After the unmitigated disaster of UFC 208 that was by far one of the least liked PPVs of the past few years, we actually get a very nice event that involves two titles fights (one’s an interim, but I digress). The main event is a rematch of the highly scrutinized draw between current WW champ Tyron Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. It was a back and forth affair that could have ended in a clear victory for Woodley, but Thompson persevered and fought hard for a draw. The co-main event pits two of the buzzsaws in the LW division, as Khabib Nurmagomedov continues to put his undefeated 24-0 record on the line against “El Cucoy” Tony Ferguson – winner of 9 straight UFC fights. It’s an interim title fight due to Conor McGregor’s antics and whatever the hell he’s doing right now with Floyd + “taking time off” from the UFC. That means it’ll be a 5 round fight instead of the usual 3 for non-main event fights. Very important distinction when it comes to DK scoring and gathering scoring potential. The rest of the card is very solid, including another exciting fight from “Groovy” Lando Vannata against David Teymur in what should be a back and forth striking affair that should end in a spectacular finish. Yes, Rashad Evans is moving down to middleweight against old man Dan Kelly, but even that eyesore of a fight couldn’t ruin a great PPV card. As always, keep in mind that odds do not tell the whole story and chins are a real thing in DFS MMA strategy. With that said, it’s going to be some very close fights odds wise which makes UFC 209 an interesting slate with few obvious picks and ownership projections likely fluctuating all over the place. Let us pray.
Albert Morales vs Andre Soukhamthath
Albert vs Andre! For whatever reason, the UFC decided to add two late additions to UFC 209’s fight pass prelims, probably in an effort to spice it up for their subscribers. This is the 1st of the two fights, and it has potential for a fun scrap, as both men are skilled strikers with varying levels of aggression and equal amount of knockout power.
Morales should be the faster and more aggressive of the two, with a stalking forward pressure based striking game that forces opponents to either engage in a brawl with him or get their legs cracked by a hard low kick that could make a nun cry. A nun! One thing is very obvious when watching a Morales fight – the dude loves brawls. He’s willing to sit back a bit and keep churning out leg kicks until something starts to arise, then hammers his way inside the pocket with swinging hooks that have some serious snap to them. Morales does a decent enough job of moving around and staying tight on his overhands even if the miss, so he generally doesn’t overswing and get smoked for it. Of course, that didn’t happen against Almeida’s right hand, getting consistently countered on his left hook. That will be something to watch for from Andre, a much more technically sound boxer with a more stoic approach to striking.
Andre prefers to sit back and let his jab dictate the space between the two fighters, then cleaning up on counter-rights and circling out of trouble afterwards. When Andre finds his range and rhythm, he’s tough to slow down especially when Andre starts mixing up his combinations and hits the flurry blitz. However, Andre really struggles early against pressure and will cower against most flurries instead of circling out of danger. Morales LOVES to throw flurries against guys that back up to the fence and break their will by sheer volume. That absolutely describes Andre, who spends most of his time near the fence. Andre also gets his leg whacked way too much in the fights I watched him in, so that’s just another edge to Morales if he can batter Andre’s lead leg early. As long as Morales doesn’t get all gung ho with wild swinging hooks and gets plastered on the ground on a counter-right, I think it’s a good match-up for him. He should be able to continually smash Andre’s lead leg all fight and be able to apply constant pressure without over-reaching. Pressure breaks pipes! All those leg kicks will add up, and yes, they count as significant strikes.
Morales via 3rd round TKO
Amanda Cooper vs Cynthia Calvillo
Cooper, or “ABC” as she’s better known as, competed on one of the TUF shows and had reached the finals before losing to Tatiana Suarez. She won her next UFC fight against Anna Elmose and now will face 3-0 newcomer Cynthia Calvillo, who trains out of Team Alpha Male. That probably means Calvillo is mainly a wrestler, while Cooper’s background and past fights point to a predominant striking base. Striker vs wraaaaaaaasslerrrrrr!
