UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos Full Card Preview and Predictions
Two long, UFC-less weekends left many fans clamoring for UFC 210 but, unfortunately, the card left few feeling satisfied. While the promotion wasn't necessarily planning on Saturday's event to go poorly, they're likely going to console many fans with UFC 211 on May 13.
The full card officially stands as follows:
- Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
- Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal
- Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
- Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez
- Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
- Krzysztof Jotko vs. Dave Branch
- Chas Skelly vs. Jason Knight
- Marco Polo Reyes vs. James Vick
- Gabriel Benitez vs. Enrique Barzola
Card order is yet to be determined and other bouts are likely to be attached to the event but even so, this stands as an exceptionally strong event.
So let's take a look at UFC 211 as it officially stands and go over the key details for each fight.
Preliminary Card Bouts
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Dave Branch
After six long years, David Branch is back in the UFC. The former two-division WSOF champion has been one of the best fighters outside the Octagon for years now and will have the chance to show he still belongs by taking on Krzysztof Jotko. The Polish prospect is on an impressive run of late, though, and has a real chance to take the win.
Jason Knight vs. Chas Skelly
A 24-year-old prospect, Jason Knight picked up a big submission win over Alex Caceres back in January. The UFC is still curious as to where he fits in the featherweight division, though, and is giving him something of a "wrestler test" in the form of Chas Skelly. The Texan traditionally makes quick work of good-but-not-great opposition and it will be interesting to see if Knight fits into that category.
Marco Polo Reyes vs. James Vick
The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2 competitor Marco Polo Reyes has been on a bit of a run since the show concluded, and the UFC wants to see if it actually has a legitimate contender on its hands. The 10-1 James Vick is a great way to find out.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Enrique Barzola
With the UFC still pruning its roster, this could be a fight that the headsman watches closely. Benitez and Barzola, to this point, have not shown anything to suggest they have an especially high ceiling, and if that doesn't change at UFC 211, one of them could get a pink slip.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
2016 was a rollercoaster of a year for Eddie Alvarez. A narrow decision win over Anthony Pettis set him up with a surprising championship bout against Rafael Dos Anjos. He captured the title in dramatic fashion but took the most devastating defeat of his career in his first defense at the hands of Conor McGregor. Now he enters UFC 211 in rebuilding mode.
He looks to rebound off a formidable Dustin Poirier, but that's no small task. The Diamond is 5-1 since moving up to the lightweight division and should give the former champ a run for his money. Still, Alvarez's solid boxing should carry him to victory.
Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez
The UFC has never done an especially good job of nurturing prospects. Granted, that will happen when a key part of matchmaking is ensuring fighters can't demand performance-based pay raises, but Yair Rodriguez was supposed to be different.
The winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 1 is an absolute godsend for the promotion, owning high-level skills, an exciting-to-watch style and extreme marketability in a potentially lucrative region. If ever there was a fighter to turn into a pet project, it would be him. Instead, they're giving him a too-much-too-soon fight with former champ Frankie Edgar, who should be able to outpoint him en route to a convincing judges' decision.
Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
Henry Cejudo has already lived up to his potential but finds himself in an awkward spot after a loss to Joseph Benavidez. Sergio Pettis, for a time, seemed to be the opposite but has turned things around in a big way by defeating former contenders Chris Cariaso and John Moraga.
That makes this a critical fight for both men, with Cejudo looking to regain his footing while Pettis looks to establish himself as an elite talent. If Pettis has put everything together, this could be a very competitive fight. That said, he'll have a tough time taking the win without stopping Cejudo.
Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal
Records: Demian Maia (24-6), Jorge Masvidal (32-11)
If the UFC were a legitimate sports organization, Demian Maia's career would be in a very different place at this point.
After several up-and-down years at middleweight, Maia dropped to 170 pounds and instantly established himself as a contender with wins over Dong-Hyun Kim, Rick Story and Jon Fitch. While he stuttered a bit after that, taking decision losses in back-to-back competitive fights, he has since broken off a downright fearsome six-fight winning streak composed almost entirely of ranked opposition.
Unfortunately, wins and losses mean very little in MMA these days. As a snifter of cognac in a beer drinker's sport, Maia's otherworldly grappling skills have largely gone unappreciated by both fans and UFC brass, with five of his six most recent fights landing on free television.
