MMA Review: #600: UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos II

-All of the video packages coming into this one were hyping it as the card of the year (thus far) and on paper at least they weren’t wrong, with two title fights, a Welterweight title eliminator and one of the year’s most intriguing Featherweight clashes on tap. Sure, we lost Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis on late notice but for 2017, that isn’t bad going really! So yeah, expectations were high coming in.

UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos II

Dallas, Texas

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier.

Middleweight Fight: David Branch vs Krzysztof Jotko

This one was elevated to the main card following the loss of Cejudo/Pettis and to be fair, it was a worthy replacement given Branch was coming back to the UFC following a tremendous run in WSOF (10 wins including a win over Yushin Okami) while Jotko had broken into the UFC’s top ten following a win over Thales Leites. Despite Branch’s WSOF success I was siding with Jotko, feeling Branch had become a little overrated due to his run outside the UFC.

Pre-fight video package is hilarious as they totally avoid mentioning WSOF despite it not being a competitor at all really. I get why they wouldn’t mention Bellator but WSOF is barely on the radar now, you know? And then Jotko busts out an all-time classic entrance by walking out to STAN BUSH singing from the Kickboxer soundtrack.

First round gets underway and it looks like Branch has a size advantage for sure. They exchange some feeler strikes with Jotko backing Branch up a little. Knee is caught by Branch and he hits a double leg into Jotko’s guard. Couple of nice short elbows get through for Branch as Jotko works an open guard. Jotko manages to scoot back to the fence and works to his feet, but he gives his back in the process and Branch leans on him and lands some knees to the legs before hitting him with a short elbow. Jotko manages to spin into a regular clinch and they exchange strikes from there on the fence. Surprising takedown from Jotko follows from there but Branch reverses right up to his feet. Knee to the body allows Jotko to force Branch into the fence, and we’ve got very little going on now. Crowd indeed begin to boo with about 45 seconds to go. Round ends with Branch forcing Jotko into the fence. 10-9 Branch I get but that round sucked.

Second round begins and Jotko tries to walk Branch down, but he seems to be struggling to really get into range. Clinch from the Polish fighter and he drives Branch into the fence, before separating suddenly with a spinning back elbow. Front kick glances for Jotko but Branch fires back with a low blow. Ref calls time to let Jotko recover, and they quickly restart with Jotko landing a decent combo while avoiding Branch’s strikes. Nice counter left hand from Jotko and another one wobbles Branch a little. Takedown attempt responds for Branch but Jotko avoids it well. Few more shots glance for Jotko before Branch sets up a takedown and gets it, but only momentarily as Jotko bounces right back up and breaks off with a right hand. Another counter left connects for Jotko in a brief exchange. Branch is just struggling to land on Jotko. Wild swings set up another clinch for Branch but the ref calls a super-quick break after Jotko complains. Announcers think the ref got conned as Jotko glances on another combo and then narrowly misses a wheel kick. Branch hits a takedown in response, but Jotko immediately uses a whizzer to escape to his feet. Seconds to go now and Jotko continues to push forward before Branch clinches to end the round. Real close one but I’d say Jotko got the better of it, so it’s even going into the third.

Third round and Branch glances on a head kick in the opening exchange. Jotko backs him up again a little but takes a leg kick. Both men look more urgent, but don’t really go for it even in a potentially pivotal round. Right hand glances for Branch. Wheel kick misses for Jotko as the crowd have had about enough of this one. Clinch attempt from Branch is shrugged off by the Polish fighter. Branch walks him down a bit now and lands a few decent strikes from close range before Jotko clinches. Branch muscles him back into the fence and they jockey for position, and the boos are raining down now. Ref calls a break with just over two minutes to go and Jotko glances on a pair of rights before they clinch up again for a second. A break follows and Branch lands with a beautiful clean jab. Takedown follows and Branch lands right inside Jotko’s guard and if he can keep him down it’s probably his fight now. Jotko instead looks to reverse, but gives his neck and Branch looks for a possible choke. Jotko avoids that and goes for a takedown of his own, but Branch defends and we’re back to the clinch. Urgh. Ref calls another super-quick break and Branch tries to walk him down, but Jotko lands with a step-in knee and a right hook. Head kick glances for Jotko as he begins to get a bit more active. Knee to the body follows. Sweet uppercut lands for Jotko with seconds to go, but Branch clinches to end the round. Really close round and I’d call it 10-10 for a draw. Put a gun to my head and I’d probably go for Branch I guess.

