-165 #9 Krzysztof Jotko (19-1) vs. +135 David Branch (20-3)
Krzysztof Jotko: Polish MMA pioneer Krzystof Jotko extended his UFC win streak to five, with a decisive unanimous decision victory over Thales Leites. Jotko fought the fight of his life against Leites, out grappling the former title challenger and beating the legendary Black Belt in his own game.
Jotko recently began training at American Top Team and the results are evident. Always considered an above average prospect, the twenty seven year old now appears ready to compete with the division’s elite.
David Branch: Former WSOF Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion David Branch returns to the octagon for the first time since 2011. Branch put together an astounding 12-1 record outside of the UFC. His lone defeat on the outside came against Rumble Johnson and his biggest win was a 2014 title defense over Yushin Okami.
Branch has exceeded everyone’s expectations following his first 2-2 stint in the UFC. The Thirty five year old Renzo Gracie Black Belt will finally get the the chance to test his abilities against the best competition in the world.
The Fight: This is an old guard vs. emerging star fight, however Branch appears to be in the best shape of his life at thirty five. Branch’s strength and life long Jiu Jitsu training will give him the slight edge over the well rounded Jotko. Branch Split Decision
-140 #2 Frankie Edgar (20-5-1) vs. +110 #7 Yair Rodriguez (11-1)
Frankie Edgar: Former Lightweight champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar bounced back from his interim title defeat to Jose Aldo with a victory over Jeremy Stephens in a clear cut unanimous decision at UFC 205.
The loss to Aldo was a major setback for Edgar, it was the second time Aldo had his number and if he is going to capture the 145 pound title there is a good chance the road will lead through “Scarface”. Edgar will now have to prove he is worthy of another title shot by fending back the next generation of up and comers.
Yair Rodriguez: TUF Latin America champion Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez’s last bout was a sobering event for the majority of the MMA community. Rodriguez defeated BJ Penn in violent fashion that reminded everyone that it is no longer 2005 and the fighter that many view as the GOAT may have lost a step or two.
Rodriguez is knocking on the door of super stardom, with a 6-0 UFC record, an arsenal of Tornado kicks and an entire country at his back. The twenty four year old from Chihuahua is one fight away from becoming the south of the border Connor McGregor.
The Fight: This is highflying technique against textbook technique. Edgar is a master of the fundamentals and he will be able to capitalize on the still green Rodriguez’s missteps to control the pace of this fight. Well timed take downs and sporadic strikes through out will keep Frankie in striking distance of the title. Edgar Unanimous Decision
-105 Demain Maia (24-6) vs. -125 Jorge Masvidal (32-11)
Demain Maia: Long time Welterweight number one contender Demain Maia cemented his legitimacy as a worthy title challenger by submitting Carlos Condit with a first round rear naked choke. The ease at which Maia submitted the perennial top three Condit is an eye opening reminder of how unstoppable Maia’s BJJ can be.
Maia will know have to prove one more time that he deserves the next crack at Tyron Woodley’s strap. If he can defeat Masvidal it will be his seventh straight win in the division and he will undoubtedly have a date with the champ.
Jorge Masvidal: Former Miami backyard brawler Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal took home more “easy money” making short work of fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone this past January. Masvidal beat Cowboy in his own game scoring a highlight reel knockout by showcasing superior technique, speed and power over the former title challenger.
The thirty two year old Masvidal could easily be undefeated in the UFC with all of his losses coming in controversial decisions. Something clicked in Masvidal following his fourth split decision loss to Lorenz Larkin and in his last three fights he has made the judges job easy beating his opponents decisively en route to this number one contender fight.
The Fight: Credit is due to Maia for being a true fighter and taking on all comers but this fight will end up being a big mistake for the thirty nine year old BJJ legend. Masvidal has the best take down defense in the division and and the cardio to take it to another level late in the fight. Masvidal will beat Maia with game plan implemented by Rory McDonald sans the early take downs forfeited by McDonald. Masvidal Unanimous Decision
-185 C Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0) vs. +150 #3 Jessica Andrade (16-5)
Strawweight Title (115)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk: Reigning Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk defended her title for the fourth time at Madison Square Garden, edging out countrywomen Karolina Kowalkiewicz in back and forth war.
“Joanna Champion” has been perfect in her UFC career going 7-0 and earning her the title of best pound for pound female fighter. If she can come away victorious in this difficult test the creation of the Women’s Flyweight division may present a whole new set of challenges for the Polish punisher.
Jessica Andrade: Brazilian bruiser Jessica Andrade earned her first title fight opportunity by defeating former Invicta champion Angela Hill in a fight of the night throw down. Since moving to Strawweight Andrade has gone 3-0 and benefited from a noticeable strength advantage over her 115 pound opponents.
The 5’2″ Andrade was incredibly undersized for the Bantamweight division and all of her losses were a result of the size discrepancy. The twenty five year old has the power, toughness and grappling to do damage in the Strawweight division for many years to come.
The Fight: Andrade will have success with her take downs early but as the fight progresses and her gas tank depletes Joanna will begin to take over the fight. Jedrzejczyk will win the last three rounds with cardio, take down defense and her world class kickboxing abilities. Jedrzejczyk Unanimous Decision
-140 Stipe Miocic (16-2) vs. +110 Junior Dos Santos (18-4)
Heavyweight Title (265)
Stipe Miocic: Reigning Heavyweight kingpin Stipe Miocic defended his title for the first time this past September when he knocked out Alistair Overeem in front of his hometown Cleveland crowd. Miocic recovered from an early knock down to catch “Ubereem” with a knockout blow inside of the Dutchmen’s guard.
The first Ohioan to sport Heavyweight gold since Buster Douglas has come into his own since the last time these two met. Stipe has gone 4-0 since the 2011 loss to Dos Santos and has appeared to improve with every outing. Miocic will be attempting to defend the Heavyweight title for the second time, something no man has been able to do since Brock Lesnar in 2010.
Junior Dos Santos: Former Heavyweight champion Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos bounced back from a knockout loss to Alistair Overeem with a flawless performance against Ben Rothwell in which he beat the big Wisconsin to the punch every round in a decisive unanimous decision.
Dos Santos received this opportunity after a February fight with Stefan Struve was canceled due to a Struve injury. Dos Santos holds the record for knockouts in the Heavyweight division (12) and if he can add to that tally Saturday night he will join Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia and Cain Velasquez as the only men to win, lose and regain the Heavyweight title.
The Fight: Stipe came out strong and faded late in the first fight. Never having gone the full five rounds Miocic failed to pace himself and was running on empty by the fifth round. If Stipe does conserve his energy by not shooting for take downs he will be forced into a Boxing match with the faster Cigano. Dos Santos failed to work Stipe’s body early in their first match and it’s his legendary body blows that will be the deciding factor in this one. Dos Santos will zap Miocic’s stamina with early body shots and put him away late in the fight in another instant classic. Dos Santos TKO 4th