What’s up everyone? Welcome back once again to another edition of “Fightin’ Words” where I breakdown the upcoming UFC show. This month, I bring to you my analysis of this Saturday’s UFC 209 show with a big double main event as Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley defends his welterweight championship once again against the guy who took him to a draw in their last encounter in Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson plus the crowning of the new interim lightweight champion as undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to put an end to the nine fight win streak of Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson. With all that being said, let’s have a look at what’s set to go down this weekend.
UFC Welterweight Championship: Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley (16-3-1) vs Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (13-1-1)- This is a rematch from an incredible fight that went down in November which was ruled a draw. The first time these guys fought the fight was very competitive and I can see how it was scored the way it was but I can see this one being a little more decisive whoever wins. In the first fight Woodley came very close to finishing Thompson when he dropped the challenger with a punch and then sunk in a deep guillotine choke which many people would have tapped out to but Thompson somehow survived and mounted a comeback in the subsequent rounds showing a lot of heart and proving that he’s one of the best welterweights in the world. What was interesting about the first fight is that Thompson didn’t throw many kicks at all which is very unusual for a guy known for it however given Woodley’s wrestling ability I understand why but for Thompson to have so much success using only his hands makes me believe that if he can land some kicks in this fight then his chances of success are more likely. Thompson has knockout power in his kicks, knees or hands and he will likely look to land more in this one then the first. Woodley has always been known for his wrestling, speed and ability to close the distance all of which were showcased in the last fight and with the legacy in this sport that Woodley wants to fulfill he will need to win this one dominantly to make his next fight a big money one which is what Woodley has been looking for. Woodley at one point in his career may have been mainly known as a wrestler but those days are far behind him and he is more than comfortable standing and trading with a dangerous striker such as Thompson. Ultimately I can see this leading to his undoing . The first fight may have been close but I lean towards Thompson to get the late tko via head kick in another great fight between the two.
Prediction: Thompson by TKO
UFC Interim Lightweight Championship: Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (24-0) vs Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (22-3)- With current UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor taking a leave of absence from the sport for what should be most of 2017 the lightweight division looks to move on for the time being, crowning an interim champion in a fight between the two top ranked lightweights. At 24-0 Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the best grapplers in the sport with the ability to takedown anyone in his division. If it weren’t for multiple injuries over the last few years it’s likely that Khabib would be a champion at this point and he has a chance to prove that by capturing the championship this weekend. Unfortunately for Khabib he’s facing a challenger who quietly amassed an 8 fight win steak until facing former champion Rafael Dos Anjos in a fight that saw Ferguson test the fourth and fifth rounds for the first time in his career and excel winning the fight via unanimous decision and firmly placing him into title contention. The winner of TUF 13, Ferguson is 12-1 inside the UFC and has 8 stoppages including three submission victories due to a Brabo choke. An Eddie Bravo disciple, Ferguson has some incredible jui jitsu skills and long and lanky limbs which benefit his unconventional techniques on the mat which have posed many problems to past opponents. Stylistically this is an interesting matchup as both of these guys are truly fantastic on the floor and if it plays out there, where it likely will then we’re in for a great fight. On the feet Khabib packs solid power but he mostly uses his hands to set up the takedown while Ferguson may not have one punch power but does have the better skills there than Khabib. This is a close fight and likely the closest on the card but I lean ever so slightly towards Nurmagomedov to pick up three of five rounds and at least two of three judges’ scorecards in a closely contested fight.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov by split decision
“Suga” Rashad Evans (19-5-1) vs Daniel Kelly (12-1)- Interesting little matchup here between two aging veterans looking to make one final push to the top of the 185 pound division. This will be Evans’ first fight at middleweight but never a large light heavyweight, Evans should likely have an easy weight cut. A former light heavyweight champion, Evans has competed against the sports best fighters and has notable wins over the likes of Michael Bisping, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Phil Davis, Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen throughout his career. A solid wrestler with fast reflexes and a mean right hand, Evans has legitimate one punch knockout power but favours a more calculated approach with picking opponents apart with a mix of strikes as opposed to aggressively swinging for the fences. Kelly on the other hand is a Judo expert with an impressive ground game and ability to control opponents on the mat. With a 5-1 record inside the octagon Kelly has looked impressive against low level opposition thus far but Rashad is a different breed of fighter then the Patrick Walsh’s and Steve Montgomery’s of the world and even with Rashad seemingly already having one foot out the door when it comes to his career, he’s still a much better fighter than Kelly has ever faced and given Walsh’s advanced age at 39 years and limited ways to beat Evans then I side with Evans to get his hand raised in a very slow and plodding fight with very little action.
Predictions: Evans by unanimous decision
Landon “Groovy” Vannata (9-1) vs David Teymur (5-1)- Good matchmaking here between two young prospects with knockout power in their fists. Vannata is coming off a highlight reel knockout victory in his last fight against John Makdessi in a fight that saw Vannata knock him out in less than two minutes with a spinning wheel kick. Before that, Vannata made his UFC debut taking a short notice fight against lightweight title contender Tony Ferguson in a fight that Vannata dropped Ferguson twice in. Vannata has heavy hands and loves to throw in kicks for good measure and even with having only had two fights in the UFC thus far he’s showing a lot of promise. The measuring stick for Vannata this weekend is David Teymur whose 2-0 in his UFC career so far with both fights ending via knockout. Both of these guys are well rounded but it’s likely that both look to have this fight play out on the feet where each man will look for the knockout. I like the Groovy one here to finish Teymur within the first ten minutes.
Prediction: Vannata by knockout
Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (41-15-1) vs Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt (12-10-1)- Following his loss at UFC 200 to Brock Lesnar, Mark Hunt swore never to face another fighter who had failed a drug test but when Lesnar was suspended for a positive test for a banned substance following the fight and the outcome was changed to a no contest, Hunt entered his hat back into the draw and faces off against Alistair Overeem this weekend who steps into the octagon following a loss to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. These two have fought once before way back in 2008 in a fight that saw Overeem take Hunt down and submit him to a key lock. Since that fight both guys have had many ups and downs and I don’t think it’s a shock to anyone that they are both approaching the twilight of their careers. Even at 42 years old Mark Hunt is still considered one of the hardest punchers in the sport and it doesn’t matter who he faces if he lands one of his big haymakers then its light’s out. Aside from one punch knockout power, Hunt is pretty limited in the grappling and wrestling aspect of the sport and that is something his opponent is likely to capitalize on. Alistair Overeem is a pretty big guy at 6’5 and weighing in at 257 pounds and will look even bigger against the 5’10, 262 pound Hunt. Overeem has always been known for his striking but his grappling and submission skills are nothing to overlook as 19 of his 41 wins come via the art of making your opponent tap out. Seeing as how successful Overeem was against Hunt on the mat in their first encounter I would expect him to look to do the same here but he can’t be careless as Hunt hits hard and Overeem’s always had a shaky chin. I like Overeem here for the submission victory in similar fashion to their first fight almost nine years ago.
Prediction: Overeem by submission
Marcin Tybura (14-2) vs Luis Henrique Barbosa de Oliveira (10-2)- Prediction: Tybura by unanimous decision
Darren “The Damage” Elkins (21-5) vs Mirsad Bektic (11-0)- Prediction: Elkins by unanimous decision
Mark “The Hand of” Godbeer (11-3) vs Daniel Spitz (5-0)- Prediction: Godbeer by tko
Iuri “Marajo” Alcantra (33-7-1) vs Luke Sanders (11-0)- Prediction: Alcantra by unanimous decision
Tyson Pedro (5-0) vs Paul “Bearjew” Craig (9-0)- Prediction: Craig by submission
Amanda Bobby Cooper (2-2) vs Cynthia Calvillo (3-0)- Prediction: Cooper by unanimous decision
Albert Morales (6-1-1) vs Andre Soukhamthath (11-3)- Prediction: Soukhamthath by tko
Well that’s it for now everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed the column and make sure to check back in next month as I break down UFC 210: Cormier vs Johnson 2.