The Complete Guide to UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos 2
Start the Dallas theme song.
Now slowly fold in the fisticuffs. Don't be stingy, either.
Now we've got something.
Welcome once again to big league MMA. After a very long stretch of spotty cards, here comes UFC 211, and Saturday's event packs a ton of heat.
The evening's main event witnesses one of the sport's favorite rituals: finding the baddest man on the planet. UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic defends his formal and informal titles against the last man to defeat him, Brazilian power boxer Junior Dos Santos.
Moving from the largest UFC division to the smallest offers no equivalent departure from bloodsport, bro. Women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk brings her heretofore unbested muay thai attack against volume-punching challenger Jessica Andrade.
Those are the main and co-main events of the evening, but they're only the final two bouts on a Texas-sized 14-fight card in Dallas. (Editor's note: it's 13 after flyweight Henry Cejudo announced an injury that led to the cancellation of his bout with Sergio Pettis.) There's a lot to look forward to in this one.
Are you ready to learn all about it? After the team bade farewell recently to senior analyst Patrick Wyman, I'm in the preview saddle once again. That's right, I, Scott Harris, will take you all the way through this complete guide to UFC 211. As you struggle to productively channel your elation, let's get it rolling.
The Fight Pass Prelims
Joachim Christensen (14-4, 1-1 UFC) vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov (19-4, 1-0 UFC)
Christensen made a name for himself with that demonic uppercut he landed on Bojan Mihajlovic in January. That was the converted boxer's first UFC victory. Not to be outdone, though, Antigulov needed only 67 seconds to demolish Marcos Rogerio De Lima last November. This is a fun and fiery curtain-jerker, and a great matchup for a division that needs all the help it can get. The Dagestani's takedowns and top control will make the difference.
Prediction: Antigulov, unanimous decision
Gabriel Benitez (19-5, 3-1 UFC) vs. Enrique Barzola (12-3-1, 2-1 UFC)
Two talented veterans of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America do battle for a step up in the crowded featherweight division ladder. Besides having one of the more interesting nicknames on the UFC roster, Gabriel "Moggly" Benitez, fresh off a chokeout of Sam Sicilia, is sitting a little prettier than Barzola. Both men are strikers first, with Barzola carrying more power. He'll pull off the mild upset.
Prediction: Barzola, TKO, Round 2
Chase Sherman (9-3, 0-2 UFC) vs. Rashad Coulter (8-1, 0-0 UFC)
This has all the makings of a classic heavyweight fight. Infer from that what you will.
The favorite, Sherman, does one thing and one thing only: stalks you down, puts hands on you and knocks you out. All nine of his pro wins came that way. However, Justin Ledet and Walt Harris each used superior precision and athleticism to deny Sherman a taste of UFC success. This may be his last chance.
The good news if you're a Sherman fan is that Coulter is a Dallas guy basically there for some hometown cred. At 35 years old, this is his UFC debut. He also likes the knockout, but Sherman should be able to tune him up.
Prediction: Sherman, KO, Round 3
Jared Gordon (12-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Michel Quinones (8-1, 0-0 UFC)
Boy, this Fight Pass slate is really, uh, robust. Usually it's just two or three contests, but this one has five. A sign of things to come? Just wondering.
Gordon is the putative attraction in this one, having taken the express train to relevance thanks to Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight. His harrowing and inspiring back story also turns its share of heads.
After some injury delays, Quinones gets his own debut. He swarms for flash knockouts, and in this instance, that aggression is liable to get him stopped in entertaining (for us anyway) fashion.
Prediction: Gordon, TKO, Round 1
Jessica Aguilar (19-5, 0-1 UFC) vs. Cortney Casey (6-4, 2-3 UFC)
Casey is making a name for herself as the Joe Lauzon of her division. Win or lose, she's putting on a violent show.
