The UFC is back this Saturday night with UFC 209 and will be looking to “mend some fences” with the fans following the train wreck that was UFC 208. With two championship fights including the rematch of one of the fight of the year candidates from 2016 this looks to be a classic in the making. Interesting to note, there is only one female fight on the card and it is on the early prelims. This is a big departure following the recent trend of profiling female fighters. This will also be a night of returns as many fighters that fans haven’t seen in awhile will be making to their returns to the octagon in Las Vegas.
#3 Alistair Overeem (41-15) vs. #8 Mark Hunt (12-11-1)
Overeem is coming off a loss against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic back at UFC 203 in September, but had won four straight before that including KO victories over Andrei Arlovski and Junior dos Santos. Hunt hasn’t been seen in the UFC since his loss, later ruled a no contest, to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 in July. Not sure what ever came of the lawsuit Hunt was rumoured to have filed against the UFC, but he’s back here taking on a top guy. Hunt has amazing knockout power, but the tale of the tape shows major advantages for Overeem. He’s 6 inches taller and has an 8 inch reach advantage, in addition Hunt has essentially no submission skills and Overeem looks to be the more well-rounded fighter. Overeem has been KOed 10 times in his career, but I think the odds are just too stacked against Hunt. My prediction is Overeem via submission.
Lando Vannata (9-1) vs. David Teymur (5-1)
This lightweight fight features two up and coming fighters in one of the UFC most competitive divisions. Vannata’s only loss came at the hands of #2 ranked Tony Ferguson, who is fighting for the interim title later in the night. I can’t find much info on Teymur other than he appeared on The Ultimate Fighter season 22 and has won both his UFC fights, his last being a KO victory over Jason Novelli back in August. This will be the 3rd UFC fight for both fighters, and the tale of the tape has them as pretty identical. Vannata looks to have more submission skills, while Teymur looks to be a knockout artist. I expect to see fists flying and a ton of action in this one. This one is a coin flip for me, I just don’t have enough info to go off of to make an informed prediction.
Rashad Evans (24-5-1) vs. Daniel Kelly (12-1)
This fight scares me. I’m going to be honest. I have a funny feeling that the UFC made this matchup for Evans because they didn’t want to put him up against someone who is really known for their striking. Evans has been out of action since losing in April of last year and wasn’t able to get medically cleared for UFC 205 or UFC 206. He hasn’t won a fight since 2013 and there was real suspicion that his career could have been over given the medical issues. As far as Kelly goes, this is only his 2nd fight in the U.S. as he generally only fights in his native Australia and he’s on a 3-fight winning streak with his last fight coming in November. Despite being a jiu-jitsu black belt, Evans only has 1 submission victory and either wins via KO or decision, which isn’t all that surprising given that he used to fight light heavyweight. Kelly is a judoka and jiu-jitsu black belt as well so I think there is a very good chance that this one goes to the ground and stays there. For my money, this fight has the chance to be the most boring of the night, but who knows. For the sake of nostalgia I’m going to take Evans in this one.
#1 Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0) vs. #2 Tony Ferguson (23-3) Interim Lightweight Championship
Khabib is a sambo and judo master, with a ground and pound that is top notch. He’s going to be looking for takedowns, plain and simple. Ferguson is on a 9-fight winning streak of his own and hasn’t lost since 2012. There’s a lot of bad blood between these two, with Khabib believing that it is his destiny to be the lightweight champ and Ferguson feeling like he’s been disrespected despite all that he’s accomplished. I love this fight for two reasons. Firstly, I think that this fight has a good chance to be the fight of the night if not fight of the year candidate. Secondly, the winner of this fight will be next in line to fight Connor McGregor to crown an undisputed lightweight champion. This probably won’t be a flashy fight as both fighters are very good on the ground. I watched Khabib destroy Michael Johnson and you can too here . The UFC has also released a free fight for Ferguson as well as the behind the scenes promo package on the two. I honestly don’t care who wins this fight, I’d like to see Khabib as I think he’s the better fighter, but this fight has all the potential in the world to be a great one and I can’t wait to see the winner take on McGregor.
(C) Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) vs. #1 Stephen Thompson (13-1-1) Welterweight Championship
These two fought at UFC 205 in one of the best fights of 2016. The five round co-main event ended in a majority draw for Woodley and won both of the fighters the Fight of the Night bonus. As soon as that match ended fans began clamoring for the UFC to have these two “run it back”, which Woodley was initially against as he was looking for big money fights against Conor McGregor or other big names. Thompson for his part said that he was willing to fight Woodley as soon as the UFC wanted to see it. The UFC again did a great job breaking down the behind the scenes of the fight which you can see here. Woodley is a great grappler with knockout power and amazing cardio. In their first fight he had the chance to finish Thompson twice, once via KO and once with a very tight guillotine choke, but wasn’t able to pull the trigger. Thompson showed an amazing amount of heart and determination, and his karate background makes him a very dangerous striker. Robbie Lawler and Demian Maia are both waiting in the wings to see who wins this one. Thompson is a slight favorite, based on what I’ve been able to find.
Instead of making a prediction on this one I’m going to take a look at what I think will likely happen based on the who wins. If Woodley is able to retain, basically by any result other than another draw my guess is that he takes on Maia, who is on a 6-fight winning streak and is currently ranked #3, in his next title defense. I think there is a case to be made for Lawler getting a return shot, but Woodley beat him back in July and Woodley’s never fought Maia. If Thompson wins, I really wouldn’t be at all surprised if Woodley starts lobbying for a rematch right away. Let’s see what these two do for PPV and attendance numbers before we start talking about a trilogy. In the case of Thompson winning, here I can see Lawler getting the first shot as he’s ranked #2 in the division, he never received a shot at regaining his title, and he’s never fought Thompson. The case can also be made for Maia given his record and winning streak and that he’s also never fought Thompson. Let’s put it this way if past track records are any indication Woodley is going to look for the fight that brings him the most money, even if that means fighting someone outside of his division, whereas I think Thompson would be a fighting champion and be more interested in cementing a legacy as the champion rather than chasing a big payday.
That’s it from from our side. Who do you think will put on the Fight of the Night? Let us know in the comments.
Image from www.ufc.com