UFC 209 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
Just a few months after their initial metting that ended in a ‘majority draw,’ Woodley and Thompson will lock horns again on Saturday night in another intriguing stylistic welterweight title rematch.
Both men had their moments in the first fight, with Woodley’s wrestling presenting a threat early, then his power sporadically putting his opponent in trouble, while Thompson’s higher tempo, forward pressure and wide arsenal of striking techniques helping him to shine.
The two fighters have ways to step up their game from that first encounter though. Thompson was understandable cautious last time out and didn’t flow with his stand-up game to the same extent as we’ve seen in the past, so there is room for him to step up the intensity and land a higher volume of strikes.
As for Woodley, it would be good to see him fight at a higher pace, but that isn’t his forte. What he can focus on however is utilizing his wrestling more often this time around as he was effective with it in the first round of their previous fight.
This one could go either way, but I slightly favor Woodley, with his wrestling being the biggest key to his success. Also, if Thompson does open up a bit more with strikes then that should offer the champion more opportunities to land his own heavier-hitting shots. Mostly though it’s control on the mat that I feel will get ‘T-Wood’ a decision victory on the night.
Tyron Woodley to win by decision.
Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
What a great fight this is between two lightweight’s who’ve both worked wonders to produce such long unbeaten runs in this highly competitive division.
Ferguson is a combustible ball of energy and has an offensive mindset wherever the fight takes him, providing a creative array of strikes on the feet and a crafty submission threat on the mat.
The volume and variety of Ferguson’s striking should give him an advantage on the feet against Nurmagomedov, though his tendancy to focus too heavily on offense does leave him prone to defensive lapses and so he eats more strikes than he should – which will end up costing him at some stage in his career.
As good as Ferguson’s striking is though, Nurmagomedov’s wrestling is better, and it’s what’s made him one of the most feared fighters in all of the UFC.
If ‘The Eagle’ wants to take you to the mat then there’s very little anyone can do about it, and though he’s a competent wrestler, I don’t believe Ferguson will prove to be any different.
He’s just so dominant in this regard that Ferguson’s only hope is to stay out of grappling range at all costs, and with his striking and movement he certainly has a chance, but Nurmagomedov is something of an unstoppable force at this stage and I think he’ll take punches to get his hands on his opponent, and will repeatedly slam him onto the mat en-route to a decision victory.
Khabib Nurmagomedov to win by decision.
Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Kelly
Former 205lb champ Evans will finally make his middleweight debut on Saturday night against a 39-year-old veteran Kelly who is 5-1 in his UFC campaign so far.
Evans hasn’t looked good of late, looking unsure of himself and hesitant to pull the trigger. Back-to-back losses, including a KO loss to Glover Teixeira last time out, together with a troubling period late last year that saw him being removed from two cards due to an issue with the results of a brain scan (which has now been resolved), are unlikely to have changed that.
Nonetheless, middleweight has always seemed like it would be a good fit for him and on paper he is the superior fighter when he’s on form, thanks to his speed, power and wrestling.
Kelly is a talented judoka and can mix it up on both the feet and on the mat, but his movement is labored and I think despite his issues, Evans will prove to be too fast and too dominant with his wrestling and claim a confidence-boosting victory on the scorecards.
Rashad Evans to win by decision.
David Teymur vs. Lando Vannata
Two talented, up-and-coming lightweight strikers get a chance to show what they can do here in what should be an entertaining scrap.
Vannata has done a good job of making a name for himself in the UFC with his performances so far – giving interim title contender Tony Ferguson a tough fight and then claiming a spectacular wheel kick knockout against John Madkessi.
The same could be said of Teymur, who’s primarily a kickboxer and won both of his UFC bouts thus far via strikes, albeit against lesser opposition.
Vannata is the more creative of the two, has proven himself against tougher opposition and is also the better offensive grappler of the two, so I’d favor him to come out on top here in a competitive battle.
Lando Vannata to win by TKO in Rd2.
Mark Hunt vs. Alistair Overeem
Two hard-hitting heavyweight veterans collide in a fun match-up to kick off the main card on pay-per-view.
More men are lethal strikers, with Hunt being one of the most heavy-handed strikers in the sport, while Overeem has a broader offensive arsenal with his kicks and knees being as deadly as his punches.
Overeem undoubtedly has the weaker chin by some distance though, and that’s the last thing you want to have against Hunt who is capable of stopping anyone with a single strike.
However, we have seen ‘The Reem’ utilizing his surprisingly decent wrestling to his advantage at times of late, and he already holds a first round submission over Hunt in the DREAM promotion back in 2009, so that’s likely to further motivate him to take this fight to the mat.
Hunt’s ground game has improved since then, but I think Overeem can get the better of him and grind his way to a victory.
Alistair Overeem to win by decision.
Prelims: (predicted winners in bold)
Luis Henrique vs. Marcin Tybura
Mirsad Bektic vs. Darren Elkins
Iuri Alcantara vs. Luke Sanders
Mark Godbeer vs. Daniel Spitz
Paul Craig vs. Tyson Pedro
Amanda Cooper vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Albert Morales vs. Andre Soukhamthath