By Matt White
The UFC returns from a lengthy break this week with UFC 211 live from Dallas, Texas.
In a poor year for the promotion, numbers-wise, this is the first real showcase event of 2017.
I’m sticking with the top three fights on the card for my write-up. As always, I’ll be providing the breakdown, with 5Dimes providing the odds.
Maia v Masvidal:
At 39, and the owner of a 6-0 streak back at 170lbs, it is amazing to think that Demian Maia still hasn’t done enough in the eyes of the UFC brass to get a long-awaited title shot. His last four performances have been something magical to witness; the domination of Neil Magny that prompted the loser to attend a Maia BJJ clinic; the way he smothered Gunnar Nelson, himself no slouch on the mat; the way he dismantled Carlos Condit and submitted him inside a round. That should have been enough to secure a title shot, but, alas, the universe had other ideas and Maia has opted to take a very dangerous fight rather than sit and wait.
Jorge Masvidal is a former streetfighter who gained notoriety for fighting in the backyard of the late Kimbo Slice. That he has been able to transfer street-fighting to competitive MMA is a testament to his raw talent. His losses in the UFC have almost exclusively come by split-decision, mainly because he is a notoriously slow starter and has always tried to do the bare minimum to win, but he shattered that notion against Donald Cerrone in his biggest scalp to date. Some disputed the stoppage, but, personally, I felt Cerrone was saved from unnecessary further damage. Nonetheless, it was a deserved win and one that vaulted him up the rankings.
Regardless of who wins, it is likely the victor will have secured a title shot, one I would expect to be delivered in the cage when the result is called. If it’s Maia, then it’s long overdue. If it is Masvidal, I think he’d have jumped the queue somewhat – but his recent performances will have earned it. I’m siding with Maia, most likely by TKO. He won’t actually force Masvidal to tap – I think he’d rather go out than submit – and that means a TKO.
Recommendation: Demian Maia – 2 units at +110 (11/10) @ 5Dimes
Jedrzejczyk v Andrade:
Joanna Jedrzejczyk makes the fifth defence of the belt she won when beating the brakes off Carla Esparza at UFC 185. Although her last three defences have all come by decision, they have been as decisive as they were dominant with Joanna doing more than enough to secure the win. Her all round skill-set is improving massively and the move to ATT will only help that develop further. With the best striking in the division, bar none, she is improving her ground game with each passing camp. That spells bad news for all other women weighing 115lbs or less.
Jessica Andrade is a fighter who has dropped 10lbs in her weight class and been revitalised as a result. From being a ‘fair to middling’ fighter at 125lbs she dropped to face Jessica Penne and hasn’t looked back. Three clear and comfortable victories on the bounce have put her in the frame for a title shot; something that looked a long way off 18 months ago.
Both fighters will look to throw down from the outside. Andrade will not have been hit as frequently and accurately as she will be by Joanna, and Joanna will not have been able to hit anyone as freely as she will with Andrade. The immovable object meets the irresistible force, I’ll be expecting Joanna to take the victory inside the distance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Andrade doesn’t open a few eyes here with some challenging moments.
Recommendation: Fight won’t go 5-round distance – 2 units at +130 (5/6) @ 5Dimes
Miocic v Dos Santos:
I have been watching Stipe Miocic for a long time now. I was present when he was finished by Stefan Struve in Nottingham and have watched each of his fights since. The only blot in that time is a decision loss to Junior dos Santos. It was a tough fight to score, but I felt JDS, at the time, had just done enough to take it. Since that fight, Miocic has finished his last four opponents. One of them, Mark Hunt, was defeated in the most one-sided and uncomfortable manner since JDS lost to Cain, with the final three not leaving the first round. Whisper it quietly, but some are even suggesting Miocic could be the first heavyweight to defend the belt three times. Shhhhhhhh.
Until he ran into the juggernaut that is Cain Velasquez for the second and third time, Junior dos Santos looked like possibly the best heavyweight in UFC history. His striking was crisp and clean, he didn’t take a lot of punishment and his ground game was underused, but far from sloppy. Then Cain beat him soundly for almost 50 minutes over two fights and his aura was shattered. A loss to Overeem followed and it looked like JDS was done. A win over Ben Rothwell, with a few failed bookings going in his favour and BOOM, he’s right back in with a title shot. With a loss, it could very easily be the last he ever gets.
The biggest issue I have calling this fight is trying to decide in advance which version of JDS shows up. If it’s the guy who beat Cain and battered his opponents then he takes the win and the belt. If it’s the guy who was borderline emasculated against Cain, then Miocic should be able to replicate what Overeem achieved and finish the Brazilian inside the distance. I’m betting on the former, and hoping I don’t end up with the latter.
Recommendation: Junior dos Santos – 2 units at +105 (21/20) @ 5Dimes