By Niall Clarke

  • UFC 211 preview
  • Main event: Stipe Miočić vs Junior Dos Santos for the Heavyweight title
  • Co Main event: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Jéssica Andrade for the Women’s Strawweight title.
DALLAS TEXAS- The UFC returns to the lone star state for one of the most stacked cards of the year as Stipe Miočić defends his Heavyweight title against Junior Dos Santos in the main event of UFC 211.

 

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The card, which is set to take place at the American Airlines Center on Saturday May 13th, is co-headlined by a Women’s Strawweight Championship bout between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jéssica Andrade. Filling out the rest of the card are two fights at the top end of the Welterweight and Featherweight divisions, and a World Series of Fighting Champion making his return to the UFC. Demian Maia looks to continue his quest for a Welterweight title shot against the dangerous Jorge Masvidal. Yair Rodriguez looks to earn the biggest win of his young career against former title challenger Frankie Edgar at Featherweight, and at Middleweight, David Branch returns to the organisation to face Krzysztof Jotko

It is the best card of the year so far, so let us take a closer look at the main card with our run down of each fight.

 

Heavyweight Championship: Stipe Miočić (C) (16-2) vs Junior Dos Santos (18-4)

At one point in time, Dos Santos was the most dominant Heavyweight in the world. The Brazilian began UFC life with a bang, winning his first nine fights in the organisation and capturing the Heavyweight title in the process, then the Cain Velasquez rematch happened. Since the beating he took at the hands of Velasquez, it seems like the flaws in his style have been exposed. Velasquez pressured Dos Santos, exposed his footwork near the fence and pressured him for five rounds. The rubber match went much the same way, only this time Dos Santos was beat up so bad he was finished in the final round.

It was after that second defeat to Velasquez where the first meeting with Miočić happened. Dos Santos was looking to bounce back after taking over a year off after the failed title challenge, whilst Miocic was looking to propel himself into title contention. The fight was one of the best in 2014, a five round war to be remembered, but it was Dos Santos who prevailed via unanimous decision.

It was after this fight where the title run started for Miočić. The 34-year-old went on to win his next four fights, all by (T)KO, including a title win against Fabricio Werdum and defence against Alistair Overeem. ‘The Reem’ coincidently knocked Dos Santos out in 2015 on his way to a title shot. ‘Cigano’ would recover from the Overeem defeat by putting in a much more technical and mature approach against Ben Rothwell. Dos Santos jabbed, fainted, and out-struck his opponent for 25 minutes for a decision victory that earned him a title shot against Miočić

Pick: The question for the rematch is how much the champion has improved since the first fight? After all it was Dos Santos who won it, so the onus is on Miočić to find the way to best the challenger. We have seen new looks from the champion, such as the way he pressured Overeem in their fight. But Miočić was susceptible to the counter and was dropped by the Dutchman in the first round.

In a five round fight, Miočić may implement his wrestling to try wear Dos Santos down, much like Velasquez did successfully twice, but the champion is more hittable than Velasquez and could get caught by a Dos Santos counter. However, nothing seems certain with ‘Cigano’ at the moment.

Since winning the title his career his been rocky to say the least, and despite bright spots here and there, he has not been able to put a run together like the one he had when he first joined the UFC. It is a ridiculously hard fight to call, but Miočić seems to have more avenues to victory. If Dos Santos can stick to the right game-plan, he probably wins this fight, but his only way to winning is striking. Miočić can land on the feet and also implement wrestling into the fight which could make the difference in the end.

Prediction: Miocic via Unanimous Decision

 

Women’s Strawweight Championship: Joanna Jędrzejczyk (c) (13-0) vs Jéssica Andrade (16-5)

There is something about this title defence for Jędrzejczyk that feels bigger than the previous four. We have witnessed arguably the greatest female fighter of all time dominate her division since coming to the UFC in 2014, but somehow this fight feels huge to the legacy of ‘Joanna Champion’. A win sees the Pole defend her title for the fifth time in a row, furthering the case for her to be labelled as the greatest of all time, and putting her within one of Ronda Rousey’s record six defences. A defeat however could see her legacy on the sport take a hit, much like Rousey’s has since the losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes.

Andrade could be the biggest challenge for Joanna to date. The Brazilian is big, strong, and powerful. She has been on a tear since moving down to Strawweight from Bantamweight, winning all three of her fights in the division in dominant fashion. All the strengths she had at 135lbs have been multiplied and added to at 115lbs. Her power is ever more crushing, and she looks quicker in her new weight class. Joanna, while dominant during her reign, is susceptible to getting hurt.

Claudia Gadhela, the champion’s hardest challenger thus far, knocked the champion down early in their fight before eventually being overwhelmed. Karolina Kowalkiewicz stunned Joanna in their fight, but could not apply enough pressure to finish the fight. Andrade is different to the previous two challengers. She is much more powerful and much more relentless with her pressure. If she hurts the champion, she will not let up.

Pick: Joanna’s desire to win is unmatched, and her ability to overwhelm opponents is second to none. The Pole is a fantastic striker and hits her combinations quickly and fluidly. However, Joanna does not possess the power of Andrade, and her willingness to stay in the pocket and throw combinations may be her downfall.

The big question mark surrounding Andrade is her cardio. This is her first five round fight, and she is fighting someone who has incredible volume and amazing stamina. Joanna can throw punches and kicks all day and still not get tired, her conditioning is possibly the best in the UFC. If Andrade can not put Joanna away early then this fight could easily end up going the way of the others. The Champion takes over and beats her opponent up to a decision win.

