UFC 211 is one of the UFC’s most important pay-per-views so far this year, with the entire main card and several undercard bouts matching elite fighters against each other in pivotal divisional showdowns.
With two championships on the line, and four fights which could leave the winners either one win away from a title shot, or even in the immediate running, the landscapes of several divisions are likely to shift drastically on Saturday night. Ahead are some analysis and predictions for the main card bouts.
Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
Cejudo and Pettis are two of the flyweight division’s most promising prospects, but each, as steadily improving fighters, has struggled to find consistency against ever-improving competition.
#HenryCejudo’s takedown game is one of the division’s best, capable of various throws from the body lock position, along with lower-body takedowns such as the double and single-leg. As a striker, he is still very much a work in progress, but a commitment to aggression and some solid phase shifting preclude him from being a one-dimensional threat.
#SergioPettis is, by and large, the exact opposite of his brother Anthony; the younger Pettis brother relies on volume and process in order to pick up wins, with a strong technical kickboxing game serving as the cornerstone for a rounded skillset.
While Pettis is proficient at winning the moment-to-moment exchanges, he suffers most against impactful fighters, who impose fight-changing offense in bursts. Cejudo is by no means a power puncher, and should have little with which to threaten Pettis on the feet, but he will likely prove too powerful and diverse in his takedown offense. It won’t be pretty, but Cejudo should do enough to largely neutralize “the Phenom.”
Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez
#YairRodriguez is both Mexico’s greatest championship hope, and the featherweight division’s most touted up-and-comer. Having easily dusted off returning legend B.J. Penn in his second consecutive headlining act, he now faces #FrankieEdgar, in what is a drastic step up in competition for his first shot at the elite.
Rodriguez is incredibly quick, aggressive, and fights with a distinct wildness. He is most recognizable for his fearsome kicking game, which is diverse, and supremely dangerous. Each kick is thrown with abandon, and carries fight-ending intentions.
Edgar, meanwhile, is the model of consistency. He is an elite phase-shifter with top quality chain wrestling and great fundamentals, both on the mat and on the feet, where he boxes well and moves behind good angles to set up his combinations and takedown entries.
The danger which Rodriguez poses to any opponent cannot be understated, but Edgar’s game has worked against just about every conceivable type of foe in the past, and if there is one fighter in the division with the tools to exploit Rodriguez’s weaknesses relentlessly, it’s “the Answer.”
Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal
Masvidal fights with the heart of a brawler, but the skillset of a dedicated technician. He throws gorgeous combinations of fundamentally-sound punches, kicks well from the outside, and is defensively responsible, difficult to land on consistently. His takedown defense is stout, and he has proven extremely difficult to hold down for extended periods of time.
Demian Maia, meanwhile, may be the greatest pure grappler in the UFC’s history. Even credentialed, acclaimed #BJJ players such as Gunnar Nelson have looked utterly lost on the mat with the former middleweight title contender.
As a takedown artist, Maia’s calling cards are adaptability and an assault which does not relent until he tires. His chain wrestling is a nightmare for any opponent: he rarely relies on traditional double leg or knee-tap takedowns, instead favoring the single-leg scoop from the outside, which he uses to drive foes to the fence if he can’t immediately run the pipe for a takedown. Once against the fence, he has many trips and throws from which to obtain top position.
Maia will be looking to spend as little time on the feet as possible with Masvidal, and should be able to accomplish this early. When he is fresh, he will be all over “Gamebred,” pressuring him constantly and taking away his space to work. Masvidal will offer a more multi-layered takedown defense than many of Maia’s former opponents, however, and extended attempts to secure takedowns are only likely to tire Maia more quickly.
The first round will be messy and hectic, but Masvidal’s offense will be largely uncontested on the feet, and the veteran craftsman’s tactical approach should allow him to weather an early storm to pick up an impressive victory.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
Former bantamweight #JessicaAndrade provides an intriguing stylistic test for #JoannaJedrzejczyk. In a previous outing against #ClaudiaGadelha, the champion struggled early against the more physically imposing “Claudinha,” being easily taken down and repeatedly tagged with big strikes. "Joanna Champion" is a gifted athlete in her own right, but lacks the overwhelming power and explosion of Gadelha, a trait which Andrade shares.
Andrade’s reinvention as a strawweight can be attributed not just to a relocation in weight class; with each subsequent performance, she has thrown better combinations and exercised tighter footwork, culminating in an incredible battle of wills with the perpetually underrated Angela Hill back in February.
Jedrzejczyk is one of the most polished strikers in the sport, and while Andrade’s power punching and aggressive submission hunting afford her a very real chance of victory against the sometimes-vulnerable champion, consistency and grit were enough to overcome such challenges in the past, and more often than not, they will be enough to notch another successful title defense.
Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos
In the main event, #StipeMiocic will likely be forced to show a very different form to the one which has carried him to the UFC championship.
Miocic enters his second title defense riding a streak of three-consecutive first-round KO’s. Despite this, he does his best work alternating between phases and presenting multiple threats, while taking advantage of his superior gas tank down the stretch.
Against heavyweight’s most fearsome puncher, #JuniorDosSantos, Miocic rematches the last man against whom he showed the absolute limits of his skill set.
Their first contest was a masterful battle of tacticians, each man showcasing the sort of grit, durability, and in-fight adjustments which are often foreign to the heavyweight division.
The growth in Miocic’s game since then has been difficult to quantify; he has most certainly improved his footwork, and implemented defensive tools such as parries more heavily, but his ability to out-think and out-last a game opponent has not been tested in his last three bouts.
Dos Santos is the sort of fighter against whom those exact qualities are the most important, and he himself has shown growth as both a strategist and a defensive fighter, notably in his five-round victory over #BenRothwell.
The absence of evidence, as always, is not evidence of absence, and with his other technical developments in mind, it feels very likely that Miocic, as well as dos Santos, will showcase several new tactics to compliment their already deep bags of tricks.
It’s an undoubtedly close contest, but Miocic should hold the early advantage, as he did in their first meeting, and he is likely to be more prepared for a prolonged battle with the attritive Brazilian body puncher. Expect action, mind games, and true grit in another successful title defense for the Ohio native.
UFC 211 Fight Card (05/13/17):
- Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
- Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal
- Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez
- Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis
- Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
- Chas Skelly vs. Jason Knight
- Krzysztof Jotko vs. Dave Branch
- Marco Polo Reyes vs. James Vick
- Jessica Aguilar vs. Cortney Casey
- Jared Gordon vs. Michel Quinones
- Chase Sherman vs. Rashad Coulter
- Gabriel Benitez vs. Enrique Barzola
- Joachim Christensen vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov