Stipe Miocic doesn’t have particularly fond memories of his first encounter with Junior Dos Santos, but heading into their rematch next weekend at UFC 211 in Dallas, the reigning heavyweight champion is focusing on what has happened since that fateful night in Phoenix a couple winters ago.
“It sucked,” Miocic joked when asked about his December 2014 clash with Dos Santos on Thursday’s UFC 211 media conference call. “I had a swollen eye and some stitches inside my mouth, but it’s part of the game, I guess; a lot of bumps and bruises.”
The bout came at a critical point in the careers of both men, as Dos Santos was coming off his second defeat to Cain Velasquez and looking to maintain his place amongst the division’s elite, while Miocic had established himself as a rising star and potential contender, aiming to make the leap to the next level with a win over the former champion.
Over the course of 25 grueling minutes, the two crafted an instant classic – an exceptionally close, thoroughly entertaining battle that was electric from start to finish and landed in the hands of the judges.
“That was a really tough fight,” Dos Santos said of their initial meeting, which he won by unanimous decision. “He has really heavy hands, he’s got really good boxing skills. It was a tough fight for both of us and for sure we learned a lot from each other that fight and now I think we can be more prepared for each other.”
Their paths since partnering up to win Fight of the Night honors in the desert have gone in different directions, with Dos Santos splitting a pair of appearances and enduring various injuries as Miocic continued to rise through the ranks before claiming and defending the heavyweight title last year.
On the eve of doing it again in Dallas next weekend, the challenger believes he’s primed to return to the top of the division, but the champion has other ideas.
“I’m prepared to get the same result in this one – not in the same way, but I’m going to win this on May 13,” Dos Santos said. “I’m a very confident guy – I like to be positive – and in my dreams, the way I see things going, I see myself beating him before the end of the second round.”
“I think we both know someone is getting KO’ed,” said Miocic, sharing the challenger’s belief that the fight won’t go the distance for a second time.
“(It ends with) me winning,” he added. “I’m walking out with the belt still; that’s going to happen. I’m not going to predict what round, but I’m walking out with the belt.”
While the heavyweight championship rematch closes out the show at American Airlines Center on May 13, an intriguing strawweight title fight serves as the penultimate pairing on the card, with divisional queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk returning to action against surging contender Jessica Andrade.
Though never one to lack confidence, history could be bolstering Jedrzejczyk as she readies for her fifth title defense against the aggressive Brazilian.
She’s already earned a victory when sharing the card with next Saturday’s headliners, having defeated Claudia Gadelha for the first time on that December 2014 UFC on FOX event at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, and she won the title with a blistering second-round win over Carla Esparza three months later in Dallas.
Even with her successes, “Joanna Champion” made sure to sing the praises of Andrade, her lesser-known, but legitimately dangerous opponent at UFC 211.
“I’ve known Jessica for a while,” said Jedrzejczyk, explaining that the two were previously managed by the same company and have trained together on occasion in the past. “I respect Jessica as an athlete and we’re going to have a great fight in the Octagon.”
After beginning her UFC division at bantamweight, the diminutive Brazilian wrecking ball made the drop to strawweight last year and the results have been staggering.
In her first appearance, she trucked former title challenger Jessica Penne and followed it up by choking out Joanne Calderwood in her sophomore showing in the strawweight ranks at UFC 203. Back in February, she punched her ticket to next weekend’s title shot with a dominant showing against former Invicta FC champ Angela Hill.
Thus far, Andrade has looked like a juggernaut in her new division and Jedrzejczyk has certainly taken notice, but like Miocic, she has no plans on leaving Dallas without a championship belt as part of her carry-on.
“Jessica proved a lot in the strawweight division,” the champion said of her impending challenger. “She dropped from 135, she won three straight fights. She’s the right person and it’s going to be a really tough fight between me and Jessica.
“She’s very strong physically. She likes to fight, she likes to exchange punches, but like I said every time, I’m getting better and better and I want to defend my title. This is what I want to do.”