UFC 209 is going down March 4 in the new T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, Nevada with two title fights. A main card topped off with a welterweight rematch for the title and an interim lightweight title with the winner up next for to challenge Conor Mcgregor.
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson
An immediate rematch was needed after these two men fought to a majority draw just over three months ago. The first fight played out a lot differently than I expected. Woodley didn’t attempt any takedowns after the first round and stayed glued to the cage. Plus, I didn’t think Thompson would be that much slower than the champion.
We all learned a ton in that first fight like Woodley can pace himself for five rounds and Thompson has a hell of a chin.
How these two adapts the best will determine the winner. I expect Tyron to look for more takedown in this fight as he dominated the first round. This does increase the risk of him tiring himself out in the later rounds as Thompson’s takedown defense continues to improve. This will also help him set up the atomic bomb of a right hand he has.
On the other side, I see Thompson setting up his kicks for the end of the round better to minimize the risk of getting the takedown. He will need to push the pace a little more while avoiding Woodley’s overhand right.
Prediction: Woodley by decision
Lightweight Interim Title
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov vs. Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson
Barring any last second injury or sickness, this fight is FINALLY happening and I can't be more excited.
Khabib is undefeated and one of the pride of Russia right now. A multiple world Combat Sambo champion, the Eagle is the best grappler in the lightweight division by a wide margin. He can smoosh anyone he can get a hold of. Khabib really showed that off in his last fight against Michael Johnson where he battered him on the ground until a third round submission. Johnson is a well-respected wrestler himself but had no answers once Khabib closed the distance and grabbed him.
While that is what usually happened to Khabib’s opponents, Johnson landed some good crosses that visibly rocked the Eagle. This was the first time he has looked human.
Tony Ferguson has been on a tear since 2012 with nine wins, six of them by finish, and a total record of 22-3. Tony has a wrestling background but has developed a full arsenal of striking attacks he uses to keep his opponent off guard. Under the tutelage of the submission wizard, Eddie Bravo, Ferguson has become one of the best choke specialists in the UFC. Watch out for his slick d’arce and guillotine chokes that he snatches up in transitions.
The question he is how well can Tony deal with Khabib’s wrestling while inflicting damage and going for submissions. With the new rules, I think Tony will pull out a close decision.
Prediction: Ferguson by split decision
Alistair “Ubereem” Overeem vs. Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt
A rematch from a 2006 Dream from Japan that Overeem won by submission in just over a minute. While that might happen again, I see/hope this fight plays out as a striking battle.
Overeem will have the height and reach advantage. Hunt will have the more proven chin. Cardio and power are most likely a draw.
There is a six-inch difference in height and reach between these men. Overeem has become a diligent counter puncher as of recently to minimize exposing his chin in firefights. So he isn’t going to throw a lot of volumes to keep Hunt at bay.
Prediction: Mark Hunt by KO in the 2nd
“Suga” Rashad Evans vs. Dan Kelly
While Rashad was once the Light Heavyweight Belt, that was 2009. As of recently, Rashad 2-4 skid over the past four years with several major injuries sidelining him for extended periods of time. Evan is looking to reinvent himself by dropping to the Middleweight division.
Dan Kelly is the perfect matchup to see what Evans still has left. Dan is 9-1, a four-time Olympic Judo competitor for Australia that keeps winning fights most pundits don’t expect him to win. He is 39 years old, came into MMA late in his life and isn’t that fast.
There are so many X-factors for Rashad going into this fight. How much ring rust will he have with only two fights (both losses) in the last four years? Will he be gun-shy coming off another bad KO? How motivated is he to compete after all the injuries and 12 years as a professional?
Prediction: Kelly by decision
Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
Lando is one of the most exciting new lightweights in the UFC in a while which is saying a ton. He is a Brandon Gibson disciple with some unbelievable striking. He almost finished Tony Ferguson on a short notice fight in his UFC debut and came back in his next fight to brutally finish John Makdessi (known for being a good striker) by wheel kick in a minute 40 seconds. The way he was able to set up that kick so quick is some high high-level stuff.
David is a Swedish fighter with a 5-1 record with his last 4 wins coming via T/KO. He didn’t make too big of an impact on the Ultimate Fighter Season 22 losing in the quarter finals. He has a similar skill set as Lando’s last opponent but less proven. Not a good sign for the former TUF fighter.
Prediction: Lando by KO in the first round