UFC 208 may have been a flop, but the promotion is bouncing straight back with a stacked card for UFC 209 (March 4th, 2017). On the main card, we’ve got a highly-anticipated welterweight title rematch between champion Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) and Stephen Thompson (13-1-1), plus a fierce lightweight interim title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0) and Tony Ferguson (22-3).
Lower on the card is a bout between aging middleweights Rashad Evans (19-5-1) and Dan Kelly (12-1), and also a heavyweight slugfest between Mark Hunt (12-10-1) and Alistair Overeem (41-15).
Here’s how I see the main events.
When these two faced off for the first time at UFC 205, Woodley took Thompson down in the first round and worked some vicious ground-and-pound. Thompson came back in the later rounds, landing a flurry of clean strikes. Despite getting tagged by a few significant blows, Woodley appeared unfazed. He came storming back, knocked Thompson down in the later rounds, and came ridiculously close to a submission win, but “Wonderboy” Thompson managed to hold on.
In the end, it was declared a draw after some confusion from the judges. In my opinion, it should have been a win for Woodley. Either way, it was an extremely close fight.
Both fighters will enter the octagon better prepared for each other this time. Thompson is the superior striker but he never came close to ending the first fight, even though he landed some of his best shots. Woodley, on the other hand, had several moments when it looked like he could end Thompson.
Woodley is the more dangerous fighter and is justifiably the favorite coming into the rematch.
Pick: Tyron Woodley (-135)
Khabib Nurmagomedov boasts an outstanding 24-0 record (8-0 in the UFC), while Tony Ferguson has won his last nine fights. The two stand out as the clear top contenders for Conor McGregor’s lightweight title.
Interestingly, Ferguson’s last loss was to Michael Johnson, whom Nurmagomedov laid to waste in November. But that loss was back in 2012. Ferguson has come a long way since.
Ferguson is a high-pressure, dynamic fighter, capable of holding his own against any opponent, while Khabib is a master grappler with one of the most ferocious ground-and-pounds in the business. This will be the biggest fight of both their careers so far, and the winner deserves a title unification shot against Conor McGregor.
Tony Ferguson is an amazing fighter, but after seeing Khabib maul Michael Johnson at UFC 205, it’s hard for me to pick against him.
Pick: Khabib Nurmagomedov (-205)
Photo credit: Antonia Fucito [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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