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UFC 211 hits American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas, and the pay-per-view (PPV) airwaves this Saturday evening (May 13, 2017) with five top-tier match ups on the docket. The main event sees UFC Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic face Junior dos Santos in a rematch of one of the best Heavyweight fights in years, while the co-feature pits women’s Strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk against Brazilian bruiser Jessica Andrade.
Demian Maia takes on Jorge Masvidal in the middle slot and Frankie Edgar dukes it out with Yair Rodriguez one fight prior.
UFC 211’s PPV main card isn’t the only thing you need to watch, however. Here’s the FX squad (check out the Fight Pass portion here).
155 lbs.: Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier
Despite +255 odds and two straight wins by razor-thin split decision, Eddie Alvarez (28-5) delivered one of 2016’s biggest upsets with a first-round technical knockout of Rafael dos Anjos to earn the UFC Lightweight title. His reign proved brief, as Conor McGregor moved up to 155 pounds four months later and put him away with punches midway through the second.
Fifteen of his 22 stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.
Following his knockout loss to Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier (21-5) returned to Lightweight and immediately embarked on a rampage that saw him score three first-round knockouts and a decision over Joe Duffy. Michael Johnson halted his momentum with a surprise knockout in Hidalgo, but he dug deep to re-enter the win column against Jim Miller in February.
Despite being an inch shorter than Alvarez, he will have a three-inch reach advantage.
This is just a really, really good fight. Two powerful, aggressive strikers who can fight through adversity? Indeed, fight fans couldn’t ask for a better “Prelims” headliner. Poirier has more raw power and is coming off a win, but Alvarez’s footwork and willingness to grind on the cage for extended periods of time have me leaning his way.
Alvarez has been dealing with come-forward bruisers his whole career. Though he can’t trade bombs with them the way he used to, he’s developed tricky movement that can defuse power punchers. If Poirier can’t find his chin early, Alvarez can and will seize the rhythm and he’s more than happy to spend half a round fighting for a takedown. Expect Poirier to land an early knockdown, but ultimately lose a narrow decision.
Prediction: Alvarez via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Chas Skelly vs. Jason Knight
Chas Skelly (17-2) stepped right into the deep end in his UFC debut, taking on super-prospect Mirsad Bektic and forcing him to settle for a majority decision. He has since won six of seven, five of them by submission, and re-established himself as a contender to watch.
He is an inch taller and seven years older than Jason Knight (16-2).
An eight-fight win streak carried Knight to UFC, where the great Tatsuya Kawajiri overpowered his guard game to hand him his first defeat in three years. Knight proceeded to re-invent himself as a pressure fighter, a move which has paid dividends with two post-fight bonuses in his three consecutive wins.
Ten of his 16 professional victories have come by submission.
Knight’s current strategy works because his guard is basically nuclear deterrence against most Featherweight fighters. He’s one of the rare modern fighters who is a legitimate finishing threat off of his back against solid opposition. As such, opponents are hesitant to exploit the takedown opportunities his relentless advance provides.
Unfortunately, Skelly’s top game is more than up to snuff and he knows it.
Skelly is one of those scary wrestlers who knows how to blend those skills with opportunistic submissions, something like what we thought Phil Davis would be early in the latter’s UFC run. Knight doesn’t have the takedown defense to control position and Skelly can hold his own on either the feet or the mat. Barring critical cardio failure, Skelly takes home the decision win.
Prediction: Skelly via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Krzysztof Jotko vs. David Branch
Krzysztof Jotko (19-1) fought back from a 1-1 start to his UFC career to win five straight, becoming an unexpected contender in the stacked Middleweight division. His last two fights have been the most impressive of all, knocking out Tamdan McCrory with one punch and dominated the resurgent Thales Leites.
He will give up four inches of reach to David Branch (20-3).
A 2011 submission loss to Rousimar Palhares ended Branch’s first UFC run at 2-2. Two wins and a loss to “Rumble” Johnson later, he embarked on his current 10-fight win streak and picked up both the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Series of Fighting (WSOF) titles.
He has knocked out five opponents and submitted another seven.
Okay, this might suck. Though Jotko has shown improvement on the feet, he is far and away more comfortable looking for the takedown. Branch, likewise, does the vast majority of his best work from top position.
It’s close, but I’m leaning toward Branch. He has experience fighting larger opponents and has the overall grappling talent to control the fight on the mat. Expect a clinch-heavy slog, with Branch ultimately spending enough time on top to take home the decision.
Prediction: Branch via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Polo Reyes vs. James Vick
Polo Reyes (7-3) — a member of Team Escudero on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” 2, knocked out Nacaragua’s Christhian Soto in the opening round before falling to teammate Horacio Gutierrez in the semis. “Marco” Polo bounced back with impressive knockouts of Cesar Arzamendia and Dong Hyun Kim, though he had to settle for his first career decision win against Jason Novelli.
Six of his eight professional wins have come by form of knockout.
The run for James Vick (10-1) on TUF 15 came to an end when, after three victories in the house, he succumbed to Mike Chiesa’s grappling prowess in the semifinals. Undaunted, he’s gone 6-1 in UFC proper, including a submission over Abel Trujillo in February.
At 6’3,” he will have a four-inch height advantage over Reyes.
Vick has done a surprisingly good job of not falling into the traditional “Tall Skinny Guy” pitfalls that befell the likes of Stefan Struve and Will Chope. He does a very good job of maintaining range, defends takedowns well, and doesn’t take too many shots directly to the chin. And that’s a good thing because Reyes has the power to take that chin clean off his head.
Of course, he’ll have to reach that chin first and I’m not convinced he’ll be able to. Vick is by far the best opponent Reyes has ever faced and the opposite is not true. Indeed, we’ve not seen Reyes in UFC against an opponent he can’t simply brawl his way past. Expect Vick to keep Reyes at bay with a stiff jab and long kicks before punishing his increasing desperation to get inside with a submission finish.
Prediction: Vick def. Reyes via second-round submission
UFC 211 is the best PPV event of 2017 thus far — do not miss this, 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.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record for 2017: 52-24
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