UFC 211 has 13 fights on the card. You read that right. Thirteen fights!!! The violence meter is sky high for what is easily the best card to grace the MMA world in 2017 after a few clunkers and disappointments started the year off on the wrong foot. The main/co-main event are both title fights with compelling story lines and great fighters from an aesthetic point of view as both JDS/Miocic and Andrade/Jedrzejcyzk love being involved in wars of attrition. The main event will be a rematch of one of the best heavyweight fights in UFC history, as both JDS and Miocic quite literally went blow for blow in a 5 round war that JDS was just able to edge out despite both men looking like a bloody mess. It’s unlikely the rematch turns into a war again as both men have improved their striking defenses since then, more notably JDS since his surprising KO loss to Overeem. Joanna Jedrzejcyzk has been dismantling the 115 pound division for the last couple years, as this will be her 5th title defense and possibly against the toughest opponent to date. Ever since Andrade moved down from 135 pounds, she’s been a wrecking ball with her stocky build and lethal combination of speed and power. The 115 lb division was a great fit for Andrade, as she was just much too short for 135 pounds and still has the speed to keep up with the quicker opponents at strawweight. The fight could very, very easily crack 100+ sig strikes for each fighter by the 3rd round, and I’m not even exaggerating as Joanna has hit 100+ sig in every title defense thus far and Andrade has hit 100+ in her 2 out of last 3 fights at strawweight. Whew. And that’s just the freakin’ co-main event! Masvidal vs Maia will be a title contender fight, with the winner likely fighting whoever the WW champion may be afterwards. Woodley? Nick? GSP? Then you got Dustin Poirier vs Eddie Alvarez that just screams violence all over it. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Yes indeedy, there’s even MORE to the bananas card with a tremendous fight between Yair Rodriguez and Frankie Edgar on the main card. AND….ok, that’s enough. The point here is it’s 13 fights and only MAYBE one fight looks really boring on paper. My body is ready to give energy to all of these incredible fighters and I hope yours is as well. On a side note, since it is a 13 fight card, I will be skipping the intros for the majority of the fights, so Google will be your friend if you want the background for certain fighters.
Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs Joachim Christensen
Antigulov is riding a 13 fight overall streak and finishing in 12 of those 13 wins. He also fought in the Russian promotion ACB, which has some surprisingly solid talent and has been on the come up with their addition of talented fighters. Christensen is coming off an unimpressive KO win over Bojan Mihajlovic and got submitted in his UFC debut against Luis “Frankenstein” Henrique. Antigulov is a tireless Sambo wrestler with some really impressive hip work and quick reflexes for a light heavy-weight. He’s equally aggressive on the ground as he is in hunting for take-downs, which would explain why 14 of his 19 career wins have come by submission. Christensen is a BJJ black belt but didn’t look like it against Frankenstein, and honestly, I thought he would batter Bojan around if the fight stayed standing. Christensen did get in some big shots but looked lethargic and a little slow overall, which isn’t a good thing considering Antigulov is better everywhere outside of his stand-up against Christensen. I haven’t seen anything that tells me Christensen can stop Antigulov’s offensive wrestling, and as far as grappling goes if you lose in that department against Luis Henrique, you’re probably not going to last long in the UFC. Antigulov has some legitimate offensive wrestling and a personality that’s a great fit for his skill-set and the LHW division. Pick this man for your cash team cuz he’s gonna rack up the points through take-downs if he doesn’t finish it in the 1st round.
Antigulov via 3rd round anaconda choke
Enrique Barzola vs Gabriel Benitez
Barzola was the lightweight winner in TUF Latin America 2, but will be moving down to featherweight against Benitez. He’s primarily a selective wrestler that attacks if an opponent puts himself out of position after a strike. It’s what makes him such an effective wrestler, but it’s also what makes Barzola a snoozer other times. Barzola will often find himself backing away and being hesitant to throw anything on the feet, waiting for the moment to pounce on a single leg take-down or a slam from the clinch. Facing an opponent who can out-grapple him will probably force Barzola to have to be extra vigilant on his take-down attempts, and Benitez being a BJJ black belt with a very good guillotine choke just expounds on Barzola’s inability to effectively close the distance by himself. Benitez’s a solid southpaw striker, utilizing plenty of low and side kicks to set up the left straight, and he’s very cognizant of where he is in relation to his opponents. That prevents over-extending himself and allows Benitez to be able to quickly drop down his hands for either underhooks against take-down attempts or to set up a front head-lock. If Barzola had any sort of stand-up that didn’t consist of haphazard ducking hooks in a futile attempt at closing the gap for a take-down attempt, he might have a chance against Benitez. Barzola just isn’t a threat on the feet and struggles mightily at checking kicks, then you add in Benitez’s guillotine choke and grappling skills negating any successful take-downs. That’s why Benitez’s a good sized favorite. Benitez already has 2 guillotine choke victories in the UFC, and a third one isn’t out of the question considering Barzola’s stylistic approach to his fights. I’ll guess a decision with some close calls from Benitez later in the fight once he turns on the pressure against Barzola.
