UFC 211: Miocic vs. dos Santos 2
Welcome back to the MMA DFS Playbook for UFC 211. The UFC returns to Dallas, Texas for the first time in 2 years for UFC 211, headlined by a heavyweight title bout. Heavyweight kingpin Stipe Miocic puts his title on the line against the last man to defeat him, former champion Junior dos Santos. Another title is up for grabs in the co-main event, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her championship against Jessica Andrade. I’ll preview the more notable bouts and offer insight, as well as my selections. The usual disclaimer applies here: Always be on the lookout for last second fight cancelations, as we already had one earlier in the week.
Stipe Miocic ($8,500) vs. Junior dos Santos ($7,700)
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Stipe Miocic looks to defend his title for a second time when he faces Junior dos Santos in a rematch of their December 2014 bout. The champion has rattled off 4 wins a row since the contentious decision loss to dos Santos, all in dominant fashion. TKO wins over Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski earned him a shot at the heavyweight title, where he brutally knocked out Fabricio Werdum in Brazil. He then defended that title against Alistair Overeem, winning by KO after nearly losing by submission.
dos Santos has only fought twice since defeating Miocic, splitting those bouts. Following a devastating TKO loss to Overeem, he rebounded against Ben Rothwell with a dominant performance, halting Rothwell’s 4-fight win streak in the process. He displayed vintage dos Santos skills in that bout, earning the rematch against Miocic.
Since the first bout, Miocic has gotten better in seemingly every facet of the game, and has the look of a dominant champion. He brutalized elite competition in Hunt, Arlovski, and Werdum, and showed he’s capable of overcoming extreme adversity in his bout with Overeem. His boxing was already on point, but has continually improved in every bout. His wrestling is also improving with time, and he remains dangerous once the fight hits the mat. Meanwhile, dos Santos has been perplexing to me. He looked downright awful in his bout against Overeem, and I came away with the impression that he had nothing left after that fight. He then proved me wrong by dispatching Rothwell with relative ease, picking him apart with a vintage dos Santos striking clinic.
I’m not expecting anything different in this bout with regards to each fighter’s game plan. I envision both men sticking to the striking game for as long as this one goes. I think Miocic has improved too much for dos Santos to dethrone the champion. I also think that the wars that Dos Santos has endured inside the UFC has impaired his ability to take damage. With the heat that Miocic throws behind his punches, that will lead to a short night for the Brazilian. After a feeling out process, both men will land their shots, with Miocic landing the more devastating blows. dos Santos may make it to the middle rounds, but not much longer than that. Miocic finds a home for his right hand late in the 2nd round, retaining his belt with a KO victory.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk ($8,800) vs. Jessica Andrade ($7,400)
The queen of the strawweights returns to defend her title for the 5th time, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk looks to halt the momentum of challenger Jessica Andrade. Jedrzejczyk has looked unstoppable since her debut with the promotion, dispatching every opponent, while showcasing world-class muay thai and boxing. She returns to Dallas, where she won the title in a brutal beat down of the inaugural strawweight champion, Carla Esparza. Her newest challenge will be Andrade, who has also looked incredible since her move to the 115-lb. division. Andrade finally made the move to strawweight after consistently being the smaller fighter in her bouts. It looks to have been the right move, as she’s 3-0 at strawweight, and fights with a ferocity rarely seen in the division.
The fight should be a good one. Andrade employs a style that is very reminiscent of former Jedrzejczyk foe Claudia Gadelha, who gave the champion fits in both of their fights. The champion will certainly try to keep the bout on the feet, where she can use her combinations to score points in the exchanges. Andrade should look for the takedown early and often, as Gadelha was extremely successful in scoring points in the grappling department. Andrade can learn from Gadelha’s mistakes as well. While Gadelha pushed the champ, she tired in the later rounds, allowing Jedrzejczyk to make a comeback in the later rounds. If Andrade is going to emerge as the new strawweight champ, she’ll need to have her cardio in order. I think this fight will play out much like the Jedrzejczyk-Gadelha battles, but I think the champ is finally dethroned. Andrade will take the champ down, and win the early rounds with her smother top game and ground and pound, while mixing in submission attempts. She’ll continue that offense into the later rounds without gassing. I expect Jedrzejczyk to make a furious rally again, but I think she’ll be too far behind on points for it to win her the fight. I’m taking Andrade in the upset, and she wins by decision.
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Jorge Masvidal ($8,400) vs. Demian Maia ($7,800)
A shot at the welterweight title is likely on the line here, when Jorge Masvidal faces Demian Maia. Pressure is at all-time highs for both men who put their winning streaks on the line for a crack at the belt held by Tyron Woodley. Masvidal is riding a tidal wave of momentum after his shocking beat down of Donald Cerrone. Masvidal was a sizeable underdog going into that bout, but managed to hand Cerrone an unbelievable TKO loss. At 32 years old, he seems to finally be hitting his stride in the UFC, and could be on the cusp of challenging for gold.
For Maia, this could be his last chance to put himself in position to capture a UFC championship. Riding a 6-fight win streak, he likely just needs to emerge victorious to earn the match-up with Woodley. Since venturing to welterweight, Maia has finally returned to a style of fighting that puts him in the best position to win. Maia is a jiu-jitsu wizard, but fell in love with striking for a period during his tenure at middleweight. Since going back to a jiu-jitsu centered offense, he has looked unstoppable, especially in his recent submission victories over Matt Brown and Carlos Condit.
This is going to be an incredible clash of styles, and it will be interesting to see which fighter is able to implement their offense more effectively. Masvidal will have the advantage in the beginning, with the fight starting on the feet. How long can he keep it there for? If he can stop Maia’s take downs, he should cruise to victory with his punishing striking game. That will be a tall task, as no one has been able to keep Maia off them during this dominant run. Masvidal has run into problems with fighters who can enforce an effective grappling offense in the past, and I see that happening here. Maia has been nothing short of incredible during his winning streak, absolutely smothering his opponents before submitting them with ease. I think he’ll be able to tie up Masvidal enough to force an eventual take down, where he can go to work on the mat. It will only be a matter of time before he forces “Gamebred” into making a mistake, where he’ll capitalize with a submission. I’m taking Maia by rear-naked choke in the 1st round, earning his shot at Woodley.
Frankie Edgar ($8,600) vs. Yair Rodriguez ($7,600)
We’re going to find out a lot about the enigma that has been Yair Rodriguez to this point in his career, as he faces his toughest foe to date, Frankie Edgar. Though Rodriguez has already become a human highlight reel in his short time in the UFC, he has not yet faced anyone that even comes close to the caliber that Edgar is. He is being thrown to the wolves now, so it’s time to sink or swim. Rodriguez will bring a 6-fight winning streak into the match-up, with his last win coming over legend B.J. Penn by brutal TKO, ending a bout that never should have happened. He’s shown an ability to successfully showcase a wide array of striking techniques that are risky, as well as flashy. He’ll need to bring everything in his arsenal to take out the former lightweight champion.
Frankie Edgar remains one of the top dogs at featherweight, as he rebounded from his one-sided defeat to Jose Aldo, defeating Jeremy Stephens in November. That fight wasn’t close, and proved that Edgar still has a lot left in the tank. Before the Aldo loss, he soundly defeated Chad Mendes, Urijah Faber, and Cub Swanson. A win over Rodriguez will undoubtedly put him back on the short list of contenders for the featherweight championship.
Is Rodriguez ready for such a drastic step up in competition? I’m just not sure that this was the best match-up for him this early in his career. While he obviously needed stiffer competition, Edgar represents much more than that in my opinion. Stylistically, it’s a horrible pairing for Rodriguez, as I think Edgar should be able to take “El Pantera” to the mat whenever he wants. Rodriguez has not yet proven he is capable of effective offense off his back, and he may need to do a lot of that here. Though I don’t like his chances, Rodriguez has looked impressive enough that it’s entirely possible that he is the next big thing in MMA, and we are about to witness it. His striking is unorthodox yet polished in its own way, and should he land one of his kicks, Edgar could end up on the end of another spectacular highlight. I don’t think he will. Edgar is too smart to play that game with Rodriguez. I see Edgar landing take downs at will for 3 rounds, avoiding the crazy strikes, and landing effective ground and pound. This will prove to be a learning experience for the young Mexican prospect. The pick is Frankie Edgar by unanimous decision.
Krzysztof Jotko ($8,700) vs. David Branch ($7,500)
Surging Polish middleweight Krzysztof Jotko takes on the returning David Branch in the opening bout on pay-per-view. The 9th ranked Jotko will look to keep the momentum rolling as he gets his biggest exposure in the big show. The Pole has won 5 straight fights, including his last bout where he beat the always tough Thales Leites in Brazil on the scorecards. Opposing him will be Branch who has kept busy since his dismissal from the UFC in 2011. After being cut from the promotion, Branch went on to become arguably the most successful fighter World Series of Fighting has ever had, winning the middleweight and light heavyweight titles with a combined record of 10-0.
I’m intrigued to see if Branch’s immense success in the WSOF will translate to the UFC where the talent is much deeper. He looks incredibly improved from his first run, and the experience in championship bouts should lessen the nerves of returning to the UFC. Jotko provides a stiff test for his return, which shows me the UFC believes Branch to be an elite fighter now. I believe Branch will have a successful run in this stint, and the bout with Jotko should be a a solid starting point. While Jotko has been successful to this point in his UFC tenure, he has not yet fought stiff competition. Aside from the win over Leites, he hasn’t had to fight anyone of Branch’s caliber, so it remains to be seen if the top 10 ranking is justified. Jotko is tough, but doesn’t possess anything special regarding finishing fights, with only 7 of 19 wins ending with a finish. There will be a feeling-out process in the beginning before Branch finds a takedown or a trip to the mat, where he’ll be able to work his elite jiu-jitsu game. The submission should come shortly after. I’m taking Branch to win by submission in the 2nd frame.
Eddie Alvarez ($8,100) vs. Dustin Poirier ($8,100)
What great fight to headline the FS1 prelims before the pay-per-view portion of the card. Former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez battles Dustin Poirier in a bout with big implications on the lightweight rankings. Alvarez returns to action following his destruction at the hands of Conor McGregor, who absolutely embarrassed the former champ at UFC 205. Prior to the horrific loss, Alvarez won 3 straight over elite competition in Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis, and Rafael Dos Anjos. Alvarez finally looked like the world beater he was in Bellator with the TKO win over Dos Anjos that earned him the 155-lb. title. He’ll look to right the ship against a very dangerous opponent in Poirier.
“The Diamond” moved back to lightweight following his own devastating lost to McGregor at featherweight, and it looked like he was on the fast track to a title shot, winning 4 straight bouts in dominant fashion. That streak was halted when he was flat-lined by Michael Johnson last year, following a heated build up to the fight. Poirier rebounded with a razor-thin decision victory over Jim Miller in February, and a solid win over Alvarez could put him back into the thick of the lightweight title picture.
This bout is my early favorite to win “fight of the night” honors, and I wouldn’t so much as blink while this one lasts. Both men employ an incredibly fan-friendly style of fighting, and should provide fireworks for viewers. The fight should play out on the feet for most the time, and both fighters will find success at various points in the fight. Alvarez could easily shake things up with a timely take down or two, so Poirier’s wrestling defense needs to be on point should the former champ try to surprise him. Whoever has the crisper striking is going to pull away in the end, and my money is on Poirier to take it. Poirier is younger, faster, and looks like the hungrier fighter to me. In an extremely close contest, Poirier does enough damage to take home a decision victory from the judges.
Chas Skelly ($8,200) vs. Jason Knight ($8,000)
After Jason Knight defeated Alex Caceres in a thriller in January, he called out Doo Ho Choi, exciting fans about the possibility of such an exciting potential match-up. While we weren’t lucky enough to get that fight, the UFC matchmakers made up for it with a potentially exciting bout between Knight and Chas Skelly. Knight has emerged as a very exciting prospect in the featherweight division, winning his last 3 bouts after dropping his debut to veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri. The bout against Caceres highlighted his go for broke, aggressive style that fans enjoy. He takes on Skelly who has been a solid addition to the featherweight ranks. A winner in 6 of his last 7 bouts, Skelly would creep closer to the top 10 with a win over Knight.
This is another bout that will set the right tone for the rest of the card. While Knight and Skelly employ very different offenses, they are both exciting in their own ways. Knight has some wild striking with an equally wild, but extremely effective submission game. Skelly is an elite wrestler, but does not use his wrestling game to simply hold his opponents down. He also has an effective submission game, with 10 of his 17 wins coming by way of the submission. I can see this bout having fireworks early with both fighters firing off submission after submission attempt. I like Knight as a prospect long term, but I feel like Skelly is the more polished fighter right now. He’s also the physically stronger fighter, and I can see him landing more offense inside the guard of Knight. In a competitive match, I’m taking Skelly to win by unanimous decision.
James Vick ($9,500) vs. Marco Polo Reyes ($6,700)
Opening the FS1 prelims is a bout featuring lightweights looking to take another step forward in the crowded lightweight division as James Vick takes on Marco Polo Reyes. Vick has started off his UFC career nicely since his time on The Ultimate Fighter, winning 5 fights in a row at one point, and is 6-1 overall. He rebounded from his first professional defeat, a KO loss to Beneil Dariush, when he submitted the gritty Abel Trujillo in February. I was thoroughly impressed with Vick in that bout, as he displayed a vast improvement in his striking game from his loss to Dariush. He picked Trujillo apart for most the fight before tapping him with a D’Arce choke. Reyes is another fighter with a strong start to his UFC career. Since debuting in 2015, Reyes has a perfect 3-0 record within the UFC, including 2 impressive knockouts.
It will be interesting to see who gets the upper hand here in this bout. Both guys have excelled in their UFC stints to this point, and the winner will undoubtedly be thrust into bigger fights in the future. I’m taking Vick in this one. It should be a close fight, as Reyes is more than capable of having his moments in the striking game, but I have been very impressed by Vick lately. I picked against him in his bout with Trujillo because his striking didn’t impress me. The loss to Dariush exposed some holes in his striking game that I didn’t think would hold up well against a brawler like Trujillo. Vick proved me wrong, as he used his reach advantage perfectly and showed a marked improvement in his overall game. I think he’ll be wise to employ a similar strategy against the shorter opponent here. Vick will land the cleaner strikes and utilize a long jab leading to a close decision win.