With a whopping 14 fights on the UFC 211 card on Saturday, there will be 28 fighters hoping to earn an additional $50k. Competition for performances bonuses will be fierce, but these four have a great chance of beefing up their pay cheques.
The UFC returns on Saturday following a three-week hiatus.
UFC 211 is the company’s fourth pay-per-view of 2017 and has by far the strongest lineup we have seen so far this year.
Two title fights. Three former champions. Half the card is composed of fighters ranked in the UFC’s top 15 divisional rankings. Legitimate elite level MMA.
So by the time the hand of Stipe Miocic or Junior dos Santos is raised at the end of a long night of in-cage action, it is likely the UFC will have a tough job on their hands picking only four bonus-winning performances.
The $50k performance of the night bonuses are usually awarded to the fighters competing in the fight of the night. Typically two additional bonuses are paid to the fighters who put in the most impressive performances, whether that is a dominant win or a spectacular finish.
You can expect to see these four included in the discussion.
Performance of the Night – Jorge Masvidal
Across 11 events so far in 2017, only UFC 209 has failed to deliver a main card winning individual performance bonus. In fact, 67% of the individual performance bonuses dished out in 2017 have gone to main card fighters.
That makes it impossible to skip past UFC 211’s stellar main card offering without considering the possibility of a bonus being handed out. I expect one of them to be heading Jorge Masvidal’s way on Saturday night.
Masvidal approaches his bout with Demian Maia off the back of another bonus-winning performance in January. In Denver, Colorado, Masvidal had far too much for Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone to handle and beat him in a way we are unaccustomed to seeing.
The win and the way that it was achieved was the latest in a string of displays from Masvidal showcasing a more aggressive style. Close split decision defeats to Al Iaquinta, Benson Henderson and Lorenz Larkin in 2015-16 pushed the often tentative Miami, Florida native to start hunting his opponents down in the cage. The results have been promising.
Demian Maia is an opponent most unlike Donald Cerrone, but he is one that Masvidal holds significant advantages over. Unlike recent Maia opponents Gunnar Nelson and Carlos Condit, Masvidal will have no interest in allowing the fight to hit the mat. Unlike others such as Matt Brown and Neil Magny, Masvidal is far better versed in stopping it getting there.
If Maia can’t drag the fight where he wants it this becomes a total mismatch, in many ways it becomes Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Robert Whittaker, and we all saw how that played out. With a win for Whittaker and a performance of the night bonus to boot.
Performance of the Night – Dustin Poirier
So much of this card is so well matched that is hard to imagine fighters being blown out of the cage, or dominated through three or five rounds. As for the Fight Pass prelims, so far in 2017, only two individual performance bonuses out of 27 total have been handed out that far down the card.
We are left searching elsewhere for a bout that might just produce a special fight-ending moment. While many would point to Mexican highlight-reel artist Yair Rodriguez’ fight with Frankie Edgar, it seems just as likely that the experienced veteran will shut Rodriguez down for the majority of the three rounds as he has so many other surging prospects throughout his career.
Instead, heading up the prelims is a bout that could turn into a straight shootout and produce something spectacular at the back end. Former UFC and Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez will be defending his spot in the 155-pound title picture against Dustin Poirier.
Few fighters have given me as much joy over the years as Alvarez, so these words do not flow from my fingers easily. I think Poirier beats him on Saturday. I think he does it in blistering fashion.
Part of Alvarez’ long-lasting charm has been his ability to make bad decisions in the midst of the action, and more often than not still emerge with his hand raised. It is what made so many of his fights must-see television for any seasoned MMA fan.
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At 33-years-old, off the back of a demoralising, embarrassing defeat to Conor McGregor in November 2016, Alvarez should be another step closer to the top of the slide. Make no mistake, he will bring the fight to Poirier like he usually does. Like he almost, always has.
But when he does, this could turn into a firefight that one of the most decorated lightweights in the history of the sport ends up on the losing end of. Alvarez can get rocked and when he has been, he can get submitted. If Poirier can display the sort of predatory finishing instincts he has so far since returning to the lightweight division, he can win this one early.
Fight of the Night – Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade
Don’t let the impressive championship run of Poland’s only UFC champion blind you. This is as competitive as any other bout on the well-matched card.
The two extra rounds, where so often the magic happens to turn a good fight into a great one, is a considerable factor in this pick. Jedrzejczyk, for all her high-octane violence, is not a natural finisher. Only five of her 13 career fights have ended inside the distance.
More than that, when faced with the best in the world, Joanna “Champion” — or “Violence” depending on your preference — has settled into a five round groove that has her only getting better as the fight goes on. Make no mistake here, Jessica Andrade sits firmly in that “best in the world” category at 115 pounds and is as capable of staying the course as Valerie Letourneau, Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Claudia Gadelha were before her.
Andrade increases the volatility against more technically sound opponents and does so to great effect. All the while the hard hitting pressure fighter is technically more impressive than she is ever given credit for.
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Much of the build-up to this fight has seen Jedrzejczyk’s ever-growing fanbase create a mythological cardio problem for Andrade that is made out of hopeful guesswork. Andrade might not be able to match Jedrzejczyk’s pace through five rounds. We have never seen the Brazilian fight for 25 minutes, and we know the champion thrives in that extra 10.
Yet Andrade had no problem pushing the pace for a full 15 against Rosi Sexton and Raquel Pennington at bantamweight, or more recently against the much-improved Angela Hill at strawweight.
This has the potential to be wild and brutal for long periods. The champion’s ability to hit the accelerator in the championship rounds and pull away from her opponents when it matters is certainly a consideration and could be what wins the fight.
It would be foolish to write off the possibility of Andrade opening up a lead — or finding a finish — that Jedrzejczyk is unable to respond to no matter how desperately she tries though either.
However this one plays out, there is a good chance we will see heroic performances on both sides, and that should be enough to earn the fighters another $50k each.