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UFC 211: Stars, Takeaways and highlights

Here are three thoughts from UFC 211 in Dallas, when heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk both successfully defended their belts.

Three thoughts from UFC 211 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, when champions Stipe Miocic and Joanna Jedrzejczyk both defended their belts in a stacked card.

1. Never Count Out The Prelims

The casual MMA fan might skip the undercard in favor of the big names fighting later in the night on pay-per-view. Those matchups are more interesting because there is typically more on the line and the storylines are readily identified by the casual fan, the undercard can often steal the show, and at UFC 211 that was the case.

If you want easily quantifiable numbers or titles to point to, the FX prelims were host to the fight of the night between Chase Sherman and Rashad Coulter. Sherman and Coulter was a back and forth affair between heavyweights willing to sling leather and no desire to go the distance. One of two performance of the night bonuses was won by Jason Knight on the FX Prelims and James Vick, who opened the FX prelims, also made a strong case for a bonus with a first-round TKO.

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All in all, the FX prelims had three fights end in TKO. The pay-per-view had one; if you don’t count the doctor’s stoppage win for Frankie Edgar. Joanna Jedrzejczyk dominated Jessica Andrade and David Branch defeated Krzysztof Jotko in a split decision contest that drew boos from the crowd.

The main event of the FX prelims, a show down between Dustin Poirier and former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, was on its way to fight of the year contention before an illegal knee ended the fight in a no contest.

2. Frankie Edgar still a forced to be reckoned with, and Yair Rodriguez is still too green

After losing to Jose Aldo for the second time at UFC 200, Frankie Edgar looked like a contender on the outside looking in at another featherweight title shot. If Jose Aldo defeats Max Holloway at UFC 212 in June, there would be little incentive to book another bout between Aldo and Edgar.

Enter Yair Rodriguez, a featherweight contender with a 10-fight win streak, including eight in the UFC. Rodriguez is a young fighter in his mid-20s with a lot of potential star power, particularly into the Mexican market where the UFC just signed a seven-year deal with Fox Latin America. A win over Edgar would catapult Rodriguez into the title picture and Edgar knew he was put into a position to serve as the foundation for another fighter.

Rodriguez faced B.J. Penn in January and dismissed the legend in impressive fashion. In the lead up to UFC 211, Rodriguez was routinely asked if he was embarking on a legend killing tour.

Instead, Edgar proved that he isn’t moving out of the title picture anytime soon, and the fight ended between the second and third round because of an eye injury to Rodriguez.

“I’m used to being the dog. I like being the dog, I come in dog shape, I felt like a dog so I’m with it,” Edgar said after the fight. “They have to pump these young kids up, they’re the future, I get it, but we need to pump the breaks on him – we can start pumping him up tomorrow. I think I had a pretty good victory, I was able to stop him within the first three rounds. 

After a decisive win over a dangerous opponent, Edgar is looking for another shot at the belt, no matter who wins at UFC 212.

“I’m the number two guy and Holloway or Aldo has to lose so that makes me next in line. I want to fight for titles, that’s why I got into this game,” Edgar said.

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3. Joanna Jedrzejcyk proved how dominant she is once again, and she is only getting better

Heading into UFC 211, the question surrounding Joanna Jedrzejczyk is how she would handle Jessica Andrade’s power from the clinch, a position of strength for the champion. In the first round, Andrade was able to get Jedrzejczyk to the ground twice with visually spectacular takedowns. In the second round, Jedrzejczyk was able to make the adjustments to her game plan that allowed her to assert her dominance. She circled and used her superior speed to thwart Andrade’s attacks before they began, and when Andrade was able to get to Jedrzejczyk, the champion was more successful at stopping takedowns.

From there it was just a matter of rinse and repeat as Jedrzejczyk went on to retain her belt in a rout, extending her streak of title defense to five. That puts Jedrzejczyk on the cusp of tying Ronda Rousey’s record for title defenses in the women’s division in the UFC at six.

"There's only one strawweight champion and it's me. Joanna Jedrzejczyk from Poland. Remember that!” Jedrzejczyk yelled in the post-fight interview.

All three judges scored the fight five rounds to none in favor of the champion, the very definition of a dominant fight.

“Yes, I think so,” Jedrzejczyk said when asked if she thought this was the best performance of her career.

Jedrzejczyk told the media and warned her opponent that a more dominant version of herself was going to be unveiled at UFC 211. Before UFC 205 in November, Jedrzejczyk moved to the United States to train at American Top Team but only had six weeks to work with her new coaches.

The result was a decision win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz.

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Leading into the fight against Jessica Andrade, Jedrzejczyk had months to work with her new coaches and her improvement was evident.

“I feel this fire and I want to learn. Since I’ve moved to American Top Team, I feel like the bird who escaped the cage if you know the meaning. I’m very hard on myself every day, you can ask my coaches. I’m not happy after a good training session. I’m not happy because I know I can do better.”

Jedrzejczyk has successfully defended her belt five times, one shy of tying Ronda Rousey’s record for most title defenses in UFC women’s history a few months shy of her 30th birthday.

“I respect Ronda so much as a fighter, but more as a human," Jedrzejczyk said. "She’s amazing, it’s a pleasure for me to stand next to Ronda in this category.”

In the future is a potential second title at the newly formed 125-pound division.

“I have bigger and bigger goals and dreams,” Jedrzejczyk told media at open workouts on Thursday. “If I will not win the second belt, nothing is going to happen because like I said, I already reached my goals and dreams, but there is something better coming.

“And the other thing is like, people were saying the same to Conor [McGregor] when he said that he wants to be a king in two different divisions. Same with me. I just want to challenge myself, and this is what I’m doing in my life.”

Before Jedrzejczyk leaves her gloves in the middle of the cage for the last time, she could have established herself as the greatest women’s fighter in UFC history.