Cooper should have a good striking edge on Calvillo, but isn’t anything exciting on the feet. She’s fundamentally sound and has decent boxing combinations and can attack with the overhand from range, but generally lacks explosiveness and creativity. It’s mostly the 1-2 combo and a overhand here and there, a reactive kick mixed in and sometimes a quick take-down for good measure. Calvillo knows the basics of stand-up but isn’t willing to brawl and will duck under incoming pressure for an easy body take-down. She’s got a good shoot in take-down and obviously the Alpha Male camp has given her an edge in cardio and finishing unsuccessful take-down attempts. One thing I noticed with Cooper is while her take-down defense is average at best, giving up an easy single to Suarez in the TUF final and other opponents, Cooper has a competent guard. She’s a purple belt in BJJ and has several submission victories in her name, including a nice armbar off her back. Calvillo doesn’t seem the type to put herself in bad positions from top, so I’m not going to worry about Cooper’s guard. If Cooper had a more up-tempo stand-up and could pressure a little better than what she does, I’d probably pick her for the upset. Calvillo just seems polished enough with her wrestling to be able to take advantage of Cooper’s shoddy take-down defense and stifle her on the ground for a decision win. I’m not expecting a wrestling clinic from Calvillo or an abundance of advances from Calvillo, but she did show great instincts on grabbing back takes during her short stint as a pro. That’s something I guess and Cooper has several sub losses on record, but I wouldn’t bank on a finish. Should be decent amount of points in a Calvillo win though.
Calvillo via unanimous decision
Paul Craig vs Tyson Pedro
Both men have finished all of their opponents in their fight, and looking ahead to the match-up, it seems likely that streak shall continue for one of them. Paul Craig, or the BearJew as he’s better known as, is coming off a big win against “Frankenstein” Luis Henrique (no, not the same one on this card) with an impressive and slick 2nd round armbar submission that he got off his back. Pedro is also coming off a tough, gritty win over Khalil Rountree that saw him got hammered by a straight left, recovering quickly to get the take-down and eventually submitting Rountree for the 1st round victory. Both were great wins against adversity and showcased their respective grappling skills. Which one will shine this time around?
Pedro should be the bigger, much more athletic fighter which to me is the biggest reason why he’s the favorite despite possibly being the lesser grappler. He’s got some good boxing background and other various striking styles, but in every fight his gameplan is always the same. Sit back, pick and prod his opponent then chain a combination into a take-down and finish it from the clinch or up in the fence. From there, it’s top control advantage and getting into full mount or applying GnP to open up submission opportunities.
Craig is similar in that sense, except he’s a little more reckless with his stand-up and relies on his kicks for most of his damage. Craig does a good job at timing level changes while pressuring, working hard to get the double leg take-down near the fence. What separates him from Pedro is his grappling skills, most notably his defensive guard and his butterfly guard in particular off his back. He’s very, very dangerous on the ground when he’s able to get into the butterfly, as he’s limber and very experienced in creating space to hit a quick reverse or set up a triangle/armbar submission. That’s what this match-up likely comes down to, as Pedro probably should be able to get Craig on the ground fairly easy, then has to maneuver his way against his guard in order to get any offense going. It could end up being a stalemate on the ground, in which case Pedro should still have an advantage on the feet being the much quicker, light-footed striker. This is a toss-up to me as Pedro’s strength ultimately puts him in danger against Craig’s defensive guard, while Craig’s lack of overall athleticism allows Pedro to be able to employ his usual gameplan without much resistance. Ehhhhhh, I guess I’ll go with the athlete in a grinding decision, but it’s yet another fight you have to hedge. Bearjews are tough, man.
Pedro via unanimous decision
Daniel Spitz vs Mark Godbeer
Spitz will be a short notice fill-in for the injured Todd Duffee, which makes this a little bit of a disappointing fight as fights involving Duffee usually ends in a 1st round finish by either him or his opponent. Spitz is a tall HW, coming in at a gaudy 6’7” of height and could be described as a Travis Browne type. Godbeer will have a height/reach disadvantage against Spitz, making it an interesting battle for “The Hand of” GODBEER. He’s also finished all of his opponents in his wins, mostly by KO. It’s a heavyweight fight folks, and anything can happen when you pit two semi-decent but still sort of awful heavyweights inside a cage. Deal with it.
