Simultaneously, UFC 211 was the most anticipated and most newsworthy fight card of 2017. The prelims had fantastic finishes (along with some confusing controversy), the undercard featured two results that likely have UFC brass gritting their teeth, and two of the more consistent champions continued their reigns.
But will any this matter in the future? A week ago this column argued that UFC 211 was being sold an the aggregate of its fights and had the potential to pay dividends in the future. While it will take months to assess how truly successful UFC 211 was for the promotion, one cannot help but make some snap judgements in the immediate aftermath of the card.
Here is a way-too-early prediction of the potential future stardom of UFC 211’s most visible winning fighters.
Stipe Miocic: After UFC 211, Miocic finds himself at the mythical glass ceiling of having defended the UFC Heavyweight Championship in two consecutive fights, with a third fight looming. If Miocic is successful in his next title defense, he will statistically be the greatest champion that the division has ever seen. While this may seem small compared to the title reigns of Anderson Silva and Demetrious Johnson, it is nonetheless an elusive accomplishment.
Miocic has an affable personality, along with an interesting personal life. As a legitimate firefighter hailing from Middle America with massive knockout power, Stipe Miocic has all the ingredients to be a massive star with the UFC’s core demographic.
The quick K.O. of Junior Dos Santos may not have launched Miocic into the next strata, but it was necessary building block in what can be a historic fight in the future. The onus on selling Miocic as a historic fighter will rest on the UFC. Seemingly out of nowhere, the UFC promoted Demetrious Johnson’s most recent fight as a monumental feat as he was on the brink of tying Anderson Silva’s record for title defenses. While the UFC has mightily struggled to promote Johnson, the UFC should find an easier path promoting a fighter in the glamour division of combat sports.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk: Perhaps nobody came out of UFC 211 in better condition to advance his or her career than Joanna Jędrzejczyk. If ever there was an opportunity for “Joanna Champion” to be knocked off her perch, it would seem logical that Jessica Andrade would be the woman to do complete such as task.
Alas it was not to be. With the UFC status of Cris Cyborg unclear, and with apologies to Amanda Nunes, Joanna Jędrzejczyk is unquestionably the “baddest woman on the planet.”
Even the growing undercurrent of fan sentiment proclaiming that Jędrzejczyk is more boring than dominant, is an indication that she is resonating with the UFC audience. The UFC might very well have the female reincarnation of Georges St. Pierre.
The question remains, will the UFC place their trust in Jędrzejczyk to sell a pay-per-view solely on her pursuit of championship immortality? (Respected MMA journalist and Torch audio analyst Todd Martin asserts that the time is now). Unlike the reluctant promotion that the UFC seemly executes with Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg, they seem to realize they have something with Jędrzejczyk, but are hesitant to place complete faith in her drawing ability.
Jędrzejczyk may not be the easiest sell to an American audience, bur her future looks to be filled with outside media ventures, along with the pursuit of a second title in the UFC’s upcoming bantamweight division. UFC 205 might have been Jędrzejczyk’s biggest audience, but UFC 211 may prove to be her unofficial launching point.
Demian Maia: It feels like Demian Maia cannot catch a break. After a jeered split decision win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 211, Maia is undoubtedly the number one contender to Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. In the modern UFC landscape, that distinction is as ambiguous as ever.
If the UFC really did book this fight as an attempt to get Maia out of the title picture… well, that’s why they play the game. A pay-per-view main event between Maia and Woodley probably haunts the dreams of Dana White.
Unfortunately for Maia, this result may be all the ammunition that the UFC needs to book a title fight between Woodley and the now available Georges St. Pierre. If not, perhaps the UFC can attempt the novel concept of promoting a fighter that excels at the core discipline of MMA.
Aesthetically, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert like Maia can be rather boring. On the other hand, Maia represents a link to the origins of the UFC. If the UFC’s hand is forced, they do have something to work with in Maia; it will just take some effort. The promotion of Demian Maia will be a litmus test to see if the UFC can still promote a true martial artist.
Frankie Edgar: Nobody would consider Frankie Edgar as new star, but UFC 211 proved that Frankie Edgar is still a star. From the outside Edgar seemed to be booked at UFC 211 to be the sacrificial lamb to upstart Yair Rodriguez. Well, before the MMA world could toss dust on the grave of Edgar’s career, he gave the sport a vintage performance.
While the UFC will now have to deal with a roadblock in the rise of Yair Rodriguez, after UFC 211 they still have some promotional millage left in Frankie Edgar. If Jose Aldo remains UFC Featherweight Champion, it is unlikely that Edgar will get another crack at the title.
If the UFC is not obliged to put Edgar in a pay-per-view title fight, he can be very valuable on the UFC Fight Night circuit. Edgar is one of the last remaining links to bygone era of the UFC. Unlike Edgar’s contemporaries B.J. Penn and Diego Sanchez, the UFC can continue to use Edgar without questioning his future viability.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: UFC 211 being sold on old model, will it work and could it create a new star? Plus reaction to Nate Diaz’s interview
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