Benitez via unanimous decision
Chase Sherman vs Rashad Coulter
This is one of those rare occasions where a scheduled fight between two guys end up having a replacement fighter for both sides. Coulter is 8-1 with all wins by KO/TKO. Sherman is on a 2 fight UFC losing streak and is coming off an embarrassing KO loss to Walt Harris. This is going to be one extremely average and possibly excruciating to watch once it goes past 1 round. Both guys will essentially be short notice, so I’m not going to expect two stellar, in shape heavyweights that can go heavy (no pun intended) for 3 rounds. With that said, I think Coulter has the best chance to get the early finish since he seems to have the better combinations and Sherman’s chin got cracked several times by Walt Harris. However, Sherman will have a 4 inch height advantage but a 1 inch disadvantage (key point here) on Coulter, and against Justin Ledet he was able to still create offense and land some big shots despite being completely exhausted. That could be crucial in a low level heavyweight fight, where if it doesn’t finish in the 1st then it usually means 2 laboring, sluggish HWs try to paw their way to victory much to the chagrin of the audience. Sherman sits behind a long jab and can land some hard kicks, but generally lacks the footwork to really make the 1-2 punch work in his favor. Sherman is stationary much too often and just doesn’t move enough to really take advantage of his length and stiff jab. Coulter may be an unknown with some really mediocre opponents fought but he does have some solid countering skills and seems to move enough to put away Sherman in the 1st. If he doesn’t, be prepared for the opposite of a slobber knocker as both guys pant their way to a decision.
Coulter via 1st round KO
Jared Gordon vs Michel Quinones
Both men will be making their UFC debuts and both have limited tape available to see their styles. From what I could gather, Gordon is a power puncher with some good grappling skills (BJJ brown belt) and was on Dana White’s “Lookin’ For A Fighter” show. That’s not a good thing as the majority of those “discovered” by White have generally been an utter disappointment thus far. Gordon has some solid defensive skills and is very compact as a striker, with a booming right hand counter and a stalking presence on the feet. Wrestling wise, it’s nothing to write home about but he does have some good back takes and his grappling is clearly advanced enough to mold into a good overall fighter. Quinones is a longer, lankier fighter with the more creative striking offense and relies heavily on his ability to land the head-kick. He often circles around his opponent, inviting them into his range and uncorking a quick 1-2 combination with a head-kick finisher. Quinones is also a adequate grappler with a dangerous guillotine choke, but generally tries to stay elusive on the feet and become a difficult opponent to get their hands on. Neither guy seem to want to be the aggressor in most of their fights, with Quinones often throwing out single kicks every now and then but preferring to sit back and wait. Gordon is more productive as a counter-striker, having dismantled a similar opponent in his last fight against Bill Algeo, though that was against a southpaw with less movement and worse defensive striking. I can see why Gordon is the slight favorite over Quinones since his right hand of doom and stalking forward pressure can shut down the Taekwondo game of Quinones, but the lack of aggression from Gordon worries me a little bit. Algeo was willing to let Gordon come forward and trade without much resistance. If he lets Quinones get into a rhythm and finds his range, it’ll be a very close fight. Maybe Gordon decides to take it to the ground but I think they’re both capable grapplers and that should be a neutral area for both. I’ll pick Quinones by decision just because he’s the more creative striker and I have no idea how Gordon will try to attack him.