The UFC, frankly, seems to want Maia to lose and that's a sentiment his next opponent, Jorge Masvidal, picked up on. "I got the call from UFC, they figured out one thing, they can use me to take out all the guys the don't like," he said last month on The MMA Hour (h/t MMA Mania). "So, I'm here baby, I'm going to do what I do come May 13."
Gamebred could be up to the task, too.
Long a technically solid fighter that struggled to woo judges, Masvidal has reinvigorated his career with a move to welterweight, an amplified mean streak and a well-timed win over a surging Donald Cerrone. Now with Maia in his sights, he has the opportunity to go from being Dana White's hitman to a bona fide title contender.
That's easier said than done, though. While the UFC would like nothing more than for Maia to go away, there are few capable of making that a reality. Masvidal may have a better chance than most, given his high-level striking and strong discipline, but the most likely outcome is Maia making it seven in a row.
Prediction: Demian Maia def. Jorge Masvidal by Unanimous Decision
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
Records: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0), Jessica Andrade (16-5)
The UFC has put the vast majority of female fighters into a very awkward position. Its slow adoption of new weight classes has left many talented fighters stranded within divisions, often finding themselves facing larger competition or forced into brutal weight cuts.
For a long while, Jessica Andrade was part of that lot. Woefully undersized at 135 pounds, she competed against some of the largest fighters in the division, amassing a respectable 5-3 record through scrappiness alone. When she made the plunge down to 115 pounds, though, she instantly asserted herself as one of the division's best by thrashing Jessica Penne.
From there, strong victories over Angela Hill and Joanne Calderwood set her up as the next in line for a shot at Joanna Jedrzejczyk's title. The Brazilian's ferocious striking and strong nose for finishes make her, arguably, the toughest test to date for the champ. That isn't necessarily saying all that much, though.
Since mauling Carla Esparza to take the title in 2015, Jedrzejczyk has hit few speed bumps en route to becoming one of the most dominant women in MMA. With exceptional cardio and a highly technical striking game, she has managed to take convincing wins over all comers, defending her title four times thus far and looking all but unstoppable along the way.
That aura of invincibility, alongside a distinct stylistic advantage makes Jedrzejczyk the clear favorite over any opponent for the foreseeable future—Andrade included. That isn't to completely write off Andrade, however. She could most certainly capture the title if she can clip the champ with a hard punch.
That's a big enough "if" that it leaves her as a less than appealing underdog, though.
Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk def. Jessica Andrade by Unanimous Decision
Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos
Records: Stipe Miocic (16-2), Junior Dos Santos (18-4)
There's a lot to like about UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic. Heck, there has been for years now.
The Clevelander has turned legitimate athleticism and strong foundations in wrestling and boxing into a deceptively strong MMA package. That dynamic skill set, while not especially fearsome, allows him to hang with any opponent in any area of the cage.
The UFC bought into that toolkit in a big way back in 2014 and attempted to crown Miocic the next elite heavyweight by pitting him against former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos. Those plans were derailed, however, when JDS edged out Miocic on the scorecards.
Miocic's stock still rose in defeat, but the blemish on his record stalled his career for a length of time. He recovered, capturing the heavyweight title in 2016 and defending it from Alistair Overeem last September, but the stars aligned and brought him together with Dos Santos once again, with the stakes at UFC 211 being considerably higher than their first encounter.
JDS enters the cage largely the same fighter that outpointed the champ two-and-a-half years ago. One of the best pure boxers in MMA, he has the hand speed and accuracy to work over nearly any heavyweight fighter in the sport. Despite being a bit shopworn at this point, his physicality and quickness keep him as a serious threat to every heavyweight in MMA.
This should be an incredibly competitive fight and one that comes down to Dos Santos' takedown defense and cardio. If he can stay upright, turn the fight into a boxing match and put in 25 strong minutes, he can become a two-time heavyweight champion. The odds are stacked against him, though, as he will likely enter the cage a bit rusty against a fighter capable of outworking him in the latter rounds.
Prediction: Stipe Miocic def. Junior Dos Santos by Unanimous Decision