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UFC 216 DFS Picks: Ferguson Explains It All
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UFC 216 DFS Picks: Ferguson Explains It All

Long time, no see. I give you bad UFC 216 DFS picks now, yes? Most excellent. UFC 216 will feature two title fights, sort of. The main event will be an interim battle for the lightweight title since that Conor McGregor guy continues to make no effort in actually fighting for the UFC. You all saw that Floyd fight, right? Anyway, that interim battle will be between Tony Ferguson and a surprising challenger in Kevin Lee. Many had thought it would be the Ferguson/Nurmagomedov match-up we’ve all been waiting for, but of course, Khabib turned it down due to injury. For the sixth time, or something along those lines. Sigh. The co-main event is for the flyweight championship, with the current champ Demetrious Johnson being an over -1000 favorite yet once again. Not too many drama-filled storylines there. The rest of the card isn’t full of superstars, but it’s quite an action-packed card full of potential violence. I mean, Derrick Lewis gets to fight Fabricio Werdum! AND HE MIGHT GET A TITLE SHOT SOON! I’ll try to keep the picks as succinct as possible, with extra hilarity of course. Good luck.

Marco Beltran vs Matt Schnell

We haven’t been able to see Schnell put together his aggressive Rambo-style offensive wrestling since ya know, he keeps getting knocked out in the 1st round. Maybe Schnell will finally show us (and me) that he’s capable of bigger and better things against Beltran, someone who has historically struggled big time against take-downs. Beltran is the cleaner, more efficient striker and has the same tall frame as Schnell (5’8”) so there won’t be any size advantage for Schnell. There’s also that terrible striking defense/chin from Schnell, which would be kind of obvious with 2 straight 1st round KO losses. Beltran just simply doesn’t have a strong base to be able to defend against persistent wrestlers and guys who can grab his long limbs. While Schell has an atrocious striking defense and has shown nothing up to this point, we do know exactly what Beltran is – a scrappy long range fighter who can beat up from range with boxing but usually ends up on his back more often than not. If there was ever a time to roster Schnell and hope he goes nuts from a DK scoring perspective, this is it. It’s likely his last chance in the UFC and his uber-aggressive wrestling/grappling style is very conductive for DK scoring. Just hope he doesn’t run into a fist.

Schnell via 3rd round RNC

Brad Tavares vs Thales Leites

Why? Just why? Two boring guys who barely engage their opponents and will likely clinch up for the entire fight. Fantastic match-up….NOT! Leites is a BJJ black belt and getting his opponent to the ground is a MUST for him. The problem with that is his offensive wrestling is putrid. He depends on getting clinch-ups and dominating via bodylocks/wrist control to get trips or slams. Tavares is a strong wrestler with adequate take-down defense and likely won’t engage very often. That limits Leites’ chances at hitting a level change on a squared-up strike. It’s going to be really ugly to watch as both guys just don’t have the kind of striking repertoire to really take advantage of either one’s inability to take the other down. Tavares has looked much more improved with his boxing, so I’ll go with him in a lackluster win. Leites would need Tavares to make mistakes in order to let his dominant ground game take over the fight. Unlikely.

Tavares via unanimous decision

John Moraga vs Magomed Bibulatov

Bibulatov gets his 1st real test in what could be his best opponent so far in his career. Moraga has always been a consistent top-level flyweight, only really losing to the other FWs in the top 10. So why is Bibulatov such a big favorite? Well, he’s simply better than Moraga at nearly every aspect of their respective MMA game. He’s bigger, faster, a much more skilled wrestler, and has a higher ceiling regarding his striking ability. What Moraga does edge Bibulatov out in is his BJJ skills. Moraga is one of the best at grappling in the division, so Bibulatov would be wise to not rush his take-downs as to prevent exposing his neck to possible guillotine attempts. That’s the only realistic scenario I can see Moraga winning by though. Bibulatov is a fantastic offensive wrestling, hitting level changes on a dime and creating angles to land clinch take-downs. He’s a maniac from top control, with lightning quick transitions and well-timed ground’n’pound. Bibulatov showed off his striking skills against Lausa in his last fight, but I don’t think he’ll be trying to keep it standing for too long. Top control and wrestling is Bibulatov’s forte, and I expect we’ll see why he has the potential to be a top-tier DK scorer.

Bibulatov via 3rd round RNC

Mark Godbeer vs Walt Harris

I’m a little surprised Walt Harris is this big of a favorite against someone