Quinones via unanimous decision
Cortney Casey vs Jessica Aguilar
Casey was on a little bit of a tear with a 2 fight win streak before Gadelha showed her what wrassling was all about. She’ll get former WSOF champion Jessica Aguilar, coming off an ACL tear that sidelined her for a year. Aguilar’s a balanced fighter with good boxing skills that’s more about continually changing angles and landing a high amount of 1-2 punch combinations. She doesn’t have much power behind them but it gets the job done, as it helps Aguilar pace around her opponent to try and set up any level changes or clinch-ups. Aguilar has no real strength to her game, relying mainly on picking apart from range and simply being the much better overall fighter. Casey, on the other hand, is much more unpredictable than Aguilar and does have some dangerous grappling skills. Casey tries to land the big shot through her head-kicks and generally tries to push the pace whenever she can but struggles against fighters who can immediately end her aggression through wrestling. That’s where Aguilar comes in, as she excels against pressure fighters simply by knowing when to engage in a take-down attempt or get inside through clinching. Aguilar’s last fight against Gadelha was a little bit of a weird one as it was her UFC debut but was consistently getting beat to the punch and countered to death by Gadelha, who isn’t known for her striking. Maybe it was the debut jitters, or maybe Aguilar wasn’t actually as good as we thought she was. Whatever the case may be, Aguilar cannot let Casey continually counter her over and over especially if Casey’s 4” height/3” reach advantage starts to overwhelm Aguilar. Ideally, Casey should try taking advantage of her length and stay at range, but I don’t trust Casey with her aggressive nature and lackadaisical take-down defense against Aguilar’s savvy wrestling and strong top control. Despite Casey’s very active guard, I don’t see her getting out of Aguilar’s top control to avoid losing the round to her. For that reason, I’m going with Aguilar just based on her fight IQ and ability to control the fight wherever it goes.
Aguilar via unanimous decision
James Vick vs Marco Polo Reyes
I keep picking against Vick and he keeps letting me know I’m a fool for doing it. Too bad! I’m picking against Vick again and it’s for one reason only. His chin! Polo Reyes may be nothing more than a surprisingly adept power boxer, but sometimes that’s all you need in MMA. Vick has the length (4 inches height, 5 inches reach) on Reyes and is better everywhere outside of maybe from a pure boxing standpoint. And yet, the one thing that continues to haunt Vick has been the main reason I pick against him: HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO BE TALL. What I mean by that is despite his obvious height/length advantage over everyone in the division, he fights as if he is actually 5’4 with a 60 inch reach. Instead of being an excellent long range striker with somewhat decent ability to circle away from pressure, Vick gets clipped at a way too high percentage for someone his size and skill-set. He did an excellent job against Trujillo which surprised me I’ll admit, but Trujillo short-armed almost every one of his strikes and didn’t really employ a strong wrestling attack. Reyes is much longer than Trujillo and has shown he can get aggressive whenever needed. Reyes has a sneakily good boxing style where he almost lulls you to sleep with his movement and quick but simple jab combinations, then brings it home with the hammer right hand. Y’all remember when Beneil Dariush knocked Vick back to Texas? Reyes has that kind of power and striking to do the same thing, provided Vick doesn’t try to take him down which seems unlikely as he’s usually all stand-up. What it boils down to is how Reyes reacts to Vick’s length and annoyingly random kicks and if his cardio can hold up. If Reyes can catch one of those random kicks from Vick and lands clean, it’s a KO victory. If he gets frustrated early and starts to wear down, then Vick does what he does best – attacks relentlessly and completely gasses his opponents into submission. The latter part of the scenarios is probably why he’s such a big favorite, but I still don’t believe! Those stupid random kicks and Vick’s inability to keep his opponents from punching in the face despite standing 10 feet away just irks me to no end. Hopefully Vick yells out “Marco!” and Polo can find Vick’s chin with his right hand. Or just get subbed, whatever. Ugh,
Reyes via 2nd round KO
David Branch vs Krzysztof Jotko
This will be David Branch’s second stint with the UFC, having going 12-1 since the last time he fought under the UFC banner. He was a two title champion in the now defunct WSOF promotion (well, not defunct but remodeled?). He won’t get an easy test against Jotko, riding a 5 fight UFC streak including a win over a top 10 (or was) middleweight opponent in Thales Leites. Branch is a very good BJJ black belt who’s been trying hard to improve his striking as a way to complement that grappling advantage he has on most opponents. Here’s the thing – he’s better off focusing on becoming a better offensive wrestler and learning to close the gap effectively rather than trying to sharpen his striking acumen. Branch’s wrestling is nothing special outside of a good reactive single leg take-down and some clinch work, but the quality of Branch’s opponents faced during his time away from the UFC is almost nauseating. Seriously, go look at who he fought at light-heavyweight. Jotko may never give an astounding or awe-inspiring performance (the KO vs the Barncat doesn’t count) but he’s very good at his craft. Jotko uses feints and movement to keep his opponents guessing on the feet, and balances that out with well-timed level changes and reactive take-downs for some GnP. You might consider Jotko a grinder since Jotko doesn’t fight aggressively or goes for the home-run, but sometimes in the UFC you just gotta do what you do best. Branch will have to get the fight to the ground if he wants to win the fight, as his defensive liabilities still showed up on tape and he’s very predictable with his choice of strikes/combinations. Remember, this was against lesser opponents. Jotko has been largely untested against take-downs, but seems adept enough inside the clinch to prevent any further offense from Branch, but he does tend to leave himself open on kick attempts. That’s where Branch could find success, much like Magnus Cedenblad did in his submission win over Jotko.
