UFC 211: Elusive Maia has a plethora of paths to victory


UFC boff Callum Wilson (@CallumWilsonSJ) marks our card for UFC 211.

UFC 211 | 14th May 2017

It’s been a strange start to 2017 for the UFC under new management. There’s been exciting and relatively momentous events and fights – but not historic. A distinct lack of star power on show and subsequently watered down cards have been prevalent this year, however, that’s about to change.

The marque showpiece under the new regime takes place this Saturday night, as UFC 211 rolls into Dallas, Texas, with a star-studded line-up from the Fight Pass prelims to the main event. I’m going to run through some of my heavy leans on what looks set to be a voluptuous card for mixed-martial-arts betting.

When the headliner of the Fight Pass prelims entails Dustin Poirier vs Eddie Alvarez throwing down, there is a strong indicator that this card is stacked from top to bottom.

I’m going to detail three specific spots I like from this card, including selections from the Damien Maia vs Jorge Masvidal grappling extravaganza, Joanna Jędrzejczyk and her quest for her fifth-straight women’s strawweight title defence against Jessica Andrade, and finally breaking down Yair Rodriguez and why he poses as a fruitful underdog against vet Frankie Edgar.

Demian Maia v Jorge Masvidal | Sunday 04:00

There are very few fighters riding the wave of momentum that is currently being enjoyed by Brazilian-Ju-Jitsu wizard Damian Maia. Riding a six-fight win streak, whilst recording notable victories over the likes of Carlos Condit, Matt Brown and Gunnar Nelson to name just a few.

The most startling statistic, however, is that in his last four fights, the fourth-degree black belt has been hit just 13 times. A staggering stat.

Why is this? Quite simply Maia’s complete domination when things hit the mat, and an underrated, no-frills wrestling game that generally only requires one takedown per round to ensure Maia keeps you where he wants you.

The line is currently sitting at 11/10 (SkyBet), which seems way off to me. The bookies have taken too much from Masvidal’s recent win against a vastly underperforming Donald Cerrone, and Maia’s BJJ top game just cannot be ignored particularly when we’re talking about underdog prices.

This fight centres on whether Maia can land the takedown, and if he does his chances of taking this 170-pound bout are far higher than the bookies are alluding to.

Masvidal is a tough customer, having only been stopped three times previously in his mixed-martial-arts career. But he has not faced anyone with such an over reliance in a certain area of the sport, such as Maia’s world-class BJJ.

On the safe side, the money line at 11/10 looks a safe bet. However, looking for value, 12 of Maia’s 15 finishes have resulted via submission, and the second-round submission prop at 9/1 (SkyBet) looks big.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk v Jessica Andrade | 04:30

In an age where titles are bound around weight divisions, like a game of musical chairs but with 4oz gloves – few have dominated their respective divisions like strawweight champ Joanna Jędrzejczyk.

The Polish powerhouse is undefeated thus far in her illustrious reign in the 115-pound division, taking the scalps of the likes of Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz in her most recent bouts.

Throughout her five title defenses, Joanna ‘Champion’ has outstruck her opponent to the tune of 746-245 in her favour, showcasing relentless cardio and an output unmatched by any fighter in the UFC in both the male and female rosters.

Boasting an undefeated 13-0 record in MMA, and 7-0 in the UFC, no-one has been able to solve the problem that Jędrzejczyk poses. In Andrade, Jędrzejczyk faces a stylistic matchup difference from her own repertoire, where Jędrzejczyk is a technical striker and Andrade more of an overly aggressive power-puncher.

I expect Andrade to throw everything at the Polish star in the first round, but should Jędrzejczyk survive it her volume and constant pressure take this fight on the judges’ scorecards, in my opinion.

The money line at 4/7 at William Hill looks a safe bet, however, I think the value lies in Jędrzejczyk taking the judges’ decision, currently priced at 6/4 at the same bookmakers.

Frankie Edgar v Yair Rodriguez | Sunday 03:30

Often in combat sports, we are presented with the age-old adage of what is more useful: experience or youth?

Most recently, we witnessed 27-year-old Anthony Joshua dismantle 41-year-old Vladimir Klitschko, proving that the Ukrainian’s 68 professional fights compared to the Brit’s mere 19 fights did not guarantee the more experienced veteran the win.

This is a trend both in boxing, and MMA, where the young prospect gets a chance to put a staple name on his resume. This weekend 24-year-old Yair Rodriguez can figuratively put former champ Frankie Edgar’s head on his mantelpiece.

Suffering has last defeat back in April 2014, Rodriguez is currently enjoying an eight-fight win streak in the 145-pound division, and is hallmarked as one of, if not the premiere young talent in the organisation.

A hybrid striking style of erratic, unpredictable punching and kicking techniques make Rodriguez a nightmare to prepare for. Literally, no-one fights like the 24-year-old, which makes replicating his style whilst preparing for him in fight camp essentially impossible.

Rodriguez’s stunning athleticism and innovative techniques make him one of the most exciting fighters on the roster, but unlike his last fight against an outdated B.J Penn, he faces a very stiff test in Frankie Edgar.

An area of concern for Rodriguez is certainly handling ‘The Answer’s wrestling game but combated with underrated takedown defence and the constant threat of head kicks should Edgar shoot for the take down make me lean towards the Mexican in this spot.

I think this is going to be a close fight, and I do expect it to go the full distance. Although Rodriguez has finished four of his 11 fights, I expect him to grind out a hard-earned victory via the scorecards, outpointing Edgar with the Mexican’s cardio winning him the later two rounds.

Over 2.5 Rounds is 4/9 (SkyBet) with Rodriguez to win via decision available at 3/1 SkyBet.

Best Bets

Demian Maia v Jorge Masvidal – Damian Maia money line (11/10 William Hill)

Demian Maia v Jorge Masvidal – Damian Maia second round submission (9/1 SkyBet)

Joanna Jedrzejczyk v Jessica Andrade – Joanna Jędrzejczyk money line (4/7 William Hill)

Joanna Jedrzejczyk v Jessica Andrade – Joanna Jędrzejczyk to win via decision (6/4 William Hill)

Frankie Edgar v Yair Rodriguez – Over 2.5 Rounds (4/9 SkyBet)

Frankie Edgar v Yair Rodriguez – Yair Rodriguez to win via decision (3/1 SkyBet)

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