DALLAS — It has taken him a seven-fight win streak, but UFC welterweight Demian Maia will finally fight for the UFC title.
Maia (25-6) cemented his position as the UFC's No. 1 contender at 170 pounds on Saturday, as he defeated Jorge Masvidal via split decision at UFC 211 inside American Airlines Center. Two judges had the fight 29-28 in Maia's favor, while a third saw it 29-28 for Masvidal. ESPN.com scored it for Maia, 29-28.
"Finally, thank God," Maia said. "It's a dream come true. Of course, I come here to finish my fights. Today, I wasn't able to. But the crowd was great this week."
Maia, of Brazil, is something of an anomaly in the UFC, as he's borderline one-dimensional. But in that one dimension, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he has proved to be absolutely dominant.
The 39-year-old dragged Masvidal to the ground in the opening round, and even though Masvidal managed to pop back up, Maia quickly transitioned to his back. He tried to finish the fight via rear-naked from there, but was unsuccessful.
Masvidal (32-12), who fights out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, did well to keep Maia at bay the following round and landed several hard kicks — although Maia did take him down late in the frame.
With the score tied going into the third, Maia circled away from Masvidal before shooting in and converting a crucial takedown with 2:30 left in the round. He picked Masvidal's lead leg high off the ground and then tackled him as he fell awkwardly backward.
Woodley has stated he will be ready to fight as soon as July.
Don't you dare forget about Frankie Edgar.
Edgar (22-5-1) left no doubt he remains one of the best fighters in the world, as he thoroughly dominated up-and-coming featherweight Yair Rodriguez. Cageside physicians stopped the fight after the second round, due to concern over swelling around Rodriguez's left eye.
It was a big fight for Edgar, who came in having won six of his past seven, but has two losses to current champion Jose Aldo. Rodriguez (10-2) entered the matchup with a lot of hype behind him and the UFC has clearly been invested in promoting the young Mexican.
"There are levels to this game," Edgar said afterward. "He's gonna be all right."
The fight was never close, as Edgar applied pressure on Rodriguez immediately with his boxing and easily took him down. He landed several hard elbows on the floor, which caused the swelling around Rodriguez's eye.
Rodriguez tried to do what's carried him to such a fast start in the UFC, but he had nothing for Edgar. He threw one spinning wheel kick in the second round and tried rolling for a kneebar after getting taken down, but neither proved very effective.
The UFC has a scheduled featherweight title fight between Aldo and interim champ Max Holloway at UFC 212 on June 3. Edgar, of Toms River, New Jersey, called for the winner.
"Me and Aldo a third time if that's the case, " Edgar said. "If not, let's go Holloway."
Illegal knee strikes ruin instant classic between Alvarez, Poirier
Referee Herb Dean ruled the knee was accidental, therefore the fight ended in a no contest. Alvarez landed the knee to the side of Poirier's head, as he was kneeling with his palms outstretched to the canvas. The blow landed after several wild exchanges, during which Alvarez (28-5) came back from the brink of defeat.
"I'm not a dirty fighter," Alvarez said. "I'm doing the best I can. I apologize. I'm fighting, that's what I'm doing. Dustin was doing a real good job keeping me in range. I was trying to do everything I could to win."
Poirier clearly accepted Alvarez's apology and they hugged in the center of the cage.
Poirier (21-5) used his size advantage against Alvarez well, popping him with kicks and long punches. Alvarez did little to close the distance through much of the fight and his attempts to get it to the ground were mostly unsuccessful.
In the second round, Poirier rocked Alvarez with a counter left hand. Alvarez went spinning into the fence and Poirier followed with punches and a left head kick.
Somehow, Alvarez survived and even turned Poirier into the fence, where he landed several uppercuts. He tried to work for a takedown near the fence, and that eventually led to the illegal knees. Dean stopped the contest at the 4:12 mark.
"When the doctor came to me, my left eye was a little blurry," Poirier said. "He asked me if I could see and I said it was a little blurry. I told the truth."
Alvarez, 33, who was coming off a second-round knockout loss to Conor McGregor in November, immediately called for a rematch.
David Branch collects split decision win in UFC comeback
Former WSOF two-weight champion David Branch made his UFC return a successful one, as he edged Krzysztof Jotko via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
The veteran middleweight hadn't appeared in the Octagon since 2011. He went 10-0 outside the promotion, and won belts at 185 and 205 pounds at WSOF.
His comeback fight will go down as a win, albeit a slow one. Branch (21-3) got off to a decent start in the first round, as he took Jotko (19-2) down once and spent time controlling him along the fence. It was not an active round by any means, but Branch clearly jumped out to a 10-9 lead on the scorecards.
The second and third rounds were extremely mundane, with almost no offense from either middleweight. They spent long portions of time huddled up in a clinch on the fence or slowly pawing at each other from the outside. Jotko landed one good knee in the final round and a handful of uppercuts, but Branch out-landed him overall in each of the three rounds according to Fightmetric.
Branch, of New York, has now won 11 in a row. Jotko, who fights out of American Top Team, falls to 6-2 in the UFC.