Beating the Odds: UFC 211

By: Brian Knapp
May 15, 2017

David Branch made up for lost time, even if his return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship was not as aesthetically pleasing as he had hoped.

The former two-division World Series of Fighting champion eked out a split decision over American Top Team’s Krzysztof Jotko in a three-round middleweight showcase at UFC 211 “Miocic vs. Dos Santos 2” on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. A +145 underdog according to, Branch was awarded 29-28 marks from judges Aladin Martinez and Jeff Mullen.

The loss snapped a five-fight winning streak for Jotko (-175), who entered the cage on the strength of consecutive victories over Tor Troeng, Scott Askham, Bradley Scott, Tamdan McCrory and Thales Leites. Branch executed a pair of takedowns, grinded away in the clinch and outstruck the Pole in all three rounds. The 35-year-old Renzo Gracie protégé had not fought in the UFC in 2,263 days.

“It feels good to be back in the UFC, but I wasn’t satisfied with my performance,” Branch said. “I would have liked to connect more with him. He was an awkward lefty, [and] he was a lot harder to control on the ground. We planned to soften him up with the boxing and then take him down and pound him out. I wanted to make him turn his back and choke him out.”

Emotions were a factor for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.

“It was my first fight back on the pay-per-view portion of a big event, and I was shaking some of that Octagon stuff off,” Branch said. “I’ll be back better, and this time, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance. I don’t want to be judged by that performance. I can do a whole lot better than that, and I will.”

Meanwhile, Enrique Barzola was the only other underdog to author an upset at the event, as he took a unanimous verdict from Gabriel Benitez (-145) in a three-round undercard battle at 145 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Barzola, who improved to 3-1 in the UFC.

Benitez tried and failed to crack the Peruvian’s considerable resolve with sharp straight left hands to the head and punishing kicks to the leg and body. Barzola (+115) offset those efforts with takedowns, ground-and-pound and positional control -- a recipe that allowed him to wear down the 28-year-old American Kickboxing Academy rep over the course of their 15-minute confrontation.

“I’m really happy for this win,” Barzola said. “It’s a big step in my career, and I’m proud of bringing this victory to my fans and to my country. I had a lot of support from Latin American fans, and I want to dedicate this win to them. Gabriel was a really tough opponent. He was well-prepared, but I gave all my heart to win. Now I’m going back home, but I will be ready to put on a show for the fans again soon.”

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