She has a similarly rangy build. Listed at 5'7"—Aguilar by comparison is 5'4", and co-main event title challenger Andrade is 5'2"—Casey pieces people up with a well-rounded game. Neither of her two UFC wins went past the first round, while her first two UFC contests (both losses) netted her post-fight performance bonuses.
Aguilar is a more conservative customer, preferring control wrestling over anything else. But it's very effective for the former World Series of Fighting champ, and it will be so again Saturday.
Prediction: Aguilar, unanimous decision
The FX Prelims
Marco Polo Reyes (7-3, 3-0 UFC) vs. James Vick (10-1, 6-1 UFC)
First, a public service announcement: The UFC 211 televised prelims air on FX, rather than their usual FS1. You've been warned.
Now then, on to Reyes and Vick. The real subplot in this one is whether the power-striking Reyes—five of seven pro wins by knockout—can find Vick's shutdown button. It's a tall order, almost literally, with the 6'3" Vick holding a serious height advantage on the 5'11" Reyes. Go ahead and add reach as well, with Vick at 76" and Reyes at 71".
What about on the ground? Reyes has never attempted a takedown and has only a 40 percent takedown defense rate, according to the UFC. That would seem to suggest vulnerability—except, what's this: Vick has never attempted a grand total of one takedown himself.
So this one stays standing. Reyes isn't quite polished or quick enough to get inside on Vick, and that's your ballgame.
Prediction: Vick, unanimous decision
(NOTE: This fight was moved up to the pay-per-view main card after Henry Cejudo's injury canceled his bout with Sergio Pettis)
Krzysztof Jotko (19-1, 6-1 UFC) vs. David Branch (20-3, 0-0 UFC)
The headline here is Branch's debut in the big, bad UFC. You may (or may not) know Branch as the quietly dominant New Yorker who held and defended not one but two titles under the World Series of Fighting banner.
It has long been observed that the UFC doesn't exactly make the way smooth for top fighters from other promotions. That unspoken tradition continues with their enlistment of Jotko to drive Branch's welcome wagon.
Like Branch, the Pole is relatively little-known, but his game is plenty loud. He fires stiff punch combinations and mixes in ever-improving kickboxing.
Branch is more well-rounded, with heavy hands and black belt jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie. Jotko has good takedown defense, but the thicker, stronger Branch should be able to maul him in the clinch or on the ground. Jotko is a brown belt himself but he'll fall under the sword of a motivated Branch.
Prediction: Branch, submission, Round 3
Chas Skelly (17-2, 6-2 UFC) vs. Jason Knight (16-2, 3-1 UFC)
Knight has earned plenty of fans for his aggressive volume boxing, in-cage taunting and out-of-cage microphone work, all positively Diaz-esque.
Also like the Diaz brothers, Knight has some very physical jiu-jitsu and is lethal from his back. (He learned under Alan Belcher, by the bye.) But don't believe me; believe the 10 wins he's compiled by submission.
Skelly is absolutely no slouch on the ground. He's well-rounded and plenty experienced.
Call me crazy, but I think Knight nabs this one. It will go all the way, and every minute will be fun. The Mississippian nabs a close decision.
Prediction: Knight, unanimous decision
Eddie Alvarez (28-5, 3-2 UFC) vs. Dustin Poirier (21-5, 13-4 UFC)
What a prelim headliner. Man, this should be a good scrap.
After moving to the UFC following a successful, multiple-title stint in Bellator, Alvarez grabbed the UFC lightweight title, then held it for four months. He lost it to Conor McGregor in Madison Square Garden at UFC 205.
This is his first fight since, and naturally, redemption is in the air. Primarily a counterfighter, Alvarez uses some really terrific movement to evade shots and deliver his own. Opponents probably shouldn't think about a takedown shot, either. His defense against such things is a sterling 92 percent. In general, wrestling is a strong deterrent against any would-be ground fighter.
But here comes Poirier. The Louisiana native has been on some kind of run since abandoning his featherweight experiment and returning to 155 pounds. The Diamond is aggressive and relentless, regardless of the class.
