The UFC’s latest offering on Saturday, May 13, will be the biggest fight card this year – literally and figuratively. With several former champions competing at UFC 211, the main event and co-main event each boast title fights, with the main event being for the biggest prize of all. UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will defend his belt against Junior dos Santos, in a rematch of a bout in 2014 that saw dos Santos win a controversial decision.
Strengths: Simply put, Miocic has hands of stone. He might as well have cinder blocks or some other hard, impenetrable type of rock on his hands, because that’s pretty much what they’re like. If Miocic punches you, it’s almost a guarantee he’s going to knock you out. If you don’t believe me, ask Alistair Overeem. Or Fabricio Werdum. Or Andrei Arlovski. Or Mark Hunt.
Those are the last four guys Miocic has fought, and he knocked every single one of them out. Miocic has won 12 of his 18 total fights by knockout. So basically, what I’m trying to say is, don’t expect much in the way of a ground game from Miocic in this fight. I feel confident in predicting that he won’t try to take dos Santos down once. Since he lands five significant strikes per minute and defends more than 60 percent of significant strikes from his opponent, why would he?
Weaknesses: Since we don’t know much about Miocic’s ground game – he’s only won one fight in his career by submission, and that was in 2011 – it’s difficult to classify that as a weakness. Even though Miocic is probably the hardest puncher in the UFC, he’s been susceptible to knockouts himself. Specifically, against Stefan Struve in 2012 and when he faced dos Santos the first time in 2014. Even though dos Santos’ win was controversial, he gave it to Miocic as good as he got. If anyone can match Miocic punch-for-punch, it might be dos Santos.
Junior dos Santos
Strengths: I’ve said before that dos Santos is the best pure striker in mixed martial arts. Even though I lauded the striking of Miocic, that might still be true. Dos Santos has 13 knockout finishes on his resume and next to Miocic, is the only other UFC heavyweight champion in recent memory to actually defend his title at least once.
Dos Santos also has good takedown defense, as he stuffed Frank Mir’s takedowns during their fight in 2012 before knocking Mir out. On paper, Dos Santos appears to be the perfect MMA fighter: Excellent striking and takedown defense, which allows him to display that striking.
Weaknesses: While dos Santos has excellent takedown defense, it remains to be seen just how good he really is on the ground. His second-ever MMA fight was a submission victory, but he also has a submission loss on his resume. No one in the UFC outside of Mir and Velasquez has really tested dos Santos on the ground, and while Mir was unsuccessful, Velasquez’s ground and pound was part of the reason why he was able to defeat Dos Santos twice during their epic trilogy.
It also appears that trilogy and some of his fight since then took a substantial toll on dos Santos. He’s alternated wins and losses in his last seven fights, including knockout losses to Velasquez and Overeem. Once upon a time, dos Santos looked like one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time. But after his wars with Velasquez, it’s fair to wonder if that damage has caught up with him.
If either Miocic or dos Santos spends even one second on the ground during their fight this Saturday, it would be a shock. These two stood and traded blows for 25 minutes in their first meeting, and I can pretty much guarantee they will do so again at UFC 211. But I also think Miocic is peaking at the right time. He looks scarier and scarier in each fight and looks like he will hold onto his title for a long time, in a division that hasn’t really seen that happen.
Dos Santos will get his shots in, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one would land flush. But I think the wear and tear he’s suffered in his last few fights has had a significant effect. So I think Miocic retains his title in an amazing, yet familiar, fashion.
Winner: Miocic by TKO
Image Credit: Big on Sports