Judges go 29-28 Branch, 29-28 Jotko, and 29-28 Branch for a returning win for the former WSOF champ. Dull fight though as they basically cancelled each other out – Branch couldn’t get his grappling going, Jotko couldn’t get his striking going and there was way too much clinching. The win probably puts Branch into the proverbial mix at 185lbs but how far he can actually go I don’t know – based on this I doubt very much that he cracks the top five or anything and basically all this did in the end was halt Jotko’s momentum.

Featherweight Fight: Frankie Edgar vs Yair Rodriguez

Even with such a loaded card, this was the fight I was looking forward to most. Rodriguez was of course coming off his absolute beatdown of legend BJ Penn in January and was clearly ready for a step up – but the question was whether Edgar was that step up, or just a step too far? Frankie’s last win had come in November over Jeremy Stephens and while he’d clearly lost a little bit of his speed in the past year or so he was still a clear top five fighter at 145lbs. Tough fight to pick but I was rooting for Yair for sure.

Round One begins and Frankie pushes forward right away as Rodriguez looks to bounce on the outside. Early right hand connects for Edgar as Yair tries to fire his trademark kicks at him. Big head kick misses for Rodriguez. Flurry from Edgar backs Yair into the fence, but he escapes quickly and swings pretty wildly. Edgar gets inside though and gets to a clinch despite taking a back elbow, and he drives the Mexican into the fence. Single leg attempt from Edgar and he picks Yair up and manages to force him down, landing in the guard. Edgar postures up to drop some punches as some odd air horn type thing keeps going off in the crowd. A guard pass attempt fails for Frankie but it doesn’t look like he cares as he works from the top while Rodriguez tries to return fire from the bottom. Really big shots begin to get through for Frankie and Yair might be in trouble here. Crowd chant for Frankie as he postures up and works to pass the guard while punching at the same time. Yair keeps him within full guard, but he’s getting seriously beaten up here. Looks like he might be cut too. More punches and elbows get through for Edgar and it doesn’t look like Rodriguez has much answer for it. No pun intended of course. BRUTAL shots land for Frankie with less than a minute to go. Round ends with Frankie continuing to pound on a bloody Yair. That was a phenomenal round for the veteran and you’d have to call it 10-8 I think. Rodriguez’s left eye looks like hell.

Round Two and it looks like Yair’s left eye is practically swollen shut. Yair comes out throwing, but he seems a little more tentative. Despite that he still lands a crazy wheel kick, but Edgar shoots in, hits a beautiful bit of misdirection and dumps the Mexican down. Yair rolls right for a leglock, but Edgar defends excellently and manages to drop a handful of BOMBS down onto the Mexican’s face too. Yair keeps trying for the kneebar, but he can’t straighten the leg out and Frankie manages to escape and pop him with a sharp elbow. Punches connect for Edgar and Yair has to let the leg go to defend himself. Full mount follows for Edgar and Rodriguez is in deep trouble here. He tries to roll but takes some more heavy shots as he does, and Edgar takes the back with no hooks. Rodriguez rolls and almost takes *his* back somehow, but Frankie’s too good for that and he winds up on top in guard again. Yair’s eye is totally shut now and Edgar continues to punish him with hard elbows. This is one of the best performances of Frankie’s career. Rodriguez tries to fire back from the bottom but he continues to eat more nasty shots and he’s badly running out of time. This is a mauling. Edgar manages to almost pass to side mount as Yair tries to throw his legs up for something, but instead he remains in full guard. He moves into half-guard with seconds to go and continues to nail him, and the round ends there. Another 10-8 in the books for Edgar.