This fight may hinge on whether he can do it inside. He's a demon in the clinch and can create a submission threat from there, not to mention his wicked knees and punches. He's terrific on the mat, but Alvarez and his wrestling-based submission game doesn't make that a slam dunk.
This should be a terrific fight and a tremendous bit of matchmaking from UFC brass. It's a brilliant move for them to set this up as the prelim headliner for this event. This is basically a dead heat. Give me Poirier by virtue of his creativity in the scrambling phase.
Prediction: Poirier, unanimous decision
Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez
Frankie Edgar (21-5-1, 15-5-1 UFC) vs. Yair Rodriguez (10-1, 6-0 UFC)
This fight may be exciting.
Edgar is going to be the same waterbug he's always been, and I mean that in the best possible way. The footwork makes everything go and makes him hard as all get-out to hit. I'm mixing my animal metaphors now, but he's a sandpiper in there as he darts in, inflicts his damage and darts back out. On top of that, takedowns are always a threat, as are submissions from the top.
Four submissions and six knockouts on his record speak to his well-roundedness, although the large majority of his fights go the distance.
Rodriguez is one of the UFC's most exciting youngsters. The 24-year-old Mexican hasn't lost since entering the Octagon. His last fight, a demolishing of B.J. Penn, didn't teach us much because Penn probably shouldn't have been in there, but it did continue Rodriguez's dominance. He's a wild, creative range striker. He is by no means afraid to fire off a spinning wheel kick or jumping knee in there. What sets him apart is that he can actually land these things. And when he smells blood, you better watch the hell out.
He's not the world's most well-rounded fighter, but to date that hasn't mattered much. Edgar could change that.
Edgar -248, Rodriguez +192
I'm sort of at a loss to understand why UFC matchmakers would pit Rodriguez in a matchup as bad as that posed by Edgar. Is Rodriguez capable of finding Edgar's chin and putting him away? Surely. But I wouldn't put any money on that. Edgar is tailor-made to put water torture on guys like Rodriguez.
Edgar, unanimous decision
Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal
Demian Maia (24-6, 18-6 UFC) vs. Jorge Masvidal (32-11, 9-4 UFC)
OK, what you want to do for this fight is, you want to batten down the hatches. As many hatches as you may be able to access. Masvidal himself has predicted violence on an "X-rated" level. Do I know what that might entail, exactly? Nah. But I bet it will be fun.
Let's start, though, with the great Demian Maia, who at this rate may find himself the Dan Marino of MMA, no thanks to UFC matchmakers.
It's not that hard to break down Maia's game. He's the hottest fighter (arguably, I guess) in the entire UFC, ripping off six straight against the welterweight division's creme de la creme. He's big for a welterweight, and he uses that power advantage to drag down opponents the way a lion drags down a gazelle. Then, he takes their back. Then, he either submits them or, if it's a particularly wily gazelle, smothers them into oblivion.
That formula meets a fascinating foil in Masvidal, who has recently come into his own as a UFC star.
His stirring second-round knockout of Donald Cerrone was a watershed moment, but his elite MMA boxing could kick this up to a whole other level this Saturday. Masvidal has a reputation as a glorified Miami street fighter. That reputation is earned to a point. On one hand, you know, uh, he is literally a glorified Miami street fighter. On the other hand, his game is well-rounded, technically sound and dangerous, even at the very highest levels.
Masvidal has a well-earned reputation for aggressiveness, but in reality his defense is what makes him tough. Like Edgar earlier on this card, Masvidal has great quickness and footwork and is very difficult to hit. What's more, he's only been submitted twice in his long pro career, and the last time it happened was 2009, thanks to the famous backpack inverted triangle from Toby Imada back in Bellator.
