It has been a long time since Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos crossed paths, but they know each other well.
A heavyweight rematch goes down Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas, where Miocic puts his UFC heavyweight title on the line against dos Santos.
In a follow up to their violent brawl in late 2014, the two combatants will meet in the main event of UFC 211. Miocic (16-2) sits as the minus-135 favorite, with dos Santos at plus-115. Dos Santos (18-4) had his hand raised in the first bout, gaining the unanimous decision over the Ohio-born champion. Since then, their respective fates have taken very different turns.
Riding a four-fight win streak (all resulting in stoppages), Miocic has displayed his improving techniques and punching skills during his current title run. With timely counter-punching along with fluid footwork and movement skills, Miocic has been able to add to his amateur wrestling and boxing background to become one of the more well-rounded competitors in the heavyweight division.
The titleholder stunned dos Santos multiple times with hard right hands early in the initial bout, but momentum took a turn when dos Santos leveled Miocic with a giant counter left hook in the third round.
Dos Santos, a former champion, has only had two contests since that night. His most recent victory came via unanimous decision over Ben Rothwell a year ago.
In the prime of his career, dos Santos demonstrated some of MMA’s best boxing. Paired with unrelenting power, the 33-year-old utilized consistent body shots, devastating left hooks and crushing overhand rights that put some of the sport’s best heavyweights down. At times, that ability still shines through, yet it remains sporadic.
The Brazilian-born “Cigano” also possesses excellent takedown defense, something that allowed him to stuff numerous attempts by Miocic the first time around.
Both sluggers can inflict damage from a variety of ranges and positioning, frequently generating output in high-tempo striking sequences that lead to fan friendly and often shorter fights.
Round Prop: 1.5
Will Go: -200
Won’t Go: plus-175
Pick: Stipe Miocic via TKO (third round)
Like their first encounter, this one will be a test of chins. Both proved they could survive an onslaught in the original display, but recent history suggests the champion’s chin is much easier to trust in the sequel. Miocic uses footwork and counter-boxing to overcome dos Santos’s power and tags his foe with punching combinations resulting in the third-round TKO.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk -180
Jessica Andrade plus-160
The co-main event offers an equally intriguing title matchup as Jedrzejczyk (13-0) defends her strawweight strap against Andrade. The champion has showcased her world-class kickboxing and striking pedigree on repeated occasions, notching on four straight defenses, several in brutal fashion.
A hard-swinging pressure fighter, Andrade (16-5) possesses the power and grappling skill to have her adversary reeling, and if the challenger is able to effectively close the distance, Jedrzejczyk will be tested in a way not seen before.
Pick: Andrade attempts to swarm Jedrzejczyk and gets her shots in doing so, but the champion effectively uses the jab and circular motion to keep her opponent at bay. Jedrzejczyk withstands the advances and utilizes sharp angles to slip in punches, causing enough damage to pick up the unanimous decision victory.
Demain Maia plus-110
Jorge Masvidal -130
Maia has been white hot as of late, ripping off six victories while demonstrating his elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission fighting abilities. Maia (24-6) is very much in the hunt for a welterweight title shot, and a victory over Masvidal should put him next in line in the 170-pound landscape.
Masvidal (32-11) may be able to say the same, as three consecutive victories, including a recent TKO win over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, have forced him into the conversation, as well.
Pick: Maia negates the striking of Masvidal and takes him to the mat. The grappling prowess takes over from there, leading to a first-round submission victory for Maia.
Brett Lawson is a VSiN producer. Follow on Twitter: @BrettLawsonLV.