Godbeer has a good understanding of staying at range and battering away with sharp low kicks and spraying the jab every now and then. He does this to invite his opponents into the pocket, then unleashes the Hand of GODBEER upon them with flurries of winging hooks and overhands. He’s got some serious power and has a quick trigger, almost always exchanging some sort of power shot immediately after an incoming strike. It’s what he does and it’s what hes good at, even if he misses wildly on his home-run swings. Spitz is similar to Godbeer in the sense that he understand at-range striking and how to move around in the pocket to keep busy. He knows his own reach and how to best utilize his length advantage with long reaching jabs that he’ll mix in as a body shot. Spitz is basically a slower version of early career Travis Browne, knees and all. He normally doesn’t press ahead and will mix in some strong combinations with a hard body kick finisher, but otherwise he isn’t going to wow you with anything outside of a protruding jab. His biggest weakness to me is his overall speed, as it’s really slow at times and leaves his chin wide open. That lack of speed against a guy who spams winging hooks for a living? That’s pretty scary to me, but here’s the unknown (and something Spitz has even mentioned). Godbeer is very bad on the ground and has mediocre take-down defense. Spitz hasn’t really showcased much wrestling outside of some clinch work, but has alluded to a take-down heavy gameplan against Godbeer. That likely would be his best chance at a quick submission victory, as he does have several sub wins on record. Other than that? I favor Godbeer standing just purely based on speed and how often Godbeer is willing to go for the home-run on everything. I’m interested to see Spitz’s growth as he does have some tools that can be groomed into a serviceable HW with his superior length. Hedge this fight.
Spitz via 1st round RNC
Iuri Alcantara vs Luke Sanders
Southpaw fight! Sanders is coming off a great win over Maximo Blanco that saw Sanders drop Blanco and then get out of a tight arm triangle shortly afterwards. He then dropped Blanco again and got the submission victory. It was a great debut for the noticeably smaller Sanders, and now he will drop back to his natural weight at bantamweight against Alcantara. Now, if you’re a hardcore fan then you know what I’m going to say about Iuri Alcantara. The guy would probably be the champion or at least a top 5 contender if he ever could just….get some damn take-down defense! Time and time again we’ve been spoiled by Alcantara’s impressive talent and skill-set only to see him writhing on the ground as he tries to escape the clutches of an inferior opponent who just happens to have even a modicum of offensive wrestling. He’s now 36 years old and still looks to be in phenomenal shape along with all of his world class skills such as his BJJ black belt. Iuri just needs some consistency for once in his UFC life and become the true contender us fans want him to be. Sigh.
Both fighters are southpaws as stated earlier, with Alcantara boasting a 3 inch height advantage and a likely 3-4 inch reach advantage. That should serve Iuri well as he’s predominantly a counter-striker with very fast hand/foot speed and great timing on his combinations. He’s also an elite grappler, something that’s basically saved him from getting demolished by wrestlers as he can reverse his position very quickly and get back on his feet. Sanders is a prototypical southpaw, relying on the left straight/left body kick as his main means of attacks. Sanders isn’t a wrestler but is very adept from the clinch, mostly preferring to hit knees to the body rather than set up a trip take-down. That’s a huge boost to Alcantara’s chances at winning or even finishing against Sanders. Now, to the part where I notice things that lean me one way or another. Sanders has a bad habit of ducking on his punches which exposed him against Blanco, getting knee’d and kicked in the face while trying to land an overhand. Alcantara is a much better striker than Blanco and will have a huge reach advantage, forcing Sanders to have to jump into Iuri’s space more often than he’d like and funneling himself into Alcantara’s counters. Combine those two weaknesses and you can see why I like Alcantara in the match-up. It truly depends on whether or not Sanders can ram himself into the clinch and get Alcantara to the ground. Here’s the thing. I don’t think Sanders can even keep the bigger Alcantara on the ground for that long, or even get him down in the 1st place. This seems like a mismatch on paper to me, but most of Alcantara’s fights have looked like that anyways. I’m a sucker for talent. Iuri drops Sanders and gets his back for a RNC! Or just lays on the ground. Fifty-fifty proposition.
Alcantara via 3rd round RNC
Darren Elkins vs Mirsad Bektic
Finally, Bektic returns under the bright lights of the UFC after a long hiatus since his last win, a savage wrestling clinic on Russell Doane that Bektic mercifully ended with a 1st round submission. He’s currently 4-0 in the UFC, carrying a pristine overall record of 11-0 into the fight. Elkins is also riding a 3 fight UFC winning streak as well, and yet he’s the biggest dog on the card. What gives? To put it simply, Bektic is what Elkins wishes he could be. Bektic is the bigger, more physical fighter with an even stronger wrestling background/offense than Elkins. It’s like pitting the wrestling champion of a Division III school against the world ranked #1 wrestler. Bektic also has one of the most effective and brutal GnP in the entire UFC, with intelligent postures and fantastic ground transition offense. He’s simply unstoppable from top control as he swerves his way into advantageous positions for the opportunity to uncork his pent up anger upon his poor opponents’ faces. So while Elkins may be a good wrestler/top control guy in his own right, Bektic is just basically the roided up version of Elkins with a much better ground offensive game and more power. Elkins also isn’t a formidable guy as far as take-down defense goes despite having solid fundamental wrestling. Nothing about this fight tells me Bektic will have a difficult time throwing Elkins into the dark abyss and breaking Elkins’ nose in the process. I mean, Hacran Dias got 5 take-downs on Elkins and he’s a fly compared to Bektic. Cash game lock. Potential for a ton of points if he can get 5+ take-downs and works his magic from top with 10+ advances and plenty of sig strikes.