Branch is outstanding from top control on the ground, moving at light-speed on his advances and getting right in position for the submission. The main problem with Branch is he tends to lack offensive activity if he can’t get his opponents to engage or get inside their range. Jotko has improved during his win streak with his defensive skills and has the tools to stave off Branch’s take-downs. Maybe Branch might be too quick for Jotko to defend his take-downs, but the lack of quality opponents faced and Jotko’s win streak has me leaning towards Jotko. Branch should be a favorite dog play to use due to finish potential if he does get it to the ground.
Jotko via unanimous decision
Chas Skelly vs Jason Knight
HICK DIAZ!!! One of the best match-matching by the UFC is now available for all to watch on the FS1 prelims as Hick Diaz (Knight) squares off against uber aggressive Skelly, riding a 2 fight win streak with 5 finishes in his 6 UFC wins. It’s got high potential for an incredibly entertaining fight between two guys who really honestly could not care less about their own safety or whether or not they’re winning or losing. Hick Diaz is also riding a 3 fight win streak, but hasn’t looked as dominant as Skelly mostly due to the way he fights. Knight comes forward and demands a toe to toe brawl, not caring about his defensive liabilities or his opponents’ power. Skelly prefers to actually try and end it quickly in the 1st round with a barrage on overhands followed by some sort of take-down that catches his opponents off guard with Skelly latching on their back. If that plan fails, that’s when it gets reaaaaaally interesting as Skelly turns into Hick Diaz lite. He pushes forward and relentlessly tries to be the 1st one to land a punch in any and all striking exchanges, disregarding how gassed he is as well as his defensive liabilities. Skelly just wants to be the enforcer during said exchanges instead of sitting back and being a counter-striker. Ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense. Knight and Skelly both want to push the pace and attack relentlessly and see who has the better chin. Now, what’s the real key to victory here for either man?
For Skelly, it’s how he starts and ends the 1st round. I think he’s going to go for the take-down as soon as possible, as Knight isn’t a hard man to take down and has shown he can be susceptible to back takes. While Skelly does have the heart and sheer determination to make the fight a war and actually maybe eke out a decision, it’s just not in his best interest to engage Hick Diaz on the feet. For Knight, he has to start off fast and keep that energy level as long as possible, breaking down Skelly with consistent flurries of 1-2 combinations, taking advantage of Skelly’s terrible tendency at over-extending himself on his overhands and leaving his chin on an island. Kevin Souza dropped Skelly with a crisp overhand, and Jim Alers was able to batter Skelly in the early goings before the HEART OF SKELLY went into overdrive. Knight has the better stand-up and can actually somewhat defend himself, while Skelly quite literally goes for broke on almost all of his striking exchanges (his jab did show some improvement in his last fight, but who knows?). Knight could take down Skelly every now and then but I don’t think he wants to keep it on the ground for too long as his biggest edge is his ability to string together combinations on a gassed but pissed Skelly. Hedge this fight as a gassed Skelly who fails in getting a 1st round take-down into a sub should be easy pickings for Hick Diaz. Skelly is just too good in the 1st round and Knight has no real take-down defense and relies too much on his ground defense to get back up on his feet. That’s going to hurt him one of these days, and Saturday’s going to be one of those days.
