Ladies and gentlemen, the day is finally here! UFC 211 will finally be upon us!
What was a stacked card from the get go has sustained a few hitches as most cards do, but thankfully, the five biggest fights, all of which could headline their own FOX card, are all intact. Four of those fights are on the main card, and while the Flyweight bout between Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis did get scratched, the rest of the main card is still intact.
Both title fights are huge and essentially tossups, while the two other originally scheduled bouts are pivotal top 10 matchups that could be potential title eliminators. It’s a gigantic card, the best UFC PPV main card in a long time, and here are my picks for all five fights on the slate.
UFC 211 Main Card (10/9c, UFC PPV)
David Branch (20-3) vs. Krzysztof Jyotko (19-1)
The main card opener was originally going to be a major Flyweight tilt between Sergio Pettis and former UFC Flyweight title challenger Henry Cejudo. Sadly, Cejudo had to bow out due to injury on Wednesday. As a result, while Pettis will get his show money, the fight has been cancelled.
In its place is an intriguing bout between David Branch and Krzysztof Jyotko. Branch is back in the UFC, and that’s great to see. He was shockingly cut from the UFC in early 2011, despite going 2-2 and being very active. In the six years since, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt has gone 12-1, with the lone loss coming in early 2012 against Anthony Johnson via decision. He’s won ten straight since, and became a double champion for WSOF before defending both belts, and then leaving for the UFC again.
It’s a good fight that’s worthy of being on a big spot, but as a main card opener? That’s a bit surprising. That’s because while it’s a notable fight, it might not exactly be the most entertaining fight, to say the least. Jyotko has a great record and is very good, but 12 of his fights, including nine of his last 13 bouts have gone the distance. Branch also has eight decision wins, and both have similar fighting styles. This one could either shock everyone by being really good, or it might be predictably lackluster, which is not something you want from your main card opener.
Jyotko is younger and fresher, but I think Branch will win. It’ll be an interesting fight, but I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t go down to the final minutes. Prediction: Branch via decision/late tko.
(2) Frankie Edgar (21-5-1) vs. (7) Yair Rodriguez (10-1)
Frankie Edgar is undoubtedly a UFC Hall of Famer. He’s a former UFC Lightweight Champ, has been in countless great fights, and embodies MMA’s version of Rocky, in many ways. Despite his size, he reigned supreme in a stacked Lightweight division from 2010 to 2012, and at Featherweight, he’s established himself as a contender who is better than every Featherweight not named Jose Aldo. Hell, if Aldo loses next month to interim champ Max Holloway, and Edgar wins tonight, we might get Edgar vs. Holloway for Holloway’s first title defense!
Before that can happen though, “The Answer” will need to get past TUF: Latin America winner Yair Rodriguez. A black belt in Taekwondo, “El Pantera” defeated Leonardo Morales by decision to win the TUF: Latin America Featherweight crown in November 2014, and has won all five of his UFC bouts since then. He’s won five times via decision, but whenever he doesn’t win via decision, he tends to win via highlight-reel knockout. He’s won three times via knockout-first via flying knee in 2013, then by flying head kick against Andre Fili in the UFC, and then via front kick and punches against BJ Penn in his last fight.
As impressive as Rodriguez has been, this is undoubtedly the toughest fight of his career. He’s easy to root for, but this is a case of a potential contender being thrown up against a proven champion who’s still got a lot left in the tank. I’m not saying Rodriguez can’t win, because he can. However, this fight feels a lot like Edgar’s second ever Featherweight bout-a co-main event against Charles Oliveira in July 2013, and I see this one being the same result as that one. Prediction: Edgar via decision.
