Texas got some serious action and a killer main event from UFC 211.
This card had some major expectations, largely due to the venue and the names associated with it. The UFC needed a big win here, with their offerings being mostly underwhelming this year to most fans, and the financial pressures they reportedly have to deal with.
What we expected was fireworks. What we got was a very good card, but perhaps not the sensational top to bottom event many had hoped for. The momentum appeared to have evaporated after the Alvarez vs Poirier no-contest, continuing with Jotko vs Branch until the main event. These fights weren’t bad, they just weren’t as dynamic and lacked finishes, which is unfortunate since it slows the action down a lot for most fans.
All in all, every card is a roll of the dice. There were some really great moments here, and some wins and losses that can have very interesting and fun ramifications down the road. Let’s dive in.
Stipe Miocic – Miocic remains the heavyweight champion, and now has a five-fight win streak that have ended in either a knockout or TKO. He’s probably the best conditioned heavyweight not named Cain Velasquez, and he just put away one of the toughest heavyweights ever and made it look relatively easy. Miocic isn’t the average wrestleboxer, either. He outworks his opponent and brutalizes them with speed, timing, precision and just fighting smart. While it’s not clear who he faces next just yet, whoever it is has a very rough road ahead. Speaking of possibly unstoppable champions…
Joanna Jedrzejczyk – Even with some rough sequences in the first few rounds, Joanna pulled away nice and easy to keep her distance game and essentially use Andrade for target practice as things went on. This is another odd case, because there isn’t a clear-cut contender next in line other than the winner of the upcoming fight between Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz or Rose Namajunas. It was a fantastic night for both champions, and Joanna gets bonus points for really digging deep and persevering against such a durable opponent. Even in another decision win, there was no doubt whatsoever as to who the queen of the hill is.
Demian Maia – Bear with me here – however controversial the fight may be, Maia still won. He made Masvidal look vulnerable and dragged him into pretty deep water in some frames of the bout. Masvidal did a lot of things correctly and seemed to have landed much more damage while Maia controlled and remained active by mixing short strikes with submission attempts. It wasn’t the sort of blowout performance the UFC has traditionally waited for in order to give a fighter a title shot, but he’s on such a tear that it’s pretty much undeniable. The only way this falls apart is if GSP jumpes the line at welterweight instead and gets a crack at Woodley. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
Frankie Edgar – I’d submit that Edgar was the biggest winner of the night. Edgar may have two losses to Jose Aldo, and that has led some people thinking that Edgar is now relegated to gatekeeper status forever. Taking on a talented younger fighter and brutalizing him with a punishing pace, slick striking and a ground assault clinic? That’s fantastic. It’s not that he beat a fighter with less experience, it’s that he beat a surging phenom and made him look like he didn’t even belong there. That’s not a knock on Yair, it just speaks to how impressive Edgar’s performance was and how much praise it deserves. Now he’s only behind champions Max Holloway and Jose Aldo at featherweight. It’s hard to see him not getting yet another opportunity to fight for a belt quite soon.
Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez – In my eyes, Poirier was clearly winning the fight by repeatedly rocking Alvarez, until Eddie mounted a heavy rally to put Dustin on his back foot. After getting into an absolute war, we had a very anticlimactic end to this fight. Now look – we can’t really predict who would have won. That doesn’t negate the fact that we saw a hell of a fight already taking place, and in an eventual rematch these two could give a real bout for the ages. The end appears to truly have been an honest mistake, as Alvarez pulled up and must have thought he cleared Dustin’s knee off the ground. Alvarez also appears to have been under the impression that they were fighting under the new unified rules, which Texas has not adopted yet. It’s muddy and ugly, but the way both of them handled the matter and their willingness to have a rematch immediately after the fight shows what kind of fighters they really are. They both handled this as professionals, and a rematch absolutely has to happen here. There was no closure tonight, but we got a fantastic fight while it lasted. That nets both of them a spot in this segment.
David Branch – Not the most exciting UFC debut, but I personally think it has to do with the stylistic matchup here. Both are very durable, and Branch was able to apply pressure and keep things at a pace he was most comfortable at. Had this been a five round fight, he could have put a more definitive stamp on things, but that’s not what we had here. Here’s hoping we see where really he’s at in his next bout.
James Vick – Holy hell, this guy is impressive. Vick continues to be must-watch MMA each time, and when he’s not threatening the submission with his long limbs, he’s using his deceptive reach and punishing accuracy to put people away. Reyes never saw that one coming, and by the time he did he probably thought he was out of range. Dead wrong. Vick was right in the post-fight interview as well, because he should be fighting ranked opposition now. Expect that to happen very soon.
Jason Knight – Guys, Chas Skelly may not be the biggest name out there, but he’s a tremendous grappler and a very hard-nosed fighter that doesn’t quit. Knight took what Skelly had, managed to hang with him in the grappling department and turned the tables to put him away. That’s a four-fight win streak, with two consecutive finishes as well. The Kid is looking good here, and he’s improving in each outing.
Cortney Casey – Casey looked more dominant than ever, making one of the most decorated strawweights in the short history of the sport look very, very vulnerable. Casey was landing first and often, using slick combinations and great setups to land hard shots and keep Aguilar where she wanted her to be. An excellent bounceback win after her loss to Gadelha in November, and it evens out her UFC record at 3-3.
Chase Sherman finally gets his first UFC win after a brutal display that had almost everyone on edge. Enrique Barzola used his pressure to nullify the range game of Gabriel Benitez and land damage inside while using his superior wrestling. Barzola continues to impress as he keeps making great strides with each performance. Gadzhimurad Antigulov made Conan Silveira proud with that rear naked choke setup, too. Now he’s at 2-0 in his UFC run, both wins being submissions.
Junior dos Santos – Well, most of us thought he was done after the two losses to Cain Velasquez. Junior rebounded after that second loss in a close fight with Miocic back in 2014, only to get knocked out by Alistair Overeem a year later. I don’t want to say he’s done being a top heavyweight. That would be absurd. It’s not unreasonable to question how much longer he can actually compete, though. At this point, he’s taking major damage and is getting put away on the feet. Heavyweight is unpredictable, and most of the guys in the top ten hit like Mack trucks. It’s only a matter of finding the chin enough times for Junior to go down yet again, and how that affects the rest of his fights is going to be a problem.
Jessica Aguilar – There was a time not that long ago where Aguilar was right up there with Megumi Fujii in the conversation of being one of the best female fighters ever. Not the best, but really good and beating some certified talent everywhere she went. That praise was well deserved, and it saddens me that most fans that are only seeing her now aren’t seeing what she was capable of before. Aguilar may not be in any danger of getting cut, but she’s 0-2 in the UFC and hasn’t looked the way she was expected to look so far. Her stock took a major hit here, and as someone that has seen her fight for years, she’s better than this performance.
Gabriel Benitez – While still 3-2 in the UFC, he’s been alternating wins and losses since June of 2015. He can’t seem to build any momentum here. While he fought well, he’s missing a few steps to truly get ahead.
Joachim Christensen is now 1-2 in his UFC run, both submission losses. Something needs to change, or he’s getting cut unless he gets his walking papers now. Not very likely, but entirely possible. Chas Skelly almost made it to the “Neither“ category due to being 6-3, but got finished pretty badly and really seems to have had his ceiling clearly defined in this fight. Marco Polo Reyes is in a similar situation – 3-1 in his UFC run, but that sets you back pretty far at lightweight due to all the moving pieces. Losing to a fighter as talented as Vick takes a bit of the sting out of it, but it still counts heavily against him.
Victor Rodriguez – I was naïve enough to give the HD purchase another shot thinking maybe it was worth it. I’m not hurting for the extra ten dollars, but I’d seriously discourage anyone else from doing the same thing. It’s not like the difference is going from 1080p to 240 like YouTube circa 2008. Sheesh.
Honorable mention – Waaaaaaaaay too many chain-link tattoos for my liking. I believe that children are the future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way. So, can we stop this from being a thing? Please?
Jessica Andrade – After getting serious about her nutrition, Andrade dropped to 115 and won three straight in very impressive fashion. She hung in there and gave Joanna a lot of trouble early by attempting to replicate most of what worked against Angela Hill – bumrush to negate distance striking, work hard on the inside and try to land takedowns to do damage. It worked until it didn’t and she ended up losing to one of the best champions we’ve seen so far. She made some headway, though not enough to actually win any rounds. There’s no real shame in that at all, and with her overall record, it’s not something that causes your stock to drop dramatically. She probably be in the “loser” category, but how far back does this really set her? Andrade showed a great deal of tenacity and proved she belonged in there with the champion.
Yair Rodriguez – First loss in the UFC after a six-fight win streak? And he loses to a future Hall of Famer? He loses nothing. If anything, this becomes more of a learning experience. The fight itself was too much too soon, and good on him for challenging himself and taking it. Rodriguez wasn’t ready, but should be able to grow and learn from this. He’s still very young and enormously talented, and he seems to learn quickly. His stock doesn’t take a hit here.
Jorge Masvidal – As mentioned above, he defended very, very well. Masvidal also did a lot of damage standing and avoided getting submitted by the one man that could be considered best grappler in the sport (it’s either Maia or Jake Shields at this point). Masvidal’s had some of the best performances of his career since moving up to welterweight, and getting smothered by Demian Maia in a split decision doesn’t set him back much – even in a division like welterweight. Besides, Maia should have been given a title shot already. Another win or two and Masvidal is knocking on that door himself.
Rashad Coulter – Come on. The man came back and rallied from being close to finished and almost put away Chase Sherman on one leg. He gave absolutely everything he had into that, and would have been the biggest winner of the night had he actually pulled it off. I tend to be generous and forgiving to guys that lose their UFC debut, as it’s not always the best indication of where their talent lies. A fight like this, though? No way in hell I’m putting him in the losing category. Big ups to him, and we can only hope he got paid well for that. Not that I’m holding my breath, but that needs to be well rewarded.
Krzysztof Jotko – He’s still 6-2 in the UFC, and it was a split decision. It is what it is.