UFC 211 is the kind of event that hardcore fans live for. A classic UFC offering; lots of big fights, lots of name fighters, lots of implications for the future. Two champions retained their belts and are in need of next contenders. Potential title challengers at featherweight and welterweight were separated out from the pack, and a load of other fighters got the chance to put their name on the map.
It’s almost too much for any one person to deal with, which is why I’m here to help the UFC sort it out, and I’ve even enlisted some help in doing so. I’ll be following the classic Silva/Shelby method of fight booking: Winners vs. winners, losers vs. losers, similarly tenured fighters against one another. Making picks alongside me this week is BE reader Bloodshield. If you’d like to make picks for the next fight card, leave a comment below starting with, “This is not PG-13. This is not rated ‘R’. This is XXX. If you don’t like those types of films, don’t tune in May 13,” and I’ll pick one winner out of the comments. Now, let’s get to the fight bookings.
Hey everyone! I'm Ethan, known on BE as Bloodshield, and I'm going to put some picks out there for your interested eyes. Off the forums I'm an archaeologist, BJJ white belt, and massive MMA nerd. For these picks, I'll be sticking mostly to the winner vs. winner and loser vs. loser matchmaking, with an eye for fresh matchups and fights that give the winner a chance to move up the ladder in their division.
Ethan - People will probably call for a fight with Cain, but to indulge in some MMA Math, Cain is one fight removed from getting subbed by the guy who Stipe knocked dead for the title. Meanwhile, there's a beast of a HW on a five fight win streak in the UFC, who recently brutalized a decent name in Andrei Arlovski, and HW needs fresh blood at the top. Let's get a new matchup and give a rising contender his shot. Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou.
Zane - I’m of two distinct minds over this. On the one hand, you really can’t trust Cain Velasquez to stay healthy for a big title fight, on the other hand Francis Ngannou could really use more time to gain traction with fans before getting a title shot. Those are the only two men really in position for the belt right now, unless you want to bank on Derrick Lewis beating Mark Hunt or give the winner of Overeem/Werdum another try. Given those choices, I’m going to say book Cain, but put Ngannou on the same card with the intention of subbing him in if Cain gets hurt.
JUNIOR DOS SANTOS
Ethan - Alexander Volkov's currently at 10 in the rankings and JDS will probably fall slightly. Match them up and give Volkov the chance to solidify himself as a contender against a better “name” than Roy Nelson. If Volkov wins, we've got a new contender with some good names on his resume. If JDS wins, well, it's business as usual, but at least Volkov got a chance. Junior Dos Santos vs. Alexander Volkov.
Zane - If Werdum loses to Alistair Overeem at UFC 213, there’s an obvious need for a Werdum vs. JDS rematch. If he doesn’t, however, things get a little cloudier. Somehow Travis Browne and JDS have never fought, so Browne off a win over Oliynyk would be solid, as would the winner of Arlovski vs. Tybura. I don’t know why the Volkov idea isn’t appealing to me, but I’m just not feeling it. Eventually my first choice would be Werdum off a loss, otherwise go Browne off a win.
Ethan - The division isn't necessarily jam packed with contenders, with JJ's reign of terror continuing, but there is someone on a good streak right now with an emphatic win over Waterson in her most recent fight. I might like to see Rose get one more fight before a title shot, personally, but she really is the most viable contender at this point. The time's right to see if Thug Rose can dethrone the champ. Joanna Champion vs. Thug Rose.
Zane - Even as good as Rose Namajunas looked against Michelle Waterson I can’t help but feel she’s in no way prepared for Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Without the pace change of takedowns, she’s stuck relying on her serviceable range power striking, which broke down against Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s volume and clinch. Still, that’s more appealing that JJ rematching the KK/Gadelha winner. The real prize would be a 125 lb title fight against Valentina Shevchenko, but that’s just a pipe dream right now. Joanna Champion vs. Rose Namajunas it is.
Ethan - A small step down in competition is likely in order for Andrade to get her back on track after a prolonged beating at the hands of the champ. I'd suggest Carla Esparza, to stick with loser vs. loser matchmaking, but she's already matched up There is a good fight booked for early June, and Andrade hasn't fought either of those combatants yet, so let's go with Jessica Andrade vs. the loser of Gadelha/Kowalkiewicz.
Zane - Andrade vs. Kowalkiewicz would be amazing. But, if KK loses to Gadelha that would be her second straight, and at that point a fight with Andrade feels like it’d be a little bit of a waste. I’d rather see them both on a run. Right now the best option I see would be Andrade against Tecia Torres, as Torres is just kind of treading water in the top 5. If the UFC has to go loser vs. loser Andrade vs. Gadelha or KK would be fantastic, but I think they can be more creative here.