Doctors fly into Rodriguez’s corner to check the eye over, and sure enough it’s completely swollen shut to the point where he clearly can’t open it or see at all. Looks like a potentially broken eye socket. Yair tries to claim he can see, but it’s clearly bullshit and the doctor calls the fight off there.

Fair stoppage for sure and I’m glad the doctors didn’t let Yair back out, as really he would only have taken more abuse from Edgar and a beating like that can do lasting damage to a young career. This was one of the finest performances of Frankie’s career as rather than take him down and hold him down, he took Yair down and basically beat the shit out of him for ten solid minutes despite Rodriguez trying all sorts of attacks from his back. In fact with Aldo/Holloway coming next month I’d say it could even net him the next title shot, particularly if Holloway wins (Aldo/Edgar III would be a hard sell however). As for Rodriguez, I hope he bounces back from this and learns from the loss as he’s got so much potential, but yeah, this kind of beating can easily ruin a career. Not the fight I wanted to see but this was entertaining nonetheless.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Jorge Masvidal

Despite Maia clearly having earned a title shot with his run since 2014 – including wins over Matt Brown, Gunnar Nelson and Carlos Condit – he was still faced with one more hurdle here in Masvidal, who was coming off the biggest win of his career in January over Donald Cerrone. This looked like the classic striker vs. grappler match with Maia having the advantage on the ground, Masvidal on the feet, and I was having a hard time with picking a winner. Despite worrying about Masvidal keeping it standing and boxing Maia up, in the end I went with the Brazilian to take Masvidal down and choke him out.

Round One and Maia presses forward as Masvidal circles on the outside. Takedown attempt from Maia and he manages to tie Masvidal up despite some good defense, and finally forces Masvidal down. Masvidal pops up twice but Maia keeps on driving forward and winds up pulling half-guard basically before forcing Masvidal into the fence for a full takedown. Again Masvidal works to his feet, but he gives his back this time and Maia slaps one hook in and then trips him down and slaps the second one in too. Masvidal stands with the Brazilian on his back with a body triangle, and he’s in trouble. Maia works to sink the choke as Masvidal defends, and he lands some punches to the side of the head to soften him up. Masvidal manages to survive but he can’t seem to shake Maia off him at all. Seconds to go though and Masvidal manages to drop to the ground and spin into Maia’s guard, where he drops some heavy shots, and the round ends with Masvidal on top. Masvidal probably avoided a 10-8 in those last twenty seconds or so. 10-9 Maia, though.

Round Two and the ref calls time literally moments in to trim some tape from Masvidal’s glove. They restart and Masvidal fires off with a glancing head kick. Takedown attempt is avoided this time by Masvidal who follows up with a kick to the body. Another takedown is avoided and Masvidal adds in a short uppercut as Maia looks to stand. Looks like Maia might be tired. Couple of hard kicks land for Masvidal and suddenly it seems like Maia’s the one in trouble. Another takedown is stuffed but this time Maia looks to pull half-guard. Masvidal avoids it but winds up stuck in a single leg attempt. He stuffs that though and breaks with a hard knee. Takedown attempt from Maia again and he tries to pull guard, but Masvidal avoids it again and then settles into top position, dropping a couple of elbows for good measure. Maia manages to turn it around though and reverses position to take top spot. Anaconda choke, surprisingly enough, from Masvidal, but Maia easily avoids that and now he settles into Masvidal’s half-guard. Masvidal manages to muscle his way back up again, but he gives his back again and Maia controls him with a rear waistlock before dumping him back down. He can’t get any hooks in this time though and Masvidal again works to his feet. A trip puts Masvidal back down, and Maia slaps one hook in for better control. Crowd are nicely into this too which is a good sign. Punches land for Maia to attempt to soften Masvidal up, but with seconds on the clock it doesn’t look like he’ll get the finish. Round ends there, with Maia landing solid punches. Well, the first half was all Masvidal, second was all Maia so it has to be 10-10 really.

