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UFC 211 Cheat Sheet -- Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos

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Simulation of Miocic-dos Santos at UFC 211 (1:00)

The heavyweight title fight between Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 is simulated by EA Sports' UFC 2. (1:00)

The UFC heads to Dallas on Saturday, with a pair of championship fights atop the UFC 211 card inside the American Airlines Center.

Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will look to tie the UFC record for consecutive heavyweight title defenses (two) in a rematch against Junior dos Santos.

Dominant strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk will try to remain unbeaten in a title defense against Jessica Andrade.

Let's take a closer look at all the top fights on the card with ESPN's Cheat Sheets, UFC 211 edition.


Stipe Miocic (16-2) vs. Junior dos Santos (18-4)
Heavyweight championship

Odds: Miocic -130; dos Santos +110

'I always feel I'm the underdog'

When Miocic first ran into dos Santos in December 2014, Miocic was a promising but unproven heavyweight with a UFC record of 6-1 against middling competition.

Betting odds that night closed with Miocic a 3-to-1 underdog, and he remembers feeling a certain level of ... not doubt, but acknowledgement that fight was different.

"I think we prepared great [for that fight], but I'd never went through a five-round fight before with a high-caliber fighter," Miocic said. "Going through those five rounds, knowing I could hang with him -- I changed a lot after that fight. That night, I literally said, if I fought him tomorrow, I'd beat him. I learned a lot about myself.

"Doing something for the first time sucks. Going in against a fighter like that for five rounds sucks. I have my style now, and I'm gonna do what I want to do."

A win on Saturday would move Miocic, of Independence, Ohio, into a tie for the UFC record for consecutive heavyweight title defenses. No champion has ever managed to defend the title more than twice.

Nearly three years ago, even in defeat, Miocic graduated from a "dark horse" of the division to a legitimate title threat in that first meeting with dos Santos. Today, he's riding a string of three first-round knockouts and hoping to continue one of the more impressive runs in UFC heavyweight history.

Although he's more comfortable and familiar with the top of the sport than he was back then, Miocic says his humility remains the same.

"I'm not even the baddest of my household," Miocic joked. "It goes my wife, two dogs, then me. I always feel I'm the underdog. Everybody thinks I'm going to get knocked out and that I'm lucky to be the champ. I'm used to it. Keep feeding me all the negative remarks."


After looking for a fight, dos Santos found a big one

When Cain Velasquez was pulled from of a scheduled heavyweight fight against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 207 in December due to medical reasons, the UFC scrambled to get dos Santos as a late replacement.

Ultimately, the bout didn't happen -- but not because dos Santos turned it down. Even though it would have been on extremely short notice, dos Santos wanted the fight. Werdum wished to restructure his compensation and things went south.

And then in February, dos Santos lost a scheduled main event against Stefan Struve, due to a Struve injury. The UFC tried to find a replacement, but options were sparse. And that's kind of how dos Santos, 33, who was sidelined for much of 2016 with a shoulder injury, earned a title shot -- despite just one win since the start of 2015.

"I think the UFC is getting really frustrated with fighters who are turning down fights," said Mike Brown, dos Santos' coach at American Top Team. "I think the UFC was offering a lot of guys a fight with Junior and nobody would do it. So, it reached a point where they said, 'If no one is willing to fight him, he's going to get the title shot.' I really do think that was the case here."

Dos Santos is a legitimate threat to Miocic. He holds the prior win over him, of course, and is also known as one of the most destructive hitters in the division. And despite absorbing a good amount of damage in his career, dos Santos says he still feels as if he's early in his career.

"Oh my gosh, of course not," said dos Santos, when asked if this might be his last chance at reclaiming a title he last held in 2012. "I'm just 33 years old and I'm on top. I'm fighting against the top guys since the beginning, since I arrived here in the UFC in 2008. I have no doubts that I'm going to become champion and what I miss the most is, man, the feeling to be the baddest man on the planet, No. 1 in my division."


Key stats

  • Miocic: 16-2 (10-2 UFC); making second defense of UFC heavyweight title

  • Miocic: 62 percent significant strike defense according to FightMetric (T-highest among active UFC heavyweights)

  • dos Santos: 18-4 (12-3 UFC); former UFC heavyweight champion from 2011-12 (one title defense)

  • dos Santos: Seeking to become the fourth fighter with at least two UFC heavyweight title reigns


Fight breakdown

One of the best things about dissecting MMA matchups is comparing the different styles. That was the birthplace of the entire sport. A clash of disciplines.

Here, though, we really have two men who like to do the same thing: box.

They're both mixed martial artists, to be sure. Miocic is a former collegiate wrestler. Dos Santos has kickboxing in his arsenal. You can find video of each throwing an elbow here and there. But for the most part, these guys prefer to box.

And that's definitely how their first fight played out. The two combined for a staggering 396 attempted strikes in that fight, of which, four were targeted below the waist, according to FightMetric.

Miocic says the first meeting with dos Santos opened his eyes in that he found out he was very good. He'd done well up to that point, of course, but it was that five-round fight against a former champion in 2014 that proved to him he belonged. That might sound like some cliché thing you'd expect him to say, but it also might be significant.

The mental piece of this sport is astronomical, and look at what Miocic has done since the loss to dos Santos. Four knockout wins, a championship and a title defense. He jokes that he's not even the baddest man in his household, but right now, he's carrying himself to the Octagon like the baddest man on the planet and there are advantages in that.

The million-dollar punch for both men is the right hand -- although, based on the first meeting, it's probably accurate to say what each does with the left is more important. Both want to land first and take the center of the Octagon. Miocic comes forward with the jab, then a right from the hip behind it. Dos Santos has a fantastic jab as well, and a fastball overhand right.

For Miocic, the first fight was a constant series of walking dos Santos to the fence, where he wanted him to be, but having very little means of keeping him there. Whereas Velasquez pinned dos Santos on the cage and delivered a one-sided beating, Miocic didn't have that grappling know-how to smother him in tight quarters or move into an effective clinch.

Dos Santos won that fight based on knockdown power, body work, volume and, of course, takedown defense. Miocic tends to load the right hand as a weapon more than glue it to his chin as a line of defense. Dos Santos knocked him down with a left hook, just like Alistair Overeem knocked him down with a left hand last September.

Dos Santos has changed camps since the first fight. Miocic has become a world champion. They are different from the first meeting, but also similar. In a lot of ways, I see this playing out as another boxing match. And a back-and-forth one at that. Both have ridiculously good chins by the way, although Miocic's has fewer miles.

Prediction: Miocic via TKO, fourth round.