Skelly via 1st round RNC
Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis (fight cancelled, Cejudo injury)
I’m a little confused by the match-up, as Cejudo may be on a 2 fight losing skid but arguably should have won against Joseph Benavidez and is clearly much better than Sergio Pettis. Maybe it’s a fight for Cejudo to prove that he’s still a top 5 FFW if he can dominate Pettis for 3 rounds. Whatever the case may be, it’s still a match-up to dissect and explain why Cejudo is one of the biggest favorites on the card. There’s two reasons for that, and the 2nd one might be the toughest one to grasp. More on that later. Sergio Pettis has been struggling to find his place in the UFC, having fought and lost at bantanweight then moving down to flyweight and getting knocked out by Ryan Benoit. He’s now riding a 3 fight UFC win streak against some decent opponents, but it’s how he won those fights that still has me concerned. In several of those said wins, it appeared Pettis finally figured out how this whole MMA thing works (he’s still 24 years old!) with a great 1st round and on his way to a potential finish. Then that 2nd or 3rd round comes, and for whatever reason Pettis just looks lost and starts losing his grip on the fight. Of course, being on a 3 win streak means he had enough offense to win the majority of the fight, but that’s still not a good look regardless. Cejudo has been drastically improving his striking to the point where he was actually out-striking Joe-B at certain points of their fight, a feat rarely achieved by anyone outside of the champion. That’s very important against Pettis and his Taekwondo striking style, needing to cut Pettis off and limit the space he can operate with. That’s doable with Cejudo’s quick and increasingly crisper boxing along with the usual footwork that Cejudo has shown in past fights. Now, here’s the second reason why Cejudo’s a big favorite. His wrestling, or rather, the idea of his wrestling. Cejudo is a gold medal Olympian wrestler and clearly has the highest wrestling pedigree in the division, but for whatever reason or another Cejudo appears content at keeping the fight on the feet and rarely delving into his bag of wrestling tricks. Pettis has continually struggled against any sort of decent offensive wrestling from every opponent he’s faced, and if Cejudo decided to treat Pettis as his personal rag-doll to toss around, then it’s going to be a ton of points along with a easy victory for Cejudo. That just hasn’t happened enough times for Cejudo to make me think a wrestling heavy game plan is in store against Pettis, but even if he doesn’t showcase his superb offensive wrestling Cejudo still should be able to continually pressure and take away Pettis’ space. By doing that, he limits the effectiveness of Pettis’ combinations and takes away the biggest weapon Pettis has against Cejudo in his head-kicks. I’d probably avoid Cejudo’s price on DK based solely on the lack of a consistent wrestling game plan limiting his upside in a fight that won’t end in the 1st round in all likelihood. Gotta go with the guy who’s shown more rather than talent on paper alone.
Cejudo via unanimous decision
Dustin Poirier vs Eddie Alvarez
This is going to be a war. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Ok, there’s a but coming. Alvarez has a tendency to delve into his wrestling well when things get too difficult after the 1st round, as evidenced by both his fights against Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis. For the most part, Alvarez is a willing brawler and isn’t afraid to stand and bang when duty calls. Poirier loves to start fast and finish fast, pushing forward and creating a high striking pace that sets the tone of the fight, and for the Diamond, the more pressure on his opponents the more Dustin shines. Alvarez has the better counters and quicker combinations but lacks the length Poirier brings the table as well as his tenacity and willingness to go for broke. One of Poirier’s biggest issue has been his cardio as he usually gasses badly after the 1st round due to the obvious breakneck pace he creates, and that’s an advantage Alvarez has with his superior conditioning. Then on the other hand, Alvarez did get dominated by McGregor’s left straight which is something Poirier excels at and has been one of the biggest reasons why Poirier has been such a knockout artist. Alvarez has better head and foot movement, while Poirier can be too stationary at times and doesn’t tuck in his chin when he tries to stretch out for that left straight. That’s got him in trouble before and resulted in a devastating knockout loss against Michael Johnson, and the same thing could very well happen by an Eddie left hook. Here’s the real equalizer though – both guys have extremely questionable chins and always seem to get rocked at least once in every fight. They’re great at recovering quickly and still continuing to fight at an elite level. Does that matter when 2 similar chins come to blows? I don’t know, but it really might make it all the better when both guys are just falling down all over the place. Anyway, what this comes down is Poirier’s pressure/left straight against Eddie’s movement/counter-hooks. I doubt Eddie will try to wrestle Poirier as Dustin is a tough guy to take down and has an equally difficult guard on the ground. This is quite the coin flip and a fight you must hedge no matter what. I love Poirier’s frenetic pace and wide array of strikes at his arsenal, while Eddie is more technical and patient but has a bad tendency at letting his opponents set the tone and control where the fight goes. For that reason, I’m going to pick Poirier by knockout just because he can utilize his length and force Eddie to retreat more than he’d like, attacking whenever he traps Alvarez in the corner much like McGregor was able to push Eddie near the fence. Yes, it’s McGregor and he’s a counter-striker but the idea is still the same – make Eddie back-pedal and take away his space to create openings at landing the left straight. Let ’em fight!!!!
