NEW YORK — Three title belts changed hands on one of the wildest nights in UFC history Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Georges St. Pierre capped the insanity with a third-round technical submission of Michael Bisping to claim the middleweight title almost four years after vacating his welterweight belt and walking away from the sport.
“I don’t have the words in my mouth right now,” he said after choking Bisping unconscious in the main event of UFC 217. “It’s my dream come true.”
Also on the card, T.J. Dillashaw knocked out former friend and training partner Cody Garbrandt in the second round to take the bantamweight title, and Rose Namajunas stunned Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a first-round knockout to claim the women’s strawweight belt.
St. Pierre showed little sign of rust early in the fight, taking control of the first round with his jab and landing a late takedown. He appeared to be fatiguing a bit late in the third before dropping Bisping with a right hook and locking in a rear-naked choke on the ground at 4:20.
It was his 13th consecutive win overall.
“He was the better man tonight,” Bisping said. “Give it up to him. There’s nothing else to say. He beat me and choked me out. No excuses.”
Dillashaw, who lost the bantamweight belt to Dominick Cruz by split decision in January 2016, got it back with a knockout of Garbrandt that was set up with a head kick that staggered and dropped the champion.
“You can say ‘and new,’ but, to me, it’s ‘and still’ because I don’t believe I ever lost this belt,” Dillashaw said.“It’s great to have it back, and I had a lot of fun in the fight.”
It wasn’t easy.
Dillashaw was almost finished late in the first round and staggered back to his corner after Garbrandt’s onslaught was interrupted by the bell. He recovered in the second round and got the finish at 2:41.
Namajunas didn’t need a full round to end the reign of Jedrzejczyk, who was seeking to equal Ronda Rousey’s record for most consecutive title defenses by a female champion in UFC history.
She was dropped twice in the first round, the second time by a big left hook.
Namajunas pounced and unleashed a barrage of short punches on the ground. Jedrzejczyk appeared to tap out to the strikes just as the referee was stepping in to stop the fight.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Namajunas said. “For some reason, I kept seeing the finish coming in the third, but I’ll take the first. I’m so happy right now. I can’t wait to get home, look at my garden and take this all in.”
Top welterweight contender Stephen Thompson bounced back from a draw and a loss against champion Tyron Woodley in his past two fights to take all three rounds in a unanimous decision over Jorge Masvidal.
Undefeated middleweight prospect Paulo Costa got the biggest win of his young career with a second-round knockout of former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks to open the main card.
Costa, who no longer will be known professionally as Paulo Borrachinha, improved to 3-0 with three knockouts since signing with the UFC in March.
The preliminary card was highlighted by two spectacular knockouts, a last-second stoppage and two bizarre finishes.
After dropping the first two rounds on the scorecards, Ovince Saint Preux landed a left head kick to knock out light heavyweight Corey Anderson with one shot to record his third consecutive victory.
Bantamweight Ricardo Ramos knocked out Aiemann Zahabi with a spinning-back elbow in the third round.
James Vick dropped lightweight Joseph Duffy with an uppercut and followed with right hands on the ground until the referee stepped in just before the bell at 4:59 of the second round.
Heavyweight Mark Godbeer was awarded a win by disqualification over Walt Harris when Harris landed a kick as the referee was stepping in to stop the action because of a groin shot. But Curtis Blaydes was deemed a winner by knockout over Oleksiy Oliynyk after the action was stopped because of an illegal strike that was deemed to not have been the decisive blow by instant replay.
Randy Brown won a unanimous decision over lightweight Mickey Gall.
Results of Saturday’s main card bouts at Madison Square Garden:
— Georges St. Pierre def. Michael Bisping, technical submission, round 3 (4:20), to take middleweight title
— T.J. Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt, knockout, round 2 (2:41), to take bantamweight title
— Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, knockout, round 1 (3:03), to take women’s strawweight title
— Stephen Thompson def. Jorge Masvidal, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26), welterweights
— Paulo Costa def. Johny Hendricks, knockout, round 2 (1:23), middleweights