Date: Saturday 13th May
Location: Dallas, Texas
Venue: American Airlines Center
This is the most stacked card of the year, full of exciting fighters and thrilling match-ups with not one but two championship titles on the line. Polluted with top-ranked fighters, this card has an average fighter ranking of 4.2, which ranks second on our all-time list. The graphic below illustrates how this card compares with the highest ranked UFC main cards:
The heavyweight belt and claim for the ‘baddest man on the planet’ is up for grabs with current champion Stipe Miocic seeking vengeance against the last man to beat him. This will be a titanic clash between two striking powerhouses with the stats to prove it. Miocic holds the UFC record for the most strikes in a fight (361) and Junior dos Santos holds the UFC record for the most significant strikes in a heavyweight fight (157).
Dos Santos is a former heavyweight champion himself after toppling one of the best heavyweights of all time in Cain Velasquez. However, they met twice more and it seemed Velasquez was after Dos Santos’ soul and delivered two savage beatings. Dos Santos is an incredibly gifted fighter with some of the best hands and takedown defence in the division (80.49% - 3rd best in UFC heavyweight history) but Velasquez proved to be the worst possible style match-up for him. A freakish gas tank and athleticism for a big man, allowed him to inflict 10 rounds of brutal punishment that appears to have caused lasting damage as he has fought only three times since with rather inconsistent performances.
Not helped by a series of injuries and operations since, Dos Santos superbly outclassed an in-form Ben Rothwell in his most recent fight but did not look himself in his fight with Alistair Overeem where he suffered the second TKO of his career. In his fight prior to this, he also did not quite look like the Dos Santos of old, however this was against Miocic himself where he valiantly earned a decision win. That contest was one of the fights of the year and a remarkable bounce back for Dos Santos as he displayed his class and unrivalled heart. For Miocic, this was only the second loss of his career but a valuable lesson in which he bounced back himself to collect four straight wins, four knock-outs, the heavyweight belt and a title defence against the last man to beat Dos Santos – Alistair Overeem.
War – Dos Santos (left) and Miocic (right) in their first meeting in 12/2014
Miocic has steadily improved since his loss to Dos Santos and has matured into a worthy champion but to keep the belt, he has to be at his very best on the night. Their previous fight was a stand up battle only because he struggled to take Dos Santos down, with only one successful takedown from 18 attempts. So if his wrestling has not dramatically improved he will have to expect to go to war again, entering into Dos Santos’ territory, a scary place where he will face a storm of bombs being thrown from all angles in the form of punches and kicks. Although Miocic remarkably weathered this storm last time out, his speed, defence and powerful counter-striking will be pivotal in order to retain the belt. With the weight and power of heavyweights there is zero margin for error but adding the pinnacle of skill and the story of the rematch makes this bout simply irresistible.
See below for a statistical breakdown of the fight:
We are treated to another title fight in the co-main event between strawweights Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade. The Polish star is developing a habit of gracing the big cards and rightly so as she is one of the most skilled and exciting fighters in the UFC, ranked #7 in the UFC ‘pound-for-pound’ rankings. With a strong background in Muay Thai and Boxing, she has amassed a perfect record of 13-0, picking off every top contender in the division. Her stand up skills just cannot be matched at the moment and with some of the best takedown defence in the division (81.81%), she masterfully manipulates every fight into her domain, lighting up opponents with unrelenting elbows, knees and laser-like punching combinations.
Her toughest tests on paper certainly proved to be the case in two fights against a dominant grappler in Claudia Gadelha, who proved to be a tricky stylistic match-up for Jedrzejczyk. However, in both fights Jedrzejczyk proved her championship level calibre, withstanding the grappling onslaught to outrun, outwork and outpoint Gadelha. The lessons learnt and confidence gained in these fights will be priceless as she now faces an upgraded version of Gadelha in Andrade.
Although only 5’2”, the Brazilian is a powerhouse who completely held her own in a division, 20 pounds heavier at bantamweight. Since dropping down to strawweight, she became an immediate contender for the belt, using her strength advantage to put away three top contenders. She TKO’d Jessica Penne, submitted Joanne Calderwood and won a decision over Angela Hill.
Andrade is Jedrzejczyk’s biggest threat so far. She will not have faced anyone as strong as her and she will have to deal with the mix of wrestling and heavy strikes that Andrade offers. Although less technical, Andrade is more powerful and marches forward at her opponents with the sole intention to bully them into close range and this will be the key to victory over Jedrzejczyk. On paper, Andrade is the worst possible match-up for Jedrzejczyk, but the same can perhaps be said vice versa.