Round Three and both men look much slower now. Head kick glances for Masvidal but Maia isn’t hurt. Nice inside leg kick lands for Masvidal. Another hard high kick is good for Masvidal, landing to the body of Maia. They circle and Masvidal continues to pick at Maia with strikes from the outside, although he’s not really landing much of them cleanly. Maia is marked up all around his face. Finally Maia goes for a takedown and gets Masvidal down, taking the back again with one hook. He goes for a neck crank from there without even getting the second hook in, but Masvidal avoids it and so the Brazilian lands some short punches to the head instead. Suddenly it looks like Maia’s got the choke sunk, but Masvidal manages to avoid it again. Maia forces him down to his back properly and slaps a body triangle on and now Masvidal’s in deep trouble. One minute to go and Masvidal tries to throw some back elbows to hurt Maia, but he can’t shake him off. Doesn’t look like he can get free which probably hands the fight to Maia. Masvidal tries to roll, but Maia flattens him out and rolls with him, keeping firmly clamped to Masvidal’s back. Round ends with Maia in control. I’d go 10-9 Maia and 30-28 Maia overall personally.

We’re going to the judges and it’s a split decision, 29-28 Maia, 29-28 Masvidal, and 29-28 for Demian Maia to hopefully capture a title shot. I really liked this fight actually despite hearing bad stuff about it, as Maia had to work really hard to get the takedowns and dominant positions that usually come easily to him, while Masvidal just couldn’t quite do enough (in mine and two judges opinions) to offset the amount of time he spent in a defensive position. Hopefully this gives us Woodley vs. Maia (rather than Woodley vs. Diaz/Bisping) later in the year and while I don’t see Maia winning that one he’s definitely earned the shot. I know it might not sell massively but shit, sometimes they have to go with sport over money.

UFC Women’s World Strawweight Title: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Jessica Andrade

Speaking of sport over money this was a surprising example of that, as I fully expected the more marketable Michelle Waterson to be given the next shot at Joanna after her win over Paige VanZant rather than the (arguably) more deserving Andrade, but instead it was the Brazilian who was granted the opportunity following her wins over Jessica Penne, Joanne Calderwood and Angela Hill. Despite Andrade’s bulldozer style I couldn’t see her getting past Jedrzejczyk, as sheer straightforward aggression just didn’t seem like the right way to beat a striker as skilled as the champ.

First round and Joanna opens with a trio of leg kicks and avoids a quick rush from Andrade. Both girls land with leg kicks and then Joanna connects on a right hand. Big flurry from Andrade but she walks into a right, only to land a clubbing left of her own that forces Joanna onto her back foot. Another flurry glances for Andrade and she manages to clinch and shove the Polish fighter into the fence. The champ looks like she’s got a swelling on her forehead. Big slam from Andrade puts Joanna down but she pops up only to get dumped a second time. Andrade looks to pass the guard, moving into half-guard, but Joanna scrambles and works back to her feet. Chopping elbow and a knee to the body land for Joanna from the clinch, and they jockey for position before Jedrzejczyk breaks off. Two minutes to go and Joanna lands with a couple of low kicks and jabs. Beautiful head kick snaps Andrade’s head back but she shakes it off somehow. More strikes from the outside land for Joanna and she avoids a flurry from the challenger. Front kick lands to the face for Joanna. The swelling on her forehead looks nasty though. Clinch from Andrade but Joanna breaks with a knee and a left. Nice jab from Joanna but Andrade flurries her way into a clinch. Big takedown from Andrade but Joanna pops right up and nails her with an elbow on the break. Head kick quickly follows for Joanna and that’s the round. 10-9 Jedrzejczyk for me despite a decent beginning for Andrade.

Second round and Joanna lands a pair of low kicks while dodging a couple from the challenger. Looks like she’s way faster than Andrade. Joanna is just picking her apart from the outside. Couple of beautiful jabs land for Joanna as she just refuses to let Andrade back her into the fence. Nice right hand lands for Jedrzejczyk. More strikes follow and Andrade is basically being owned here. She’s walking into a lot of Joanna’s strikes too due to her having to follow Joanna around the cage. Flurry does glance for Andrade but Joanna lands a couple of sharp counters and then gets right out of range. NASTY one-two from Joanna lands and then a follow-up combo seems to have Andrade stunned, but the Brazilian takes it all well and wildly swings back. Clinch from Andrade and she goes for the takedown, almost getting a slam, but Jedrzejczyk reverses back to her feet and nails her with a jab. Less than a minute to go and Andrade lands a decent shot inside, but takes a couple of stiff jabs and then a nasty head kick. Andrade somehow walks through it though and tags the champ with punches that lead to another takedown attempt. Joanna stuffs it and that’s the round. 10-9 Jedrzejczyk again and Andrade needs to change this up completely.

Third round and Andrade opens with a low kick, but eats a pair of jabs and a low kick from the champ. Another low kick is caught and Andrade steps in with a right hand, but Joanna quickly backs out of range. Another low kick is followed by a head kick from Joanna and then she sticks Andrade with a quick one-two as well. Andrade’s chin is pretty solid judging by this. Wild rush from Andrade allows her to go for a takedown, but she can’t get Jedrzejczyk off her feet. More clean strikes land from the outside for Joanna and Andrade seemingly has no answer for any of it. Leg kicks from Joanna have her buckling and a jab snaps her head back, but Andrade swings back and lands, forcing the champ to back out a little. Beautiful counter right hand lands for Joanna as Andrade throws a low kick. Andrade tries to push forward more, but just walks into a few more sharp counters. Jedrzejczyk is just on another level with her striking. More of the same follows until the round ends with a clinch and takedown attempt from the challenger that largely fails. 10-9 Jedrzejczyk again.

Fourth round and Andrade’s right eye looks badly marked up. Couple of low kicks and a jab open the round for Joanna just as you’d expect. Big head kick follows but somehow Andrade takes it again and keeps on moving forward. The girl is as tough as leather. Joanna continues to land on her over and over though, just hitting her with jabs, low kicks and the odd front kick for good measure. Her jab in particular is insanely good. Absolutely beautiful combo lands flush for Jedrzejczyk. Andrade seems to be freezing up in the face of all the abuse now too. Big body kick lands for Joanna but Andrade manages to clinch and force her into the fence. Nice short elbow lands for Joanna as she works to stuff any form of takedown, and even when Andrade gets her down she just springs right back up. Just over a minute to go and it’s back to business for Joanna as she lands with more low kicks and jabs. Crowd are still heavily into this despite the one-sided nature. Leg kick buckles Andrade’s knee but she keeps on pushing forward. Jab snaps her head back but again she keeps on coming. Brutal head kick seems to hurt Andrade but again she takes it well. Jumping front kick glances for Joanna with seconds to go and then Andrade tries a flurry but takes more shots. Round ends just after. 10-9 Jedrzejczyk.

Fifth and final round and Andrade literally needs a miracle to win. Fair play to her as she comes out swinging, but she can’t catch Joanna and walks into another woodchipper combo within the first thirty seconds. Joanna doesn’t even look tired either as she continues to stick the challenger with her jab and low kicks while casually moving in and out of range. Huge right hand connects for her but Andrade’s chin continues to hold up. She’s literally walking right into shots now though. Clinch from Andrade with three minutes to go but again, she can’t get Jedrzejczyk down and eats an elbow on her way out. Solid combo finally lands for Andrade but it just gets a smile from Joanna. More of the same follows with Joanna countering like a matador against a bull. Elbow has Andrade hurt and she gives her back standing, but the champ can’t capitalise on it and Andrade spins away. One minute to go now and more shots land for Jedrzejczyk, including a nasty front kick to the chest. Joanna’s face is pretty badly marked up considering Andrade hasn’t landed all that much actually. Seconds remaining and Joanna clinches surprisingly and lands a knee, but they break quickly and then Joanna tags her with a right before clinching to end the fight. I’d call this 50-45 for Joanna, total shutout.

