UFC 211 Predictions: Main Card Staff Picks

Craig Amos@@CAABRMMAFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2017

UFC 211 Predictions: Main Card Staff Picks

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    Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The UFC returns from a two-week hiatus this Saturday, May 13, with a tantalizing card headlined by a heavyweight title tilt.

    Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos will square off to determine who earns the accolade as the baddest man on the planet. The two previously faced off back in 2014, Dos Santos earning a razor-thin decision victory over the champ. Since that time, however, Miocic has caught fire, reeling off four straight knockouts along with the world title.

    The co-main event, meanwhile, features the baddest woman on the planet, as strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her strap against the hard-charging Jessica Andrade. The Brazilian challenger has been perfect since dropping to the strawweight division, but she faces a new level of challenge in a champion who has been as dominant as they come.

    After the title fights stop, the intrigue continues with three competitive matchups rounding out the main card. All told, the impressive roster looks like this:

    • Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos
    • Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
    • Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal
    • Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez
    • Krzysztof Jotko vs. David Branch

    Leading up to the momentous Dallas, Texas, fight card, which kicks off 6:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, Bleacher Report has assembled the usual predictions team to provide you with some insight into how the bouts are likely to play out. Read on for picks from Scott Harris, Nathan McCarter, Steven Rondina and Craig Amos.

Krzysztof Jotko vs. David Branch

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    Jotko is coming off a big win over Thales Leites.
    Jotko is coming off a big win over Thales Leites.Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    Branch has looked great since exiting the UFC, as he has posted a 12-1 record in that time, but the competition hasn't been top tier. I'm not sure how to gauge where he is until I see him back in this matchup. Lucky for him, this is an appropriate first fight back inside the Octagon.

    I'm still going to lean toward Jotko. Branch will need to grind out a decision, but I don't think Jotko will allow that to happen. He employs his length to keep Branch outside and score en route to a clean sweep.

    Jotko, unanimous decision

    Steven Rondina

    Jotko's win over Thales Leites was a coming-out party in my book. He's a high-end middleweight and can take wins over lots of the best 185-pounders. Branch included.

    Jotko, unanimous decision

    Scott Harris

    The UFC is continuing its tradition of giving hard welcomes to standouts from other organizations. Jotko and his kickboxing are both getting better each time. Branch is more well-rounded, though, and should nab the decision in his Octagon debut.

    Branch, unanimous decision

    Craig Amos

    Branch is a card-carrying journeyman on a fantastic run. Jotko is an up-and-comer on a similarly fantastic run. The equation doesn’t produce a static answer, but more often than not, victory falls to the younger man.

    Jotko, unanimous decision

Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez

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    Edgar (left) will look to hand Rodriguez (right) his first UFC loss.
    Edgar (left) will look to hand Rodriguez (right) his first UFC loss.Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    Is Edgar past his prime, or is this too much too soon for Yair? That's the question that will be answered. I'm thinking it's the former. Edgar has taken so much punishment over the years, and Rodriguez will hit him. Edgar's legendary recovery abilities are a thing of the past, and Rodriguez finishes the former lightweight champion.

    Rodriguez, TKO, Rd. 1

    Steven Rondina

    Too much, too soon for Rodriguez. I'm expecting this fight to look eerily similar Edgar's 2015 fight with Cub Swanson. He'll take him down, pound on him a bit, and either take this one late or get the nod from the judges.

    Edgar, unanimous decision

    Scott Harris

    Edgar will move in and out and avoid Rodriguez's flashy power strikes. The Mexican is a great young talent, but Edgar is a former UFC champion for a reason. Footwork, not power, wins this particular day.

    Edgar, unanimous decision

    Craig Amos

    I like McCarter's question, but I like Rondina's answer. Rodriguez’s ascent seems foregone, but even the biggest stars in the sport encounter speed bumps on their way up. Edgar has the tools to slow any rise, and his wrestling will be especially useful on Saturday night. Rodriguez may use this fight as a lesson to grow, but that doesn’t mean it won’t sting.

    Edgar, unanimous decision

Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal

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    A title shot may be in the cards for either Maia (left) or Masvidal (right).
    A title shot may be in the cards for either Maia (left) or Masvidal (right).Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    I am in love with this fight. Can I marry this matchup?