Poirier via 2nd round KO
Demian Maia vs Jorge Masvidal
This will be a very simple breakdown. Can Maia get Masvidal down? If he can’t, it’s ALL OVER!!! If he can, it’s ALL OVER!!!! Demian Maia knows what butters his bread, and it’s all about setting up the take-down at any cost. Maia has one of the more diverse array of take-downs he can employ at any given time, starting with the trusty double leg take-down. If that doesn’t work, then he’s able to pivot off it and work his way around inside the clinch, creating just enough space to hit a trip take-down. Even if all of his initial attempts fail, Maia is smart enough to disengage and try again later without expending too much energy. He’ll need to bring his A game against Masvidal, long known as one of the more difficult fighters to take down/keep on the ground. There is no point talking about Maia’s stand-up as it’s purely a means to an end, which is getting his opponents to the ground ASAP. Masvidal is a billion times better on the feet and can pummel Maia into oblivion at any given point, but we’re focusing on Maia for now. While Masvidal is indeed a difficult task for Maia, it’s not because Masvidal is elusive or is impossible to get their hands on. It’s more because Masvidal knows how to leverage his way out of take-down attempts and prepare himself to quickly escape any successful attempts. Maia is a master at positioning himself just before and during take-down attempts so when he does land it, he’s quickly in side mount or has put his opponent in a disadvantageous position. So what it comes down to is can Maia utilize that same strategy against Masvidal? I think he can, but there’s a bigger question looming – can Maia finish Masvidal on the ground before he eventually gasses (and he will gas, he’s almost 40 years old!) and gets his face bashed in during the waning moments of the fight? I say yes, but it’s a very hesitant yes and hugely dependent on his initial positioning. If Maia gets side control right away, I could see him sliding his way into full mount and grabbing a RNC as Masvidal tries his best to squirm his way out of it. If Maia gets into a closed guard, then all that’s gonna do is deplete his gas tank and allow Masvidal to bide his time until the ref stands it up. I’m going to trust the process and pick Maia, but I’ll say Masvidal has the better upside just because he can end it at any time during the fight and only has to defend the take-down as opposed to Maia having to defend everything on the feet.
Maia via 1st round RNC
Frankie Edgar vs Yair Rodriguez
This is one of the most intriguing fights not only the card but for both fighters. We all know what Frankie Edgar can bring to the table with his championship experience and balanced movement-based boxing attack with well-timed take-downs, but what about the Latin sensation Yair Rodriguez? Rodriguez is riding a 5 fight UFC win streak since becoming the TUF Latin America champion, and the way’s he’s done it is why the UFC (and the rest of us) think so highly of him. Yair combines sheer athleticism with flying acrobatic kicks and stunning strikes from all angles, and the damnedest thing is he looks so smooth switching from one stance to another after landing a 360 kick of some sort. Rodriguez is a difficult man to gameplan for, as no one really exhibits the kind of athleticism and unique striking that Yair excels at. Edgar is as consistent as they come from a pure fighter perspective, always performing at a high level and never losing to someone he shouldn’t. The biggest question for Frankie is can he slow down Rodriguez’s crazy attacks and punish him for it? Edgar will be 5 inches shorter with a 3 inch reach disadvantage, and that could be all Yair needs to dominate the fight from long range. Edgar’s always had a tough time dealing with longer, lankier guys who can sit back and force Frankie to rush inside for any sort of offense. The way he’s been able to really mitigate these kinds of disadvantages is through his wrestling and level changes. Edgar is so adept at finding the rhythm and timing of his opponent’s striking that he can pinpoint the exact time he should duck and get a quick, simple take-down. It’s what makes Frankie such a good fighter over the years just because he’s never one dimensional and is always evolving during fights.
