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After a three week absence, the UFC returned with one of its most stacked pay-per-view cards of the year thus far as both Stipe Miocic and Joanna J?drzejczyk defended their heavyweight and strawweight titles

Kicking off the main card in the middleweight division, American David Branch(20-3) returned to the UFC for his second stint as he took on Poland’s Krzysztof Jotko(19-1, #9MW) with the Pole the betting favourite while the American entered the bout on a ten fight winning streak

Essentially a grappler versus striker bout, both competitors exchanged takedowns in the first round however it was Branch that had the most success on the ground despite not being able to either land any big ground and pound shots or find an opening for a submission

It was more of the same in rounds two and three, with Jotko looking to avoid Branch’s takedowns and land his strikes while Branch tried for and completed numerous takedowns as the fight went the distance and all fifteen minutes as neither fighter was able to gain a significant advantage over the three rounds

Showing how close the bout was, the three judges gave the split decision victory to Branch 29-28, 29-28, 29-28

Mexican Yair Rodriguez(11-1, #7FW) was looking to continue his ascent up the featherweight rankings as he took on American Frankie Edgar(20-5-1, #2FW) who was likewise looking to enter the 145lbs championship picture with a win

Both fighters came out aggressive early, however after a few minutes Edgar was able to get the takedown and for the rest of the first round he was able to dominate and land many ground and pound punches that almost swelled Rodriguez’s left eye shut, however the Mexico was able to continue into round two

Edgar was able to get another takedown early in the second round and kept Rodriguez on the ground for the entire five minutes as the American landed big punches and elbows with worsened the swollen eye and led to an easy 10-8 round

The fight however ended inbetween rounds two and three, as after the doctor checked on the eye the referee waved off the bout as Edgar picked up the TKO win in a thoroughly dominating fashion, as the American made a compelling case for a featherweight championship fight next time out

In a welterweight contenders bout, it was fifth-ranked versus third-ranked as American Jorge Masvidal(32-11) took on Brazilian Demian Maia(24-6) with both fighters aiming to enter the welterweight title scene, with Masvidal entering the bout as betting favourite

Maia was able to get the takedown early in the first round, however Masvidal managed to get to his feet fairly quickly though the Brazilian took Masvidal’s back while standing and had the standing back mount for the majority of the first five minutes until Masvidal shook him off and ended the round landing ground and pound punches on Maia

Showing signs of fatigue, Maia attempted and failed numerous takedown attempts in the second round before managing to complete one with two minutes left in the round, however he was unable to do any damage either via ground strikes or submissions as the close fight moved into the third and final round

Following the pattern of the first two rounds, Maia was able to get a takedown and kept the fight on the ground for the rest of the five minutes as he tried unsuccessfully land ground shots and submissions as the round and fight came to a close

Like the opening bout of UFC 211, the judges gave a split decision victory, this time to Demian Maia with it being confirmed after the fight that Maia had officially earned a 170lbs championship fight next time out against champion Tyron Woodley

The co-main event was the first of two title bouts, as Polish reigning women’s strawweight champion Joanna J?drzejczyk(13-0) defended her title against Brazilian challenger Jessica Andrade(16-5, #3WSW)

As expected Andrade was the aggressor in the first round, and managed to get the better of the champion by completely a slam takedown and landing multiple ground and pound shots that resulted in a significant welt on the forehead of the champion, though J?drzejczyk was able to land some of her highly technical kicks to legs and body of Andrade

It was more of the same in the second round with the Brazilian looking to get the takedown while also looking to land big looping power punches on the inside while J?drzejczyk had success landing her jab and towards the end of the round managed to land a head kick though Andrade absorbed it as the round ended

The action slowed in the third round with Andrade not able to get a takedown or land a big shot, while J?drzejczyk couldn’t fully connect with her strikes however the Polish champion did get the better of the round via landing numerous leg kicks in conjunction with using her movement to avoid Andrade’s punches

J?drzejczyk continued to frustrate the Brazilian challenger in the fourth round, with the champion starting to pull ahead on the judges’ scorecards as she used her superior footwork and head movement in tandem with her elite-level striking to stop Andrade from closing the distance, while also being able to stop Andrade from completing numerous takedowns as the fight moved into the final round

The final five minutes were fairly uneventful, as J?drzejczyk continued to use her movement and footwork to avoid Andrade’s strikes, while the challenger became more desperate as the round went on however the Brazilian never took a step back and continued to press the action as the round and fight came to a close, going all twenty five minutes

In the end all three judges gave the fight to J?drzejczyk via unanimous decision to retain the UFC women’s strawweight championship

American UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic(16-2) was attempting to defend his title for the second time as he took on Brazilian former champion Junior dos Santos(18-4, #4HW) in a rematch from their 2014 fight which dos Santos won via unanimous decision

Miocic managed to make short work for the challenger, as after being the aggressive striker for the first few minutes of the opening round, the American began to land big punches as dos Santos was backed against the fence and then landed a big right straight that rocked and dropped the Brazilin after which he followed up with some academic punches on the round before referee Herb Dean stepped in and waved the fight off at 2:22 of the very first round

By Matthew Singh-Dosanjh