Maia -210, Masvidal +145
In this humble man's opinion, there is no mortal welterweight on any active roster who can currently handle Demian Maia. He is a force of combat-sports nature and his heavy, heavy grappling game is simply overwhelming. If Maia can submit Carlos Condit in the first round, he can even beat someone as tremendous as Masvidal.
Maia, submission, Round 2
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0, 7-0 UFC) vs. Jessica Andrade (16-5, 7-3 UFC)
"Punches in bunches" is kind of a silly phrase, but it's familiar for a reason. Both these fighters will refamiliarize us with that phrase Saturday night.
According to official UFC stats provided by FightMetric, Andrade is third all-time in strikes landed per minute with 6.8. Jedrzejczyk is sixth with 6.45.
The challenger moved to strawweight less than a year ago and hasn't looked back. She has beaten Jessica Penne, Joanne Calderwood and Angela Hill in succession—and picked up two performance bonuses in the process. Lest you think she's nothing but a fast-handed free swinger, Andrade is also powerful and capable in the clinch and as a wrestler.
Jedrzejczyk is one of the best kickboxers on this planet, at least in an MMA context. She just uses pressure and cardio to stalk you down and chew you up.
That won't work against Andrade.
There will be some fascinating exchanges in this contest, and Andrade may seize the advantage more often than any other UFC opponent to date, including Claudia Gadelha.
Jedrzejczyk -235, Andrade +160
Andrade is going to be hard for the champion to control, both in space and in the clinch, the latter of which has been a typical fallback for the champ. Nevertheless, Jedrzejczyk will find a way to inflict the greater amount of damage and will stay poised when the challenger does not.
Jedrzejczyk, unanimous decision
Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos
Stipe Miocic (16-2, 10-2 UFC) vs. Junior Dos Santos (18-4, 12-3 UFC)
What springs to mind about Miocic is efficiency. His base is boxing and he stays true to that base come hell or high water. This is not to say he's a one-dimensional fighter, but suffice it to say, he is comfortable dancing with the horse that brung him.
A deep gas tank powers his approach, which relies on what is essentially continuous movement. His footwork facilitates his offense and defense, allowing him to cut angles and steer clear of aggression. He looks to pressure opponents and cut off the cage, limiting their movement. He'll sometimes brawl in the pocket, which doesn't always go his way, but when it happens, there's a better-than-average chance it happened on his terms.
As far as ground fighting, just take a look at his record. There's only one submission on the ledger, and that was a tap to strikes. By contrast, he has racked up 12 knockouts. So you know where his preferences lie. But as mentioned, deception isn't really in the Miocic playbook.
Miocic wrestled in college, so it's not like he's a babe in the woods in this phase. Quite the contrary; he's plenty competent with his takedowns and his takedown defense, and he can certainly hold his own in the clinch. On the mat, his approach is more or less exclusively of the ground-and-pound variety. He doesn't like to fight off his back.
Dos Santos' career of late has unfolded in fits and starts. Injuries occur and the inactivity mounts up; this is only his sixth fight in the past four years. He's only competed once a year for the past three.
The former champ is no spring chicken at 33 years old and has battled with guys like Cain Velasquez and Miocic—Dos Santos won that fight back in 2013, but not before his head swelled up like an overripe melon—so his chin may be a bit suspect.
That said, it was vintage Junior last year when he decisioned Ben Rothwell. So if you're thinking we have a tale of two Juniors here, you are thinking accurately.
Miocic -245, Dos Santos +175
This is a tough fight to call. Dos Santos can absolutely win this fight. Miocic will try to cut off the cage with his footwork, but if Dos Santos looks the way he did against Rothwell, the champ may not be successful.
Chin concerns override all of this, though, and even if Miocic has to eat shots to give them, it will end up as a net positive for the champ. These men, as they did last time, will hurt each other. This time, Miocic will come out on top.
Miocic, unanimous decision
Betting odds courtesy of OddsShark and current as of May 10.
Scott Harris covers MMA for Bleacher Report and is available on Twitter.