    Maia will be able to finally claim that elusive welterweight title shot. Maia closes the distance and clinches with Masvidal, who won't be able to stay on his feet. An inside trip from Maia scores the takedown. Once on the mat, with time, Maia will find a submission. Masvidal is a live dog...until the fight hits the canvas.

    Maia, submission, Rd. 2

    Steven Rondina

    It's nice to see Masvidal finally being appreciated, but there are very, very few people I'd pick over Maia. Masvidal isn't one of them.

    Maia, submission, Rd. 3

    Scott Harris

    Maia literally drags people down to his level. Maybe Masvidal is a good enough grappler to avoid a submission and maybe he's not, but barring a flash knockout, it will be hard to resist Maia altogether.

    Maia, submission, Rd. 2

    Craig Amos

    As with every one of Maia’s opponents, Masvidal’s fate depends upon his ability to stifle the takedown. He’ll be able to sprawl and make Maia pay for committing himself, and in the process, rack up the points needed to pull out the W. It's hard not to want to see Maia land a title shot after such a long road, but I don't like this matchup for him.

    Masvidal, unanimous decision

Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade

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    Jedrzejczyk (left) is looking to pick up title defense No. 5 against Andrade (right).
    Jedrzejczyk (left) is looking to pick up title defense No. 5 against Andrade (right).Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    I was much more excited for this matchup until Andrade fought Angela Hill. Her performance against Hill showed so many glaring holes where a quicker, harder-hitting Jedrzejczyk can capitalize. If Andrade has a similar showing, it'll be yet another runaway showing by the champion.

    That's not to discount Andrade here. She's got KO power and a strong ground game. She has outs in this fight. Jedrzejczyk is a bad matchup for her. Even in UFC Embedded, the fight-week YouTube series, Andrade admitted that she has faith in her chin because she knows she'll get hit. That's not something to admit. Andrade needs to land something clean in the opening frame or it's a rout.

    Jedrzejczyk, unanimous decision

    Steven Rondina

    Andrade is damn good, but her style plays directly into Jedrzejczyk's hands. Unless the champ is starting to lose steam after three consecutive grueling title defenses, she should be able to wrangle Andrade and outpoint her to a clean decision win.

    Jedrzejczyk, unanimous decision

    Scott Harris

    The champion will pile up damage over time to make the difference. Andrade is bigger and stronger, but so was Claudia Gadelha.

    Jedrzejczyk, unanimous decision

    Craig Amos

    Andrade is a terribly dangerous opponent, and it feels plausible that she can bulldoze the champ, just as she has her other opponents. It’s tempting to go with the upset. Jedrzejczyk, though, is so technically sound that she should be able to handle the onslaught. This one should be exciting and competitive.

    Jedrzejczyk, unanimous decision

Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos

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    Miocic (left) would like to avenge his loss to dos Santos (right).
    Miocic (left) would like to avenge his loss to dos Santos (right).Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    Junior is starting to seem like the old Junior again. I'm just not sold on him being able to absorb that amount of damage anymore. That's the crux for my pick. Miocic retains with a clean right hand.

    Miocic, TKO, Rd. 2

    Steven Rondina

    Miocic is, in my opinion, the overall better fighter between these two, but JDS is a fighter who is tailor-made to beat him. Unless Miocic can find his groove wrestling, I'm expecting JDS to stay behind his jab, outpoint Miocic and take a less-than-thrilling decision win.

    Dos Santos, unanimous decision

    Scott Harris

    Expect another battle. Dos Santos can win this fight, especially if he can steer clear of being pinned down by Miocic's pressure. I'm giving it to the champ, though, based mainly on his motivation to avenge this loss in their first contest.

    Miocic, unanimous decision

    Craig Amos

    I felt that Miocic deserved the nod the first time these two squared off. Since that time, he’s only grown, while Dos Santos has turned in one subpar performance and one vintage performance. The latter outcome provides hope for the Brazilian, but it’s not convincing enough for me to pick against the champion.

    Miocic, TKO, Rd. 3