The main focus here is whether or not Frankie can utilize his wrestling against an opponent who is 5 inches taller and is constantly moving/switching spots in the octagon. While Yair can get himself caught on one of his fancy kicks, he’s got an impressive guard to get right back up on his feet, aided by his lanky build and great training. Rodriguez possesses the skill-set to be a true long range striker and actually become a creative one at it, unlike the stereotypical long range striker who mainly have 2-3 predictable attacks and that’s it. Rodriguez is instant offense at any time, but Frankie can force Yair to become one dimensional if he can catch onto Rodriguez’s rhythm and timing. I’m not sure if there’s a high finishing chance for either one outside of the eye-popping knockouts that Rodriguez is capable of, as Frankie is as tough as they come and won’t go down without a fight. If Edgar gets his boxing going and Rodriguez can’t find his range early, it could be a long night for Pantera, but I suspect we’ll see a real tight battle of drastically different styles and strategies. I lean towards Frankie just because I think he can win a couple rounds with well-timed take-downs and do enough offense to keep Yair guessing, but man, a flying knee KO could happen out of thin air for Rodriguez.
Edgar via unanimous decision
Jessica Andrade vs Joanna Jedrzejcyzk
Ah, another title defense for Joanna Champion. Only this time, Andrade might actually give Jedrzejcyzk a real dog-fight unlike Joanna’s past opponents (142 sig strikes landed combined for her last 4 opponents not counting LeTorneau, who was able to land 103 strikes but also absorbed an absurd 220 sig strikes from Joanna!). Remember, those are 5 round title fights. This will be a clash of differing fighting styles, as Joanna Champion is an accurate high volume oriented striker with dazzling and blistering fast combinations, while Andrade prefers to stalk and wait for her moment to pounce with a gigantic flurry of every punch imaginable. It’s essentially constant combination-based striking versus sporadic but unnerving blitzes and flurries. Joanna has simply just been too damn good at landing her combinations from anywhere in the octagon, and not even just landing them, Joanna has been spectacularly precise with her attacks despite the insane amount of strikes she attempts to land. And Joanna Champion doesn’t let down either, continuing to push on and consistently land 3-4 strike combinations even when she’s starting to slow down near the end. Point blank, Joanna Champion really has been a legitimate 115 lb champ with the fastest, most accurate striking in the division. So what the heck can Andrade do to slow down the J-Train? Simple. Pressure her back!
Andrade may have a 3” reach disadvantage against Joanna, but that won’t stop her from being a homing missile, hell bent on cornering Jedrzejcyzk and wreaking havoc from the clinch and up the fence. It’s one of the only two options I can see Andrade being able to employ in order to get the upset. Andrade has a disturbing ability to somehow funnel opponents’ offense right into her lap, helping close the gap and feeding her insatiable appetite at landing 100 punches in 5 seconds flat. The thing with Andrade’s flurries is while it may look random with wild overhands and hooks, she’s actually being careful at what strike to throw in order to set up what really is her most devastating weapon – the body hooks. Oh, those gut punches really do add up and makes life miserable in the later rounds when breathing becomes painful and difficult. Yes, Andrade does have the power to knock out Joanna, but what’s the point of that if Andrade can’t even slow down Joanna’s attacks? The other way Andrade can win is by using her physique to bull-doze Jedrzejcyzk into the ground, much like Gadelha was momentarily able to do in both fights. The problem with that strategy is even though Jedrzejcyzk can be vulnerable on the ground, she’s not terrible enough to be quickly dispatched as Gadelha soon found out. That can be very detrimental to Andrade’ gas tank and considering Jedrzejcyzk never stops with her high volume striking, it’s probably in Andrade’s best interest to regulate her cardio at all times for what should be a 5 round battle.
Jedrzejcyzk just doesn’t have many holes to her game, having completely dismantled the majority of her opponents in the UFC and proving that her high octane striking style can indeed be impactful and successful even in a long 5 round fight. The only real issue for Jedrzejcyzk may be her chin, as she did get hurt badly against Kowalkiewicz but quickly recovered to put on a dazzling effort, completely shutting down everything Kowalkiewicz tried to throw at JJ. Andrade has the kind of freakish power that the strawweight division hasn’t seen, and that could be the equalizer Andrade needs in order to be the new champion. Unfortunately, I just don’t think Andrade can consistently corner Jedrzejcyzk enough times to really put that power on display. Andrade’s has some cardio issues in the past as well, and that’s just asking for trouble against a surging late-round Jedrzejcyzk. There’s an off chance that both fighters hit the 100+ sig mark at the end of the fight, so employing both in cash lineups isn’t an awful idea at all. At her price point on DK, Joanna is a must have in every format as she has been a scoring machine no matter the opponent. Just look up her stats! I’m hoping it’s a back and forth affair much like Angela Hill vs Andrade. Joanna Violence!