Will Jedrzejczyk’s sprawl be enough to avoid the takedowns of Andrade?
Will Andrade be able to absorb the strikes of Jedrzejczyk?
Will Jedrzejczyk’s speed and counter-striking be enough to avoid Andrade’s clinch?
Will Andrade wilt and tire if the fight goes into the championship rounds?
What we do know is that this fight is as compelling as it gets between two of the most talented female fighters in the UFC. See below for a statistical breakdown of the fight:
The card is not giving an inch when it comes to excitement, with another fascinating match-up between welterweights Demian Maia and Jorge Masvidal. The monster of the mat has stuck to his roots of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has reaped the rewards, riding a six-fight winning streak. Maia has been extremely unlucky to not fight for the welterweight belt after being promised a shot at the current champion, Tyron Woodley, and instead has patiently waited while Stephen Thompson got the first chance. To rub salt in the wound, this fight ended in a draw and a subsequent rematch forced Maia to wait even longer for a shot at the gold. Desperate to remain active, he has resorted to taking a fight to solidify his number one contender status. Unfortunately for him, Jorge Masvidal has stepped up to the plate.
Masvidal is a dangerous opponent for anyone and is finally performing to his potential as he moves up from lightweight. He is confident, well-rounded and has been competing against some of the best fighters in the world for almost a decade. Perhaps more significant is his utter fearlessness, as he was one of the few fighters to pounce at the chance of fighting Maia, undeterred by his elite ground skills. This confidence is crucial to avoid the strengths of Maia and expose him on the feet. With exceptional and seasoned boxing, Masvidal proved his class in completely overwhelming one of the most feared strikers in the division in Donald Cerrone. The heavy underdog snapped a four-fight winning streak with a shocking TKO and will be confident he can do the same to Maia.
This fight will all be about Masvidal avoiding Maia’s vortex of pain in a thrilling battle for dominance. See below for a statistical breakdown of the fight:
Next up on the main card is another clash of styles between fighters at contrasting stages of their career, with the winner likely to earn a title shot between the winner of Jose Aldo and Max Holloway. The legendary Frankie Edgar is up against arguably the most exciting young prospect in the UFC, Yair Rodriguez.
Edgar has stayed relevant and at the top of the rankings for almost his entire career. The former lightweight champion is still striving for the featherweight belt and proves time and time again that he is a worthy contender. However, even with his illustrious experience, he has never fought anyone like Rodriguez. Rodriguez is 5’11 and uses his reach expertly with an array of striking techniques you’re likely to see in a Hollywood movie. He covers a tremendous amount of distance with his speed igniting flying knees, spinning kicks, punches and elbows which will be of great concern for Edgar who will look to close the distance at any opportunity. He will hope to apply his trademark grind and pressure on Rodriguez, enforce the clinch, take him down and counter-strike the Mexican’s spectacular techniques - easier said than done as Rodriguez is incredibly elusive and slippery inside the octagon.
Either fighter could pull off a convincing win but it’s impossible to predict. Rodriguez has the confidence, flair and volume to pick Edgar apart from a distance but you can never count out Edgar; he has never been stopped in his whole career and if there is a passage to victory, he will stop at nothing to find it. See below for a statistical preview of the fight:
Finally, Henry Cejudo takes on Sergio Pettis in a fight which may also have title implications, this time in the flyweight division. Cejudo climbed up the flyweight ranks without tasting defeat, which earned him a title shot against Demetrious Johnson back in April 2016. Unbeaten with Olympic level wrestling, Cejudo was expected to pose a threat to Johnson, however he was completely outclassed. This shouldn’t necessarily be a discredit though, as Johnson has outclassed every opponent he has defended the belt against. Looking to bounce back from his first ever loss he took on #1 ranked Joseph Benavidez, but suffered his second loss via a decision. Now with everything to prove, he desperately wants to earn another title shot with a convincing win against Pettis.
This will be no easy feat as Pettis is in the form of his life, winning his last three fights. He is emerging from his brother’s shadow and has youth and confidence on his side. The talented kickboxer has all the weapons to dominate Cejudo on the feet but without a solid takedown defence, his purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu may not be enough to survive on the ground.
We can’t help but feel that the UFC would prefer a win for Pettis, unearthing a new challenger for Johnson. The champion is so dominant that he is running out of opponents and a win for Cejudo will leave the division in uncertainty. Please see below for a statistical breakdown for the fight:
Striking and grappling stats sourced via FightMetric.