Stacked to the rafters!
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) dry spell ends this Saturday evening (May 13, 2017) as UFC 211 hits Dallas, Texas’ American Airlines Arena with some terrific match ups in tow. Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic locks horns with Junior dos Santos in the main event, while women’s Strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk faces human highlight reel Jessica Andrade.
In addition, Demian Maia and Jorge Masvidal will duke it out in a likely Welterweight No. 1 title contender eliminator match and Frankie Edgar will attempt to halt the meteoric rise of Yair Rodriguez.
Five of UFC 211’s nine “Prelims” undercard matches will take place on Fight Pass, while the remainder return to FX (not FOX Sports 1) for the first time in a while. Let’s first preview and predict UFC 211’s online line up:
115 lbs.: Jessica Aguilar vs. Cortney Casey
Jessica Aguilar (19-5) came back from her controversial loss to Zoila Frausto in Bellator to win 10 straight, including a decision against Carla Esparza and two decisions over the legendary Megumi Fujii. That pedigree wasn’t enough to save her from Claudia Gadelha, who overpowered “Jag” in the latter’s UFC debut.
This will be her first fight since Oct. 2015 thanks to a torn ACL.
Cortney Casey (6-4) came up short in her first two UFC bouts against Joanne Calderwood and Seo Hee Ham, winning “Fight of the Night” both times, but showed dramatic improvement in dominant wins over Cristina Stanciu and Randa Markos. This set up a fight with Gadelha, who delighted the Brazilian crowd while handing Casey her third UFC defeat.
She will have three inches of height and four inches of reach on Aguilar.
This fight boils entirely down to how much the layoff affects Aguilar. Casey has parlayed her size, strength and mean streak into some solid performances, but the wrestling and experience disparities are just too much for her present skillset to overcome. Heck, Aguilar first fought Fujii a year before Casey’s professional debut.
Casey doesn’t have enough to fall back on when Plan A (physically overpowering Aguilar) inevitably goes south. Aguilar out-grapples her on the way to her first UFC victory.
Prediction: Aguilar def. Casey via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Jared Gordon vs. Michel Quinones
Jared “Flash” Gordon (12-1) — though not the SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE — rebounded from his first career loss to Jeff Lentz by winning the CFFC Featherweight title. In his first defense, he impressed Dana White and Co. enough to be the latest “Lookin’ for a Fight” acquisition.
He has knocked out five opponents and submitted another two.
A striker out of American Top Team, Michel Quinones (8-1) knocked out three consecutive opponents in the first round, including The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 competitor Billy Quarantillo, to earn a call up to Titan FC. There, he picked up just his second decision win over previously unbeaten Caio Uruguai.
He was originally set to debut in February against Alexander Volkanovski before suffering an injury.
There’s not much out there on Gordon save highlights, but thankfully, Fight Pass has Quinones’ last fight. “El Capo” is an aggressive, powerful striker with a tricky left leg, but has a tendency to rush forward when attacking in combination and open himself up to counters. What I can piece together of Gordon suggests a strong wrestler with pop in his hands.
While they’re both solid, Gordon gets my tentative nod. He looks capable on the counter and — though Quinones’ takedown defense looked stout — those charges are just begging for a well-timed double-leg takedown. Gordon mixes striking and takedowns for a decision win.
Prediction: Gordon via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Chase Sherman vs. Rashad Coulter
Chase Sherman (9-3) entered UFC with nine first-round knockouts in 10 fights, the sole loss coming to current UFC competitor Alex Nicholson. He has struggled to recreate that success in UFC, dropping a wide decision to Justin Ledet in his debut and suffering a knockout to fellow physical specimen Walt Harris in January.
At 6’4”, he stands five inches taller than Rashad Coulter (8-1).
Coulter enters UFC having won five straight, all of them in the first round under solid banners like Bellator and Legacy FC. His last two fights have ended in a combined 1:49 and none of the five lasted more than three minutes. Like Sherman, all of Coulter’s wins have come by form of knockout.
I’m going to be honest: Aside from about 10 seconds from AXS TV’s post-show recaps, I can’t find any recent footage of Coulter. I do, however, know that he’s fought at Light Heavyweight before and his weight tends to fluctuate dramatically, which suggests he’s carrying unnecessary fat. Sherman may be technically limited, but he’s a 240-pound beast.
Both guys are coming in on short notice, adding another layer of intrigue. Accepting that the lack of fight tape makes this a shot in the dark, I say Sherman ends the slugfest partway through the first.
Prediction: Sherman via first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. Enrique Barzola
Gabriel Benitez (19-5) — who defeated Diego Rivas on the inaugural TUF: “Latin America” season — won his first two UFC bouts before suffering a career-first loss to Andre Fili at UFC Fight Night 78. Ten months later, “Moggly” returned to action and choked out Sam Sicilia in Hidalgo for his fifth win in six fights.
Ten of his 19 professional wins have come by submission, including four by guillotine choke.
Enrique Barzola (12-3-1) — lived up to his nickname on TUF: “Latin America” 2, beating Jonathan Ortega and Cesar Arzamendia before dominating Horacio Guitierrez at the Finale. After a questionable loss to Kyle Bochniak, Barzola cruised past Chris Avila in Mexico City last November.
His wins are split evenly between knockouts, submissions and decisions.
It’s been nice to see TUF: “Latin American” fighters find success after being brushed aside as novelties. Benitez has proven a very effective striker and Barzola is much more well-rounded than one would expect considering the limited training opportunities he had early in his career.
That well-roundedness has me picking the Peruvian. He can hold his own on the feet and blends his wrestling with his striking quite well. The threat of the takedown should muzzle Benitez’s usual kicking onslaught and Barzola has the cardio to grapple all night. He outworks Benitez to a clear decision win.
Prediction: Barzola via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Joachim Christensen
Gadzhimurad Antigulov (19-4) put a three-fight losing streak behind him with 12 consecutive victories, all but one by knockout or submission. This set up a UFC debut against Marcos Rogerio de Lima, whom Antigulov overpowered for a bonus-winning guillotine choke in 67 seconds.
He has stopped 16 opponents in the first round, including seven in less than one minute.
Joachim Christensen (14-4) saw his five-fight win streak come to an end in his UFC debut when Luis “Frankenstein” recovered from a nasty knee to submit him in the second. Three months later, he returned to action and knocked out Bojan Mihajlovic with a lovely uppercut midway through the third.
At 6’3”, he is four inches taller than Antigulov.
Antigulov is a natural Middleweight who makes up for his physical disadvantages with freakish aggression. It’s not a sustainable style, nor one that will continue to work once he starts to scratch the top of the division, but it makes him must-watch TV against those below the 205-pound median.
Christensen has power and solid striking skills. And if the fight goes past the first, it’s his for the taking. Sadly, he has not demonstrated the takedown defense necessary to turn aside Antigulov’s initial rush. Antigulov downs him early and locks up something ugly in transition.
Prediction: Antigulov via first-round submission
We still have several great UFC 211 “Prelims” fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including a showdown between top Featherweight prospects, as well as a barnburner between Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier.
Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 211 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on PPV.