Jedrzejcyzk via unanimous decision
Junior Dos Santos vs Stipe Miocic
It’s the rematch JDS has been waiting for, as the former heavyweight champion has gone through the ups and downs of being in a terribly unpredictable division. JDS went from knocking out Velazquez in the 1st round then getting absolutely smashed by Cain two times in a row, to knocking out a legend of the sport in Mark Hunt and then getting KO’d out of nowhere against Alistair Overeem. JDS has certainly been no stranger to the pitfalls of the HW division, a place where there hasn’t been a clear cut contender nor any inkling on how the hell any heavyweight fight could turn out. Yes, Miocic has been one of the more consistent HWs in the UFC with 10 wins in his 12 UFC fights, including a title defense win over the man who just knocked out JDS. I’m sure Miocic really wants to avenge his loss against JDS in what was one of the best wars the division had to offer, but he cannot let emotions play a part in the rematch if he wishes to continue being the champ. Now down to brass tacks.
The reason JDS has had his up and downs as a former champion could be alluded to several things from a lack of motivation to the division just simply catching up to JDS’s speed. I lean towards the former, as his fight against Overeem just didn’t make sense as JDS looked tentatively and noticeably in less than stellar shape. Maybe it was a bad cut or maybe JDS just didn’t feel up to it. Whatever the reason might have been, JDS eliminated many of my doubts about his skill-set after he carved up Ben Rothwell in classic JDS fashion. What is classic JDS you may ask? It’s simply by utilizing his superior speed and foot movement to take advantage of his great boxing skills, especially when JDS starts finding his range with the jab. JDS just baffled Rothwell everywhere in that fight, mixing up his combinations and attacking every part of Rothwell’s body while being elusive enough to avoid any big hits. He racked up 157 sig strikes against Big Ben, with most of those strikes aided by a stiff jab. Not only that, JDS can land some very acrobatic kicks at any given moment, truly making JDS one of the elite strikers of the division with his combination of speed and power that once made him a champion. But what about Miocic?
Miocic is a little bit similar to JDS, depending on a stiff jab and quickness to gain an edge on the feet. But unlike JDS, Miocic is more of a counter-striker and doesn’t rely much on foot movement, often standing tall and stationary. Somehow, Miocic makes that work by relying on his fast reaction time and being an effective counter-puncher. He’s not as creative of a striker like JDS nor does he try to land a high amount of strikes, but he’s good at his craft and it’s allowed him to be as consistent as possible against anyone he faces. That will be important in the rematch as his strategy of trying to wrestle JDS and force him into the clinch just simply did not work out. It depleted Miocic gas tank and allowed JDS to clip him at an alarming rate, even dropping him at one point. Miocic still has an average gas tank and is heavily reliant on his counter-right and being able to be the quicker, busier striker against flat footed heavyweights.
Miocic will have to force JDS to engage him close in Miocic’s range instead of letting JDS dictate the pace and flow of the fight like before. How can Miocic do that when he doesn’t really push forward or circle around much? I’m not sure, and that’s why I have a difficult time picking Miocic to avenge his loss against JDS. He just simply doesn’t have enough offense to keep up with JDS’ boxing and step-back jab to force JDS to actually have to become a counter-striker. The one glaring question with JDS that could change the trajectory of the fight has been whether or not JDS’ chin is done or not. Overeem was able to crack him and knock him out cold, while Rothwell wasn’t able to land any clean shots to really test JDS’ chin. Miocic may have been badly gassed against JDS in the 1st fight but he was still able to counter JDS’ attacks in the later rounds and hit on some long range overhands to no avail. Now, that was a while ago when JDS still was considered a zombie chin. This time around? Who knows. Movement and the jab against the counter-right will decide the fight. JDS simply has too many tools in his arsenal and is one of the few (maybe the only HW) who can not only match Stipe’s speed and athleticism but may actually be faster and quicker than Miocic. Cigano! Time for Cain vs JDS IV.