Unsurprisingly it’s a unanimous decision for Jedrzejczyk; 50-45, 50-44 and 50-44. Post-fight she gets pretty emotional for some reason too; a bit surprising for her as she’s usually pretty intense and badass. That’s five title defences for her in just over two years too which is massively impressive and I just don’t see how anyone in that division can beat her right now. Andrade had been bulldozing everyone she’d faced but just couldn’t do a thing with Joanna despite holding up under all of the strikes she absorbed. Basically Jedrzejczyk was on another level with her striking entirely and with such watertight takedown defense and incredible conditioning she looks like one of the most unbeatable fighters out there right now. Rose Namajunas is probably next and yeah, I guess she brings a ton of aggression and maybe a better scrambling game but does anyone really buy that she can beat Joanna? I don’t think so. This was a virtuoso performance on the level of a GSP or a Mighty Mouse and while it got a little repetitive at times, for the most part it was fun to watch.

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Stipe Miocic vs Junior Dos Santos

This almost seemed like odd booking considering Dos Santos had won just one fight since 2014 – a stylistic layup against Ben Rothwell – but then with Cain Velasquez on the shelf (and Fabricio Werdum on the outs with the UFC apparently) and the newer contenders like Ngannou not quite ready yet, I guess it made sense to book Miocic against the last person to beat him. That fight in 2014 had been a war – one of the best HW fights in MMA history in my opinion – but I saw this one as being much more one-sided in favour of Miocic, basically because I think JDS is done at the top level now thanks to the horrendous beatings he took against Cain, coupled with the first war with Stipe and then the KO at the hands of Alistair Overeem. My pick was Miocic by third-round KO.

Fight begins and Stipe opens with an inside leg kick. Dos Santos comes back with one of his own and then both men glance on punches. Looks like Miocic is trying to back JDS up towards the fence, though. Good leg kick lands for the challenger before a big combo narrowly misses for Miocic. Another low kick connects for Junior but Miocic comes back with a combo. Stipe looks like he might’ve hurt his leg from taking those kicks. Big leg kick from the champion connects. He backs JDS up again with a big combo and this time lands with a hard left hand. Dos Santos circles out before landing another low kick. Miocic walks through it though and forces him back again, tagging him with a combo. JDS looks rattled and can’t seem to circle away from the cage, and Miocic cuts him off again and lands with another combo. BIG RIGHT HOOK lands clean for the champ and drops JDS to his knees, and Miocic pounces and finishes him off with some shots on the ground. Damn, that was quick.

So yeah, outside of hurting his leg on a couple of low kicks that was a flawless victory from Miocic. He knew the way to beat Dos Santos – based on the two Cain fights, the Overeem fight and his own fight with Junior – was to back him into the fence and he did that pretty easily here before landing the hammer to put the Brazilian away. Incredibly, with two successful title defences, he’s now tied Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez with the most in UFC history. Is he snacking on a division way past its best? Quite possibly, but then HW is so unpredictable and basically anyone can beat anyone, so you have to give a lot of credit to a guy who seems to be able to beat everyone else right now. Hopefully they can get Cain in there with him at some point soon because he’s the last challenger left really from that generation, and then you’re waiting for someone like Ngannou, Blaydes or maybe Minakov to break through I think. Fight was short but shit, you can’t call a knockout like that anticlimactic. I just wish Stipe would just go with the ‘Stone Cold’ nickname (assuming Steve Austin wouldn’t sue) as it fits him to a tee. As for Dos Santos, I’d say he’s done and if he wants to carry on the UFC may as well look to feed him to Ngannou or someone like that. It’s evolution, just as JDS himself beat up on the likes of Cro Cop and Gonzaga when he broke through years ago.

-Announcers discuss the action and sure enough they identify Cain and Ngannou as Miocic’s possible challengers. Well, yeah! Highlight reel follows and that’s it.

Final Thoughts….

Best PPV of the year thus far but it still wasn’t a blowaway show thanks to the dull opener between Branch and Jotko. Everything else was pretty cool – Maia/Masvidal was excellent, Edgar/Yair was a hell of a beatdown and the main event knockout rocked too – but the repetitive nature of Jedrzejczyk/Andrade despite the virtuoso nature of Joanna’s performance means that wasn’t a great fight too. I’d go thumbs up, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype I don’t think.

Best Fight: Edgar vs. Rodriguez
Worst Fight: Branch vs. Jotko

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: