The UFC made a return to the Lone Star state once again last weekend as the year’s biggest card to date, UFC 211, took place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. In a card that certainly didn’t disappoint, both champions retained their titles in trademark fashion as the rest of the card offered an exciting night of fights. Once again we at MMA Plus, have taken a look at the winners from Saturday’s main card and consider who’s next for those who came out on top in the latest edition of ‘Fight That Make Sense’.
Fights That Make Sense after UFC 211
Stipe Miocic (17-2)
Recording his fourth first-round finish on the bounce at UFC 211, Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic marched on in his title reign and avenged a previous loss when he defeated Junior Dos Santos in the first round of Saturday night’s main event.
Despite finding himself on the losing side of a five-round war in their previous encounter, Miocic showed remarkable improvement this time around and breezed through what many were considering his biggest test as the champion so far. Now, the Cleveland native holds a win over most of the top guys in the Heavyweight division with one glaring exception… former champion Cain Velasquez.
34-year-old Velasquez is considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time although his persistent injury problems have tainted his legacy somewhat. Despite having lost just once in five years, when he lost the title to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188, the Californian has only fought six times in that time period and can’t be relied upon anymore to get to fight night healthy and prepared.
The UFC should make this fight next, however, if doubts persist over the capabilities of Velasquez to move past his injury troubles, they must just decide whether to rush surging prospect Francis Ngannou into the challenger role.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0)
With her fifth successive title defence, Joanna Jedrzejczyk has now tied the record set by Ronda Rousey for consecutive title defences and has cleared out the women’s strawweight division in the process.
The complete domination over challenger Jessica Andrade saw the Polish champion take all five rounds on the judges’ scorecards which marked the continued trend of Jedrzejczyk emphatically sweeping aside her challengers with relative ease.
Much like the flyweight division that’s dominated by a single fighter, the only serious challenger to Joanna “Champion” comes in the shape of Brazilian grappler Claudia Gadelha.
Gadelha, however, has been beaten soundly twice previously by Jedrzejczyk and is currently scheduled to face Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 212 on June 3.
The only other fighter who has a claim to the title shot in the division is Rose Namajunas, who is currently 3-1 in her last four UFC outings, and most recently defeated former Invicta Atomweight champion Michelle Waterson by submission at UFC on Fox 24 last month. Although the number one contender by default, Namajunas struggles against pressure fighters as seen in her loss to Kowalkiewicz last year and will need remarkable improvement if she is to pose a threat to Jedrzejczyk’s reign.
Demian Maia (25-6)
After picking up his seventh successive win with a split decision over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 211, Demian Maia made it very clear that he wants his long-awaited shot at UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley next.
UFC President Dana White agreed during the UFC 211 post-fight press conference that Maia had now “earned” his number one contender status and was guaranteed to be next in line to face the current champion. This will please many fans who feel the Brazilian had done enough to warrant that position before Saturday’s victory.
BJJ specialist Maia has put together a special run in the twilight of his career, beating fellow welterweight contenders Carlos Condit, Gunnar Nelson and Neil Magny on his way up the rankings whilst last tasting defeat way back in early 2014. At 39-years-old, time is running out for Maia and a final chance to lift the elusive UFC gold after a decade with the promotion seems the only sensible option.
Frankie Edgar (22-5)
After derailing the hype train of top featherweight prospect Yair Rodriguez in brutal fashion at UFC 211, Frankie Edgar expressed an interest in fighting the winner of UFC 212’s featherweight title showdown between Jose Aldo and Max Holloway.
While “The Answer” has all the experience and credentials to put himself in the running, it would be hard to justify making the fight if Aldo comes out on top next month. The Brazilian has beaten Edgar twice previously in title fights, most recently at UFC 200, with the fight being pretty conclusive as Aldo took the unanimous decision victory in rather emphatic fashion.
Instead, the fight I favour for the New Jersey veteran is a fan-pleasing rematch with the much-improved Jackson-Wink MMA product Cub Swanson, who has recently pulled himself into title contention with a streak of four wins. Having previously lost to Edgar in the closing seconds of their first fight by submission, Swanson will be chomping at the bit to avenge the 2014 defeat and a fight between the two would result in a clear number one contender for the recovering division.
David Branch (21-3)
Making his return to the UFC after a successful spell with World Series of Fighting, WSOF double-champion David Branch passed a tough test at middleweight as he used his superior wrestling and grappling to take the split decision victory over ranked opponent Kryszstof Jotko.
On the back of this victory and his active 11-fight win streak, Branch will look to be matched up with a top name in the middleweight division after returning to the promotion seeking championship gold. A suited opponent given the circumstances would be middleweight contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
After Souza’s recent loss to Robert Whittaker at UFC on Fox 24, his aspirations of fighting for the middleweight title look all but dead in the water. The 37-year-old will the New Yorker would see winner enter the congested mix at the top of the middleweight rankings.
Also, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu backgrounds of both fighters would lead to an extremely intriguing battle where they would be forced to look outside their comfort zones to seek an advantage in the fight.