. With impressive head movement and octagon control, Duffy calmly put on a boxing clinic against the outmatched Reza Madadi. Duffy fought out the last fight of his contract and with that display, the UFC could not wait to get their man signed back up. Duffy’s first fight of his new seven-fight contract isn’t against an easy target though with James Vick stepping up to face him. Vick is an absolute mountain of a man for the lightweight division standing at a whopping 6′ 3″. He’s coming into the fight on a two-fight win streak after finishing tough opponents, Marco Polo Reyes and Abel Trujillo. Previous to this Vick was riding a five-fight win streak abruptly stopped at the hands (right hand) of Beneil Dariush.
It will be interesting to watch Duffy try to overcome Vick’s 3″ reach advantage as he comes in and out of range attempting pepper Vick with combinations. The ground game of Duffy is also no joke famously submitting the man himself Conor McGregor back in 2010, with a more recent submission win coming in 2016 against Mitch Clark. Expect Vick to use his long legs to keep the distance from Duffy as he looks to pick him off from the outside.
This is also the first fight of a new deal for Vick who is looking to make his first steps into the rankings and begin his asserting himself with the UFC brass. Vick has long been outspoken at how he feels hard done by with the UFC, with minimal promotion and several omissions for the performance of the night bonuses. With both fighters looking to make a statement to not only the fans but their promoters will this be one for the highlight reels?