Bektic via unanimous decision
Luis Henrique vs Marcin Tybura
This is going to be a fight between two fighters who love to get into the clinch but have vastly different approaches. KLB (Henrique) prefers to stay out of range and try one hit strikes/bombs to push up to the fence and go from there. Tybura is more of a fundamental striker, sizing up his opponents with quick leg kicks and good movement for a heavyweight. He’ll pick his moments to do what KLB does and push into the clinch for the trip/bodylock drag game that both men love to do. KLB has the better wrestling background and seems to be the stronger of the two, though I’m not entirely sure who is the bigger HW. KLB’s been at HW recently for the last couple fights for the UFC after spending most of his career at 205 pounds or less. Tybura’s been a HW for his career so I’m going to guess he’ll be the bigger man. That may end up helping him in the long run as KLB doesn’t really have any great take-downs or setups for the attempts, so it’ll be a lot of tangling inside the clinch for both fighters. In a clinch battle I prefer to go to the more tenacious, aggressive guy that’s willing to do what it takes to get it to the ground. That’s definitely KLB more than it is Tybura, and KLB already has the stronger wrestling background and the strength advantage. Both guys are adept at ground control from top, with smart and quick decisions on transitions and back takes.
It’s hard for me to see Tybura lighting up KLB on the feet with how KLB stays out of range and generally always finds himself in the clinch or grabbing ahold of his opponents during exchanges. It’s why I’m going for the upset as KLB seems to work better and harder than Tybura, and if KLB can stay out of trouble from Tybura’s stand-up, he should be able to worm his way into the clinch more than Tybura does. The Ngannou/KLB fight was more about how much of a freak Ngannou is with his power than KLB’s striking defense. I don’t think either guy will get finished outside of a devastating strike or a poor decision on a back take for a RNC sub. Still, take-downs and advances are money points!
Henrique via unanimous decision
Alistair Overeem vs Mark Hunt
It’s the rematch that took nearly 10 years to finally get it done. The last time these big boys met up, it was a PRIDE match-up with a significantly thinner Reem against Hunt when he was doing his whole Super Saiyan thing and was mashing people left and right. The result of that fight? Hunt clocked Reem’s head off his shoulders, but Reem was conscious enough to tangle Hunt on the ground, eventually grabbing his arm and twisting it for the americana sub victory. Ah, good times. Times have changed since then, but that just makes the fight all the more entertaining. Reem’s chin vs Hunt’s fists! Hunt’s Magikarp ground defense versus Reem’s take-downs and whatever from top control! Who wins? The fans, I shall presume.
Listen, Reem isn’t going to want to get anywhere close to a Hunt punch, lest he be extinguished into dust and possibly retirement. He’ll try the JDS gameplan, which is more or less RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST RUN AWAY!!!! Then tries to find that one opening to land a counter-strike through his crafty movement and finish the damn fight. It’s what Reem is really good at, as his speed and technique is still there after all of those years. The other thing that could very well realistically happen is Reem decides to just go ahead and grab one of Hunt’s legs and toss him to the ground. Hunt’s one of the worst HWs off his back and has some pretty non-existent take-down defense to boot. Bad combination. Reem did it to Stefan Struve, taking down the 7 footer to the ground and GnP’ing him to death for a 1st round KO victory. Those are his realistic options if he doesn’t like blacking out. Who does anyways?