Ethan - Give the man his title shot! He's already fought 47 people while Wonderboy and Woodley did their thing. It probably does come down to his “marketability”, whatever that nebulous term means, but it would be (even more) criminal at this point to not allow him into the title picture. Maia's 39, not getting any younger, and on a ridiculous 7 fight win streak. There is no legitimate reason to deny him any longer. Demian Maia vs. Tyron Woodley.
Zane - The UFC has saved me some time and announced this one already. It has the look of box office poison, but it’s the fight that needed to be made. Demian Maia vs. Tyron Woodley.
Ethan - There's a couple good options for Masvidal here. I'm partial to seeing him fight Matt Brown in a fight that's guaranteed fireworks, assuming Brown is still fighting. A bout with Neil Magny would be interesting as well, and if Lawler drops his fight to Cerrone, that option is on the table too. I'm going to stick with my first VIOLENCE instincts, and call for Jorge Masvidal vs. Matt Brown.
Zane - I don’t think Brown has the durability to hang with Masvidal in his current iteration. Masvidal’s body kicking game was on point against Maia, and that’s a major problem for Brown. Thiago Alves would be great but I doubt we see a teammate vs. teammate fight, same goes for Lawler off a win. A fight with Carlos Condit would be a dream, but I’m not sure Condit isn’t just retired these days. That leaves just one option to me, Stephen Thompson. Lets see Masvidal vs. Wonderboy!
Ethan - Frankie's in a weird spot here, being pretty much the best FW not named Jose Aldo or Max Holloway. I don't know if the UFC would want to throw him back in there against Aldo so soon, if Aldo unifies the belts, but I do think Edgar would make an excellent first defense for Holloway, should Max win the unification bout. Otherwise, I'd like to see him face Korean Zombie to see if Jung can launch himself back into contendership. I'll hedge my bets. Frankie Edgar vs. Max Holloway (if Holloway becomes full champ) or Chan Sung Jung (if it's Aldo who unifies.)
Zane - If Jose Aldo beats Max Holloway there’s no reason to make Edgar/Aldo III. Otherwise, Edgar vs. Holloway is a fine and good fight (not the best, but fine). My dream would be to see Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz fight at 140 lbs, but Cruz wants next at the bantamweight title so that’s probably just a pipe dream. Instead I’m going to say just book the Chan Sung Jung fight outright. It’s a great veteran matchup and I’m less than sold on KZ being an instant title contender without a big win like that.
Ethan - Time for a step down in competition for Yair. Beating the shell of BJ Penn does not put you on the level of “The Answer”. I'd like to see if Mirsad Bektic can get a win back via superb technique to counter Yair's craziness. That gives Yair another shot to prove he belongs in the top 10, or sets the stage for Mirsad to storm the ranks. Yair Rodriguez vs. Mirsad Bektic.
Zane - This was a bad loss, but on the flip side, not many people can do to Yair what Frankie did at featherweight. As for what’s next? I think there’s one big obvious bounce back fight waiting for Yair right now: Jeremy Stephens. Stephens stalking power-punching style plays right into Yair’s game, while still being another seasoned vet in/near his prime to test whether Yair’s high flying style can really beat top fighters in his division. Stephens is also going to be very hungry for a win after getting embarrassed by Renato Moicano last time out. Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens, book it, UFC
EDDIE ALVAREZ/DUSTIN POIRIER
Ethan - The fight was fun up until the illegal knees, and I'd like to see that run back, without the fouls this time around. Hopefully Poirier is up for that, and hopefully Alvarez can control his shots instead of getting DQ'ed if we set them up for another fight. Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier.
Zane - I loved this fight the first time, I loved watching it, and I’d love to see it again. REMATCH!
Ethan - Knight is on a solid streak right now. It's time for a step up in competition, and a test to see if he can break into the rankings. To that end, I like a fight with a tough-as-nails gatekeeper in Darren Elkins, which should be both a good test for Jason and a really fun scrap to watch. Jason Knight vs. Darren Elkins.
Zane - Rumor has it that Darren Elkins is booked to fight Dennis Bermudez, which is too bad because I love this Knight/Elkins idea. Working off that ending up being the case, however, there are tons and tons of good fights for Jason Knight right now. Take your pick from Myles Jury, Renato Moicano, Arnold Allen, Shane Burgos, or Brain Ortega. Or, another funky guard grappler: Ryan Hall? Of all these the Brian Ortega fight is the one I most want, but Ortega has been out with injury for a while. That being the case, I say match Knight up with Renato Moicano and see which of them can keep their roll going.
OTHER BOUTS: Branch vs. Leites, Jotko vs. Alvey, Skelly vs. Dias, Sherman vs. Milstead, Coulter vs. Spitz, Vick vs. Khabilov, Reyes vs. Emmett, Casey vs. Lima, Aguilar vs. Rawlings, Barzola vs. Kennedy, Benitez vs. Gruetzemacher, Antigulov vs. Barroso, Christensen vs. Stewart