UFC 211 Preview: Cleveland’s Champion is Back!
Yes, LeBron James is trying to lead the Cavs to another title, but Cleveland’s other current champion, Stipe Miocic, is set to defend his title on Saturday.
Updated: May 11, 2017 • 8:30 AM ET
UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is beloved in Cleveland.
When the lights shine inside American Airlines Center in Dallas for UFC 211 on Saturday, one thing may be certain: it will be the biggest event put on by the promotion since UFC 205 in New York City. The card is so stacked, it makes UFC 200, what was supposed to be the organization’s biggest event to date, look like a Friday night wrestling promotion in South Dakota. The Dakotas are beautiful; no offense meant.
A heavyweight rematch between champion Stipe Miocic and challenger Junior dos Santos headlines the event. Their first matchup at UFC Fight Night in December 2014 was an absolute war, during which both men landed heavy punches and hurt each other. The result was a dos Santos win by unanimous decision, but since the loss to dos Santos, Miocic is riding a four-fight knockout streak.
The four most recent fighters to fall victim to Miocic’s knockout power include Mark Hunt and former champion Andre Arlovski. Miocic then won the heavyweight title in Brazil by defeating hometown fighter Fabricio Werdum with one of the most shocking finishes of 2016. Lastly, he knocked out Alistair Overeem in his first title defense in his hometown of Cleveland.
Dos Santos, since defeating Miocic, has been less busy than the champion. In the fight following Miocic, he was knocked out by Overeem but rebounded well with a five-round decision over Ben Rothwell. Dos Santos’ chin looked like it may have taken a turn toward vulnerability against Overeem, but against Rothwell, he proved he’s still one of the best boxers in the heavyweight division.
Miocic, despite being the champion, is still the man with something to prove in the rematch. He has only lost twice in the Octagon, and avenging his loss to dos Santos would elevate him into the conversation as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
It certainly appears that a trying, five-round fight with dos Santos was just the kind of grueling battle and experience Miocic needed to go on his title run. Winning the UFC’s heavyweight crown gave him the illustrious title of Cleveland’s first champion in 52 years. Sorry Cavs, he beat you to it.
After his victory over Werdum in Brazil, Miocic screamed into the camera and microphone, “Cleveland, we got a champion baby!”
Given how Miocic has elevated his game and ability to finish fights, another five-round battle on May 13 would be a surprise. Another factor to consider is all the wars dos Santos has been through in his career. Can he possibly withstand another?
Co-main event | Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade | Women’s strawweight title fight
The co-main event of the evening is a women’s strawweight title fight between champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0) and challenger Jessica Andrade. Jedrzejczyk, who is only getting better, is coming off a five-round decision victory at UFC 205 over Karolina Kowalkiewicz. UFC fans had rarely seen Jedrzejczyk in trouble, until she ate a tough right hand from Kowalkiewicz in that fight. But Jedrzejczyk recovered and cruised to a unanimous decision victory.
Andrade is 16-5 and riding a three-fight win streak. If she plans to shock the world, she must find a way to get inside on the champion and grind out a victory by being the aggressor. Jedrzejczyk has shown that her ability to stay on the outside, while using her hands and speed, is too much for the women that have fought her to handle.
Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal | Welterweight fight
The UFC 211 fun doesn’t stop at the main events. The night also brings what is considered to be a No. 1 contender welterweight match between Jiu Jitsu wizard Demian Maia and backyard brawler Jorge Masvidal. Many expect the winner to challenge champion Tyron Woodley for the welterweight title.
Maia is on a six-fight win streak with victories over Carlos Condit, Matt Brown and Neal Magny during that stretch. Masvidal is riding a three-fight win streak and won Performance of the Night honors in his last fight with a knockout of fan favorite Donald Cerrone. MMA enthusiasts would love to see Maia challenge for the title, and the casual fan that enjoys knockouts would love to see a Woodley versus Masvidal slugfest.
Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez | Featherweight fight
Former lightweight champion and future Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar will take on phenom Yair Rodriguez in a featherweight fight. Edgar challenged for the interim featherweight title at UFC 200 against Jose Aldo, but lost by decision. He defeated Jeremy Stephens by decision in his last fight, still looking like the warrior of old.
With his taekwondo style kicks, Rodriguez has emerged as one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC. At just 24 years old and full of talent, he’s likely destined to be a future star and moneymaker for the company. Rodriguez is coming off a win over UFC legend BJ Penn, but Edgar will undoubtedly be his toughest test to date. Fans should expect an outstanding battle.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier | Lightweight fight
Eddie Alvarez’s and Dustin Poirier’s lightweight fight will headline the UFC 211 undercard. Alvarez lost his last fight and lightweight title at UFC 205 to Conor McGregor. Alvarez needs a convincing win over Poirier for anyone to believe his loss to McGregor could have been a fluke. Another loss could result in Alvarez being far removed from title contention in arguably the toughest division in the UFC.
With so much on the line and so many great fights, fans in Dallas could be given a memorable show on May 13. There could be two new champions crowned, so those attending and watching around the world shouldn’t blink an eye. UFC 211 is sure to be one of the best events of the year.