On the other hand, Hunt only has one option. Just land something. It’ll likely be enough to drop Overeem and….well I dunno. Hunt’s career is filled with walk-off knockouts and he rarely does ever get to do stuff from top control. The point here is Hunt may have the speed of a slug being sprinkled by salt, but he’s got the massive power to break Reem’s chin in half, literally and figuratively. Mostly literally. Overeem has had several KO losses while he was seemingly ahead by a large margin, so this fight could very well come down all the way to the last second. Right now, Reem has all the tools to stay away from Hunt’s power punches and has the safe way out through his take-downs and ground offense. He’s shown enough in the past that he can be smart and calculated enough to hide away his chin woes. He probably should have beaten Miocic to be the new HW champion, so I’m going to continue to believe in Reem’s progress as a more cerebral fighter. Hedge your bets wisely with Hunt, and don’t be disappointed if Reem turns in a boring decision with few sig strikes and maybe a couple take-downs. He’s not in the UFC to score DK points!
Overeem via unanimous decision, maybe?
David Teymur vs Lando Vannata
This just might end up being either a Fight Of The Night or a Fight Of The Year candidate when it’s all said and done. Both men have had impressive knockouts during their short time in the UFC, with Vannata landing a sick spinning wheel kick to knock out John Makdessi. Neither guy has any interest in taking the fight to the ground, which is great news for us degenerates. Somebody get some smelling salts ASAP!
The contrast between both fighters’ striking styles is apparent from the very start. Teymur is the more technically sound striker behind his strong Muay Thai base, while Vannata just kind of does his own thing with his hands dangerously low and just grooving around. Both guys hit hard and have great counter-strikes, but Teymur will be the aggressor similar to how Ferguson was the aggressor against Vannata. That really plays into Vannata’s hands as he prefers to be a creative counter-striker than the instigator, much like Anderson Silva did in his prime when he used to just put his hands down and mock his opponents. What this match-up really boils down to is who can survive the most shots? Vannata was a walking zombie against Tony Ferguson, literally taking millions of unblocked power bombs from Ferguson and still standing tall. Teymur hasn’t faced that sort of adversity or been involved in a war with somebody who can dish out at the same power and pace as Teymur. That’s why Vannata’s a fairly big favorite despite what seems to be an even field between two strikers with no interest in wrestling. I personally think the odds should be closer than they are right now, as Vannata just simply has zero striking defense to speak of and Teymur is polished enough to take advantage of that. Unlike the Makdessi fight, Vannata won’t have a size or reach advantage so he’ll have to depend on his footwork and creating awkward striking angles if he doesn’t want another Ferguson situation on his hands (or on his face).
Vannata has the power and countering skills to put away Teymur despite his sheer lack of defensive skills and disadvantages from a technical striking point of view. He’s got huge upside simply for that alone, but Teymur can’t be overlooked in my opinion. He can craft together the perfect gameplan that prevents Vannata from going nuts on his counters and do something ridiculous like a flying knee on a head-kick attempt. Thing is, that would probably require patience and a great at-range striking game behind a stiff jab, which isn’t Teymur’s usual approach. Teymur will probably still be the main aggressor and try to annihilate Vannata for most of the fight, so with that in mind I’ll go ahead and tick Vannata for the win. I’ll have some shares of Teymur at his bargain basement price since I think he’s got better odds at winning the fight than Vegas thinks. I mean, it’s a brawl more than likely and Vannata isn’t exactly a world beater.
Vannata via 3rd round KO
Daniel Kelly vs Rashad Evans
Rashad Evans will be moving down to middleweight for the fight after a long career at LHW. He might say he’s just trying some new changes, but it’s because his skills have eroded so rapidly that no one saw it coming. Evans has 3 losses in his last 5 fights after Jon Jones embarrassed him 5 years ago, and Evans is also coming off an absolutely brutal KO loss versus Glover Teixeira. Is he just getting too old? No chin? Injuries? Whatever the reasons may be, he gets a good match-up against Dan Kelly, winner of 3 straight and holding a nice 5-1 UFC record thus far. Who would have imagined a 39 year old judoka with no discernible stand-up skills could actually do well without depending on his superior Judo skills? Definitely not this guy. If Evans struggles against Dan Kelly of all people, then he really should just retire. Nothing against Kelly, but this should be a gimme for Evans.
Evans has a boxing oriented striking offense, complemented by his shake and bake movement as he dances around the octagon while picking his spots at landing counters. He’s always had a strong wrestling background which helped him keep fights standing where he had a striking edge, or take it to the ground if he felt the advantage was large enough (see Chael Sonnen fight). Nothing special, just good fundamentals, a powerful overhand, and annoying defensive dancing throughout the fight. He hasn’t shown the footwork or the spark in his boxing combinations in the past few fights, getting out-worked by Ryan Bader and looking completely lost and nervous against Teixeira. Can he repeat his past performances that earned him a title shot against Jon Jones? I don’t know, but Kelly will give him every opportunity to.