Prediction: Jędrzejczyk via unanimous decision

 

Welterweight: Demian Maia (24-6) vs Jorge Masvidal (35-11)

This is a great fight between two top contenders at Welterweight, but it is a fight that should not be happening, and one that is unfortunate if you are Maia. The Brazilian has done more than enough to earn a title shot, but whether it is down to his less crowd pleasing style, or just the fact he is too nice to call people out, he has once again be looked over as a challenger despite winning six straight fights.

Instead he has been booked in a fight against the dangerous and resurgent Masvidal who himself is riding a three fight win streak. ‘Gamebred’ looked better than ever in stopping Donald Cerrone in his last fight. All the talent he has possessed over the years was finally met with the killer mentality he lacked previously. Masvidal is primarily a striker with impressive boxing, but he can hold his own on the ground too and is incredibly well rounded.

However, Maia is a completely different animal when it comes to the ground game. Not only is he one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in MMA, he is one of the best in the world, period.  There is no question of whether Masvidal can ‘hang’ with Maia on the ground, simply put, he can not. The question for ‘Gamebred’ is can he survive the grappling exchanges long enough to create some distance? Or better still avoid it all together.

Pick: The key for Masvidal is not to just keep it standing, but keep it at distance so he can lands strikes. He is the better striker of the two and as long as he can keep Maia at range he should be able to box the Brazilian up. Maia’s pressure has been relentless since moving to Welterweight though, and this fight could end up being another case of Maia taking someone down and controlling them for fifteen minutes. Masvidal is good enough on the ground to avoid being submitted, but not to beat Maia in his element.

Prediction: Maia via unanimous decision

 

Featherweight: Frankie Edgar (21-5-1) vs Yair Rodriguez (10-1)

Four of the five main card matches at UFC 211 could easily be five round main events, and this is one of them. Edgar is a former Lightweight champion who has battled twice for the Featherweight title since moving down to 145lbs. Rodriguez is an exciting prospect  looking to earn the biggest win of his career and possibly a title shot with a win.

This should be an exciting fight between two fighters with contrasting styles. Edgar is as systematic as they come. ‘The Answer’ has tremendous footwork that allows him to come in and out of the pocket quickly backed up with good wrestling that allows him to switch where the fight takes place at any time.

Edgar is looking to continue his bounce back from the title loss to José Aldo. If he defeats Rodriguez on Saturday and Max Holloway defeats Aldo, then Edgar may end up with a third crack at Featherweight glory. A loss could see the New Jersey native try his craft at another weight class.

Rodriguez on the other-hand is an unorthodox and flashy striker whose quickness and athleticism allows him to utilize a variety of kicking techniques. He is riding an eight fight win streak, including winning the Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. Most recently, ‘El Pantera’ destroyed BJ Penn in brutal fashion, adding the first big name to his list of victories.

Pick: The key to this fight may be Edgar’s wrestling. If he can get the Mexican down then he will have success, even though Rodriguez is a great scrambler. The threat of a takedown might force Rodriguez to be more cautious with his approach and may take away his biggest weapon- the kicks.

‘El Pantera’ will attempt to keep the fight at range as he is the taller and lengthier fighter, and he needs to be in position to use his kicking game to full effect. Edgar is a master of closing distance however, and his experience in big fights will have a huge say in the outcome. Rodriguez has a lot of potential, but ‘The Answer’ is as elite as they come and may be a bit too much too soon for Rodriguez.

Prediction: Edgar via unanimous decision

 

Middleweight: David Branch (20-3) vs Krzysztof Jotko (19-1)

Branch returns to the UFC after a successful six years away from the organisation where he became World Series of Fighting Middleweight and Light-Heavyweight champion hoping to make it to the top of the UFC’s 185lbs division. But this growing division is as deep as ever, and Jotko presents a tough challenge on his return.

Many UFC fans will know Branch as the fighter that got knocked with a slam Gerald Harris, but rest assure, he is a much better fighter now. His last loss was in 2012 to former light-heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson at Titan FC 22. From there he went to join World Series of Fighting where he would go undefeated and capture two championships. Branch is a methodical fighter who likes a controlled pace to set up counter strikes as he opponents come in. He is also a powerful Middleweight who has good timing with his takedowns, but he is going against a fighter with very good takedown defence in the UFC. Jotko could take one step towards Middleweight contendership with a win here. It is no doubt the biggest fight of the Pole’s career.

Pick: It is interesting to note that it has been a long time since Branch prepared for a three round fight. Championship bouts allow for more patience and time to get into a fight. Three round fights require fighters to do more earlier, otherwise the fight could go out of reach. That could play in Jotko’s hands. The Pole is the more aggressive of the two fighters and could outpoint Branch to a decision victory.

Prediction: Jotko via split decision

 

Prelims

Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
Featherweight: Jason Knight vs. Chas Skelly
Lightweight: Marco Polo Reyes vs. James Vick
Women’s Strawweight: Jessica Aguilar vs. Cortney Casey
Featherweight: Jared Gordon vs. Michel Quinones
Heavyweight: Rashad Coulter vs. Chase Sherman
Featherweight: Enrique Barzola vs. Gabriel Benitez
Light-Heavyweight: Joachim Christensen vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov

UFC 211 takes place on Saturday May 13th on BT Sport

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