(3) Demian Maia (24-6) vs. (5) Jorge Masvidal (32-11)
In the middle bout, Demian Maia will take on yet another tough opponent before getting a title shot which he deserved forever ago. He’s 18-6 overall in the UFC, including 9-2 at Welterweight, and six straight wins. During that winning streak, he’s defeated Alexander Yakovlev, a surging Ryan LaFlare, a rising Neil Magny, consistent contender Gunnar Nelson whom he dominated, Matt Brown, and most recently, a quick, dominant sumbission win over former Interim Welterweight champion Carlos Condit. That last fight was Condit’s first since barely losing his title fight against Robbie Lawler early last year, and Maia dominated him. He’s a 4th degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, has 12 submission wins, and even though he’s not the most “exciting” fighter, been deserving of a title shot for a long time.
Masvidal is very good. He’s been in the UFC for a long time, and has won three straight since his rough patch, including a stunning knockout victory over Donald Cerrone in January. He’s won 13 fights via knockout. He’s also gone the distance 25 times in 43 career fights, and has a history of starting well, before coasting and either barely winning or losing. That won’t fly against Maia. If Maia gets a hold of Masvidal, then he’ll choke “Gamebred” out. Masvidal has only been submitted twice, and the last time was by Toby Imada in 2009. Maia is a different animal though, and I’ve got him taking the win tonight. Prediction: Maia via submission, round 2.
UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship: (c) Joanna Jedrzeczyk (13-0) vs. (3) Jessica Andrade (16-5)
In the co-main event of the evening, UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Hedrzeczyk will return to the city and building where she was crowned UFC champion two years ago. Thsi time, she’ll take on the woman that might be the toughest challenge she’s faced to date in Jessica Andrade.
Andrade began as a Bantamweight, going 4-3 in the UFC in that division, before moving down to the Strawweight division. Since doing that, Andrade has become a killer, winning all three fights she’s had in the division, two via finish, and is a legitimate threat to Jedrzeczyk. She’s finished 12 of her 16 career wins, including seven via submission.
That said, Jedrzeczyk is undoubtedly the best fighter Andrade has ever faced. While eight of her 13 wins have come via decision, she’s a relentless and precise striker who was a five-time amateur Muai Thai champion, and she’ll bring the heat against Andrade too. Whether Andrade can stand up to her or take her down, or not at all, is to be seen.
Honestly, this is a really tough fight to pick. My head and heart say Joanna will stay champion, but my gut differs. Anything can happen, and no result will shock me. Head pick: Jedrzeczyk via decision/late tko. Gut pick: Andrade via tko/decision.
UFC Heavyweight Championship: (4) Junior dos Santos (18-4) vs. (c) Stipe Miocic (16-2)
In the main event of the evening, two of the most likable Heavyweights in MMA today will take the stage, as Stipe Miocic will look to make history by becoming the first UFC Heavyweight champion to successfully defend his title twice. That sounds crazy, but that’s the truth. In order to accomplish that feat, he’ll need to defeat the man who last defeated him, in what was an incredible fight.
Miocic is a terrific wrestler with great power. He’s won twelve of his 16 victories via knockout, including four straight since losing to JDS in December 2014. If he wins tonight, not only will the firefighter be making history, he’ll also be vanquishing his last loss.
As for dos Santos, the man who began his career 15-1, including winning his first nine fights and being the man to defeat Cain Velasquez for the Heavyweight title on the first ever UFC on FOX card in late 2011, has gone 3-3 in his last six fights. Granted, two of those losses came against Cain Velasquez with the last one being in October 2013, and he has beaten Stipe, Ben Rothwell and Mark Hunt in that span. However, he hasn’t had multiple fights in a year since 2013, and it’s fair to question if he can fight as well tonight as he did in his fight against Ben Rothwell last April.
In my eyes, this fight is a tossup. Junior’s taken more damage, but he still has a really good chin, great boxing, and is actually younger than Miocic. Miocic has been fighting much more frequently and better than dos Santos has in the past few years though, so it’s fair to wonder what will happen. Both men are great, classy ambassadors for the sport. No matter who wins, the winner will be worthy of holding the title. I want JDS to win, but Stipe will probably retain his title. Head pick: Stipe via decision. Heart pick: JDS via knockout, round 4.