Kelly’s stand-up can be summarized in a few words. Sloppy, uncoordinated, and blindingly aggressive. Is that a word? It should be, because it describes Kelly perfectly, as he can sometimes just rush inside with some sort of flapping left punch that may or may not land. Kelly doesn’t set up his left straight/overhand much, preferring to just stand and brawl while hoping it hurts the other guy if the punches meet their intended target. Maybe he’s just cocky and knows his judoka background (which is very legit, it’s Olympian good) allows him to control the action if he clinches up and drags them to the ground. Or maybe he’s just that bad. The utter lack of defensive skills shown by Kelly has resulted in some sloppy brawls where he somehow was on the winning end despite getting lit up repeatedly by unblocked potshots. Granted he’s started to show some of the vaunted Judo skills with great trip take-downs and drags, leading to stifling top control and guard advances.
Will Kelly try to work his clinch offense magic against Evans despite the possible size disadvantage? I don’t think so, which probably means Evans could end up with a heavy punching bag of an opponent for the good part of 3 rounds. The question is, will Evans even try to attack Kelly? He’s been so passive over the last few fights and has had history of inactivity, so hopefully Kelly’s aggression sparks something in Evans’ mind and gets him going early. If it doesn’t, it might be one of the worst fights of the year. Evans has a good chance for a KO victory against Kelly, but that old man sure is tough as nails and continues to surprise even the harshest of his critics. Yes, I’m talking about me. I’m still picking against you, Kelly.
Evans via unanimous decision
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson Fight Cancelled
Whooo-wee, mama! It’s the fight the fans have been screaming for ever since McGregor decide to take a hiatus. It pits two of the absolute best fighters the LW division has to offer, with Nurmagomedov being the scariest fighter in the division due to his nightmarish offensive wrestling. How do you stop an eagle from tearing your lifeless limbs one by one? That’s what Ferguson has to figure out if he wants to win the (interim) LW championship belt. Good thing for ol’ Tony is that he’s got one of the deepest arsenal of tools at his disposal out of anyone in the division. Just call him Tony the Tool Man! Arrrrrrrrr!
Nurmagomedov has the most formidable offensive wrestling out of anyone in the UFC, as he possesses otherworldly strength from years of training with bears and other crazy Russian shenanigans. His Sambo has evolved from traditional Combat Sambo into his own unique style where if he grabs even a mere finger, Khabib has a way of turning that into a workable leverage for a take-down. What separates him from everyone else that’s got a formidable offensive wrestling skill-set is his ground and pound techniques. Paired with his improbable strength for a man of his size is Nurmagomedov’s ability to methodically slide his way into favorable positions without his opponents even realizing what he’s doing. Once they do, it’s far too late to stop the Eagle from pulverizing their faces with hellbows and constant barrages of hammer fists. I mean, one click on his DK profile and you can see the amount of points he can score. The guy is legit.
Ferguson is very similar to Max Holloway, a long and lanky combination heavy striker with a much more aggressive approach to his stand-up. He’s a master at creating angles due to his length and turning the heat on through combinations if he successfully lands a corner trap. His high volume style of striking has helped Ferguson apply pressure at alarming rates and really tests each opponent’s ability at handling pressure via circling out/backing up. As said before, if he gets in front of somebody with their back against the cage and no quick way out, it’s going to be a massacre. Here are some numbers on his last 4 fights – 199 sig strikes in a 5 round war against Rafael Dos Anjos, 66 sig in a 2nd round sub victory against Vannata where Ferguson was dropped several times, 61 sig in a 2nd round sub win against Barboza, and 83 sig in a decision win against Thomson where somehow Thomson survived getting dropped several times and was heavily bleeding. That’s nearly 100+ DK points in all of those fights despite no 1st round finishes. Ridiculous.
