The biggest and best UFC card of 2017 hits when the Octagon sets up shop in American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas for UFC 211. The card is highlighted by two title fights with Stipe Miocic and Joanna Jedrzejczyk aiming to defend their championships against a pair of Brazilian challengers in Junior dos Santos and Jessica Andrade.
The rest of the card is absolutely loaded, with four other fights that could realistically be title eliminators. No hyperbole, this is the best card the UFC has brought to the table since UFC 205.
Stipe Miocic vs Junior Dos Santos
Stipe Miocic (-140) isn’t the flashiest fighter in the division but is one of the most technically sound and athletic heavyweights in the world. Miocic’s game is built around a great boxing game that capitalizes on his experience in that sport. He will constantly probe with a long jab and does some amazing work while countering. There may not be a better fighter in the division in terms of throwing power in a phone booth, as Miocic seems to have an abnormal amount of power when his strikes are thrown in confined spaces. His stellar footwork allows him to be the aggressor or patiently wait for the counterpunch – see his knockout victory against Fabricio Werdum.
Miocic is much more than a striker, as he was a former D1 wrestler and has adapted this style extremely well to MMA. Generally speaking, he prefers to use these skills defensively but is plenty capable of taking an opponent down and suffocating them. This strong wrestling game is used in a secondary capacity, as Miocic can shoot in for a takedown or feint to open up his opponent to his hands. At the very least, an attempt at a takedown allows Miocic to close the gap and fight in tight again.
Once on the mat, Miocic isn’t exactly a world-beater. On top, he is heavy and will throw a constant stream of strikes. Seeing as he only rarely gets taken down – the last time was his first fight with dos Santos – we haven’t seen a lot of what Miocic offers from his back.
Junior dos Santos (+110) is a powerful marvel who fights in a straight line. The former UFC heavyweight champion has some of the hardest hands in the division and that is paired with some of the best hand speed for the big guys. Over time, “Cigano” has added more strikes to his repertoire – including a spinning wheel kick he used to end Mark Hunt – but he is still mainly a boxer. Dos Santos likes to walk down his opponent and trap them, so he can then unleash a flurry of punches that is near impossible to escape. JDS is at his absolute best when he can use his superior hand speed and power to win slugfests.
Dos Santos has some fantastic wrestling defense, as Cain Velasquez is the only man in the UFC to take him down more than once in a fight. He does tend to back up in a straight line, which we saw several times in the first fight with Miocic, which allowed the now champion to tee off.
We rarely see much in terms of ground work from dos Santos. If he is on top, he is heavy and will look to wear down his opponent. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a solid pedigree on the mat but JDS wants to brawl on the feet.
I feel like, at this point in their careers, Miocic is almost an evolved form of dos Santos. Both men want to throw fists and tend to keep the fight standing thanks to tremendous defensive wrestling ability. However, Miocic has better footwork and a more refined wrestling game. The first bout between these two was a brawl with both guys riding waves of momentum and huge punches. Since then, Miocic has refined his technique and I think he is far less likely to get into a slugfest. Not to say these guys won’t swing the leather, but Miocic will engage more tactfully and pick up the win.
Prediction: Stipe Miocic (-140)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Jessica Andrade
Jedrzejczyk (-185) has a technical and violent striking style that is mesmerizing to watch. It all starts with the jab, as she uses it to dictate the range of the striking battle and to disrupt the timing of her opponent’s attack. Jedrzejczyk will attack at all three levels, which causes confusion for her opponent about where they should be guarding. Over time, we watched her striking evolve from a largely fist-based, boxing approach to that of a multi-faceted fighter who can damage a fighter at range or in tight with a multitude of weapons. It’s all about pace and volume, as Jedrzejczyk likes to go after her opponent and chip away at their defenses. She is plenty capable of performing the stick-and-move technique from a distance but Jedrzejczyk likes to inflict punishment.
Her clinch game is viciou especially when she starts unleashing her stinging elbows. Rarely will she find her back on the fence but she will attack from that position. Her defensive wrestling is almost impenetrable, aside from Claudia Gadelha who is the best wrestler in the division by a wide margin, due in part to her aggression. If a fighter shoots in on Jedrzejczyk, she simply blasts them with strikes while evading the takedown.
Jedrzejczyk doesn’t really want the fight on the mat but she’s solid if it goes there. Rarely will she have much top control because she will just look to separate and get back to the feet. On the mat, she is a competent scrambler but does like to get to the fence to help her get back on her feet.
Andrade (+150) is a whirling dervish of violence. She is small for the division but uses an aggressive, bursting striking attack to overwhelm her opponent. She is a swarming presence who will throw vicious combos that mix strikes to the head and body – a location she loves attacking. ‘Bate Estaca’ tries to get her opponents back on the fence where she can unleash a flurry of strikes that can consist of 20-30 shots. Defensively, Andrade has some weaknesses. Her short stature and lack of head movement mean that a skilled, speedy opponent can pick her apart from a distance. Andrade also has a tendency to lean back to avoid strikes, which can leave her vulnerable to a huge, unprotected hook.
Andrade is also ridiculously strong and this comes into play in her grappling exchanges. We have seen her simply toss her opponent around the Octagon like a rag doll – see her fight with Joanne Calderwood. She is a stud in her defensive wrestling game due to her technique and low center of gravity.
If Andrade gets top control, she will violently rain down strikes on her opponent but is also plenty capable of grabbing a hold of submissions. She has a specific capability of finding her opponent’s neck to lock in a tight guillotine. With her strength and wrestling ability, Andrade likes to force her opponent to the cage on the ground to limit their scrambling options.
Andrade is really the biggest threat to Jedrzejczyk’s title. ‘Bate Estaca’ is an aggressive, violent fighter who can finish a fight in every aspect of the game. However, Jedrzejczyk is so technically sound and intelligent that I see her being able to outlast Andrade and pick her apart from a distance.
Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (-185)
Demian Maia vs Jorge Masvidal
The reason Demian Maia (EVEN) has become such a dominant fighter in recent years is because of his pressure-based striking attack. He has adapted his style and footwork to create a perfect striking offense to force his opponent backward until he can get them on the fence. It also helps that he is a southpaw, which adds another layer of difficulty for many opponents, especially when Maia is throwing his crisp left hand.
Once a fight is on the cage, it is Maia’s world. He will work single legs, double legs, trips and basically every possible technique imaginable to take his opponent down. His versatility and ability to chain together different techniques constantly have his opponent guessing and if they guess wrong, the fight goes to the mat.
Now, let’s get down to it. There may be no better BJJ practitioner in MMA today (ever?) than Maia. If you find yourself on the mat with Maia, no matter what your skill level, you are screwed. If you question this, watch Maia dismantle Gunnar Nelson for 15 minutes. His ability to chain together passes and wrestling techniques constantly, while also angling for submissions, makes him lethal. He clamps down on his opponent and just hunts for the back like a dog searching for a bone. Sometimes it seems like Maia can play with his food a bit too much and he can gas if forced to work constantly. But, he can easily win fights in this state once it goes to the ground.
Jorge Masvidal (-130) can no longer be called underrated after viciously finishing his past two fights against Jake Ellenberger and Donald Cerrone. In those fights, we saw Masvidal’s technical striking ability on full display. “Gamebred” is one of the better pure boxers in the UFC and you can see that with how well he uses his jab. He constantly uses it to probe and set the rhythm of the fight on the feet. When he bites down on his mouthguard and throws, Masvidal strings together wonderful combinations with plenty of power. He has rounded out his offensive arsenal with more and more kicks over time. Maybe the most impressive aspect of the striking game is Masvidal’s defense, as he combines head moment, footwork and angles to avoid damage and set himself up for nice counters.
The rest of Masvidal’s game is what I would call above-average. He keeps his technical prowess in both the clinch and wrestling aspects of fighting. In the clinch, he throws cutting elbows and vicious knees.
Obviously, this is Masvidal’s biggest test in terms of grappling. His ground game is generally underrated, as he does have some sneaky submissions. However, it’s his scrambling that will be really put to the test. Holding Masvidal down is no easy feat and he tends to find a way back to his feet. We have seen Masvidal coast in grappling exchanges – and in his game overall – in the past and that is a recipe for disaster in this one.
This fight feels like it is going to be a see-saw. Maia should get on top early and control Masvidal but as his gas tank dwindles, I see “Gamebred” picking apart the submission specialist on the feet. That is assuming it goes that long, I see Maia being able to control Masvidal long enough to get the rounds if he doesn’t get the sub sooner.
Prediction: Demian Maia (EVEN)
Frankie Edgar vs Yair Rodriguez
There is no doubt that Frankie Edgar (-150) is one of the best, potentially underappreciated fighters to ever step foot inside the Octagon. His skill set revolves around his movement. On the feet, he is constantly moving to find the best angles to jump in, drop a slick combination and get out. Once inside, you never know what combination Edgar will throw, as he has great boxing skills.
This footwork also plays a huge part in Edgar’s grappling game, as his constant movement frequently gives him opportunities to strike or shoot for a takedown. This has become even more apparent since moving down to featherweight, as he is able to combine his technique with power he would be giving up at lightweight. Just watch Edgar’s dominance of Jeremy Stephens in his most recent outing when he took down the power puncher five times. He has certainly decided to make more of an effort to work the takedown since moving down to featherweight and is a suffocating, relentless worker.
Now that Edgar has the size to hold his opponent down on the mat, we can really see him becoming more aggressive. Once in top position, he will start throwing more violent ground and pound than we have seen in his recent outings. Edgar also has some serious skills and can pass with relative ease once he gets control on the ground.
Yair Rodriguez (+120) is a unique breed of striker. “El Pantera” has a black belt in taekwondo and it is apparent with the amount of kicks he throws, especially head kicks. His wealth of experience in the martial art means that he can throw kicks from every conceivable angle and position. Rodriguez can do this thanks to his footwork, as he needs to maintain a certain amount of distance to properly utilize his kicks. His footwork has only gotten better and better over time as well thanks to his experience training at Jackson-Wink. This movement and distance also makes Rodriguez very difficult for opponents to hit.
In terms of grappling, Rodriguez has the natural ability to dominant in the clinch due to his size. His length and height advantage allows him to naturally leverage his opponent into perfect positions to land knees. Rodriguez also has plenty of skills in terms of takedown offense from the clinch with good trips and sweeps.
Being on the ground isn’t exactly where Rodriguez wants the fight, but he is competent and active in this spot. If he is on his back, he will throw strikes and angle for sweeps to force a scramble, where he is an expert. In top control, he has some heavy strikes and can pass with relative frequency.
This is a tough fight to predict. Edgar is one of the best at mixing his skill sets together and keeping his opponent off balance but the Toms River native is giving up a lot in terms of reach. Getting inside Rodriguez’ kicking range will be critical but “El Pantera” is lethal in the clinch and forcing the fight to the cage may be dangerous for Edgar. Ultimately, I think Rodriguez can match Edgar’s footwork and piece together a decision victory.
Prediction Yair Rodriguez (+120)
Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis
You have surely heard about Henry Cejudo’s (-450) Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling, the UFC will never let you forget that. But he has shown to be more of a striker through his tenure with the company. “The Messenger” is a solid boxer who measures distance well with his lead hand. Once he finds that range, he tends to jump in quickly and throw his powerful hands. We have seen Cejudo incorporate kicks more and more, which was apparent in his fight with Joseph Benavidez.
We know that Cejudo is a fantastic freestyle amateur wrestler but he has rarely used it offensively during his tenure with the UFC. He only has a 31% takedown accuracy and has only landed more than two takedowns in a fight once in his six fights with the organization – that includes five fights going the distance. His wrestling has made him impossible to take down, though.
Cejudo feels very young in his MMA career. The technical aspects are coming slowly and he is still learning the difference between wrestling and MMA grappling. He tends to rely on his natural speed and power more than anything.
Sergio Pettis (+325) is a technical marvel on the feet. He has great footwork, takes fantastic angles and has a patience one can only gain from years of striking experience. Sergio doesn’t have the flashy techniques that his brother does, but his refined, technical approach means he can competently throw crisp combos.
Pettis will throw in the occasional takedown and he does a solid job once he gains top control. Most offensive wrestling is used as a way to keep his opponent honest, as Pettis certainly prefers to be on his feet. “The Phenom” has gotten better in his defensive wrestling and is now at a point where only some of the higher-end grapplers in the division can take him down consistently.
Cejudo is determined to be a striker and I think that he does so at great risk. Pettis is calm and well-refined in the striking game, which I believe means Cejudo gets slowly pieced up if this fight stays standing. Cejudo continues to focus too much on one aspect and not blending his skills together, leading to Pettis picking up the decision victory.
Prediction: Sergio Pettis (+325)
UFC 211: Miocic vs Dos Santos 2 Betting Odds
Odds as of May 8 at Bovada
- Stipe Miocic -140
- Junior dos Santos +110
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk -185
- Jessica Andrade +150
- Demian Maia EVEN
- Jorge Masvidal -130
- Frankie Edgar -150
- Yair Rodriguez +120
- Henry Cejudo -450
- Sergio Pettis +325
- Eddie Alvarez -105
- Dustin Poirier -125
- Chas Skelly -125
- Jason Knight -105
- Krzysztof Jotko -185
- David Branch +150
- James Vick -400
- Marco Polo Reyes +300
- Courtney Casey -125
- Jessica Aguilar -105
- Jared Gordon -160
- Michael Quinones +130
- Chase Sherman -165
- Rashad Coulter +135
- Gabriel Benitez -205
- Enrique Barzola +165
- Gadzhimurad Antigulov -365
- Joachim Christensen +275