So, what’s the deal here? Who’s got the advantage in this crazy fight? Well, the one thing you need to know about Ferguson is he has really bad fight IQ. Like, the kind of fighter that will somersault away against pressure or try a D’arce from his back where he has less than 0% chance of getting the submission. Those things actually happened, and it’s always going to be a part of Ferguson’s charm. Nurmagomedov is on the other spectrum of fight IQ, knowing full well his advantages and how to leverage them into a successful gameplan. He won’t stand too long if the other guy is too skilled, or try far away level changes against an opponent that has a great guillotine choke. Nurmagomedov got caught by Michael Johnson and seemed to be stunned momentarily, then went into Eagle Mode and eviscerated MJ as punishment for even touching his face. Ferguson has really unorthodox means at take-down defenses, opting for silly submission attempts and flying stuff instead of just using underhooks and sprawling his way out of take-down attempts. It comes down to Nurmagomedov’s fantastic wrestling versus bad fight IQ/take-down defense and Ferguson’s insane striking output/pressure versus Nurmagomedov’s possible stand-up deficiencies. I will take the smarter, more controlled fighter in a championship fight. Make no mistake about this fight, Ferguson is as dangerous as they come and will be a LIVE dog in a 5 round fight where anything could happen. They’re both on my favorite fighters list so it pains me to even have to choose a winner, but Nurmagomedov was my first love. You never forget your first crush!
Nurmagomedov via 4th round TKO
Stephen Thompson vs Tyron Woodley
It’s a championship rematch between the top two guys in the welterweight division after a heavily scrutinized draw the first time around. Much has been said between the two foes, with Thompson claiming to utilizing a more aggressive gameplan this time around along with being heavier than usual earlier in the week. Woodley hasn’t said much gameplan wise, as he’s been taking shots at the fans and Dana White in particular, which might be a big distraction considering he kinda has a really important fight soon. It’s not my place to question Woodley’s motivation before the fight though, as I am just trying to read the tea leaves. What Thompson has said lately resonates with how I felt was the appropriate gameplan needed to defeat the current champion in that fight. Whatever the case may be, I’ll try my best to break down the rematch with everything mentioned before in mind. Also, Wonder Bread sucks. Just wanted to get that out of the way.
Thompson has an electric Karate striking style, utilizing a wide, almost crab-like stance and inviting his opponents into engaging him by leaving his hands low. Of course, that’s just a trap laid by Wonderboy, as his eye-popping speed and accuracy hides the potential defensive liabilities of his unorthodox stances. He’s a very skilled counter-striker with a lightning fast straight from either hand as he generally likes to switch stances from time to time. In his fight against Woodley, he was uncharacteristically passive and seemed to respect Woodley’s power and wrestling too much. That resulted in some awkward moments where Thompson wasn’t sure on what to do with Woodley backing up and would eventually get smacked by an overhand or biting hard on feints. I’m going to assume Wonderboy gets more comfortable this time around and ignites more striking exchanges much like he did against Rory MacDonald, showcasing his impressive speed and boxing skills. It’s in his best interests to do so, as he has a massive speed advantage on Woodley.
Woodley was able to get Thompson to play into his gameplan, luring him near the cage by backing up and using feints to catch Thompson off guard. Woodley’s made a name for himself through his physique and strong wrestling offense, and he’s used it to his advantage with take-down feints that help set up his power right hand. The reason why that setup works so well is because opponents end up lowering their hands in an effort to quickly anticipate and stymie a take-down attempt. It’s one of Woodley’s bread and butter, even landing the devastating overhand in the 4th round that almost put away Wonderboy. What was really lacking from Woodley in that fight was the lack of more take-down setups, with Woodley preferring to stand for the majority of the fight. He chose to simply use feints rather than acting and seeing through on a take-down attempt. I sense Wonderboy and his coaches may have picked up on this, and it’s something that’s plagued Woodley over his career. Something to keep in mind.
I’m going to pick the same fighter as I did last time, as Wonderboy simply is just too good and crafty of a striker not to beat Woodley straight up. Yes, Woodley has a monstrous right hand and tremendous power in all of his strikes, but he’s extremely passive and gets predictable at times with his backing up to the cage antics. Wonderboy seemed too nervous in actively engaging Woodley anywhere in the octagon, as his striking output in that fight was significantly lower than usual. Woodley’s biggest strength is his wrestling, which was only really evident in the 1st round when Woodley landed a well-timed level change and cut up Thompson’s face with strong GnP. History tells me that Woodley probably still won’t really wrestle Wonderboy in the rematch, increasing Thompson’s edge on Woodley. This is all guessimates and trying to get a read on what either fighter may attempt to do. If the Wonderboy that slayed Johny Hendricks in the 1st round and put on a striking clinic against MacDonald shows up, it could be over very fast. If the tentative, passive Thompson that got clubbed by Woodley shows up, then just call it another draw. Screw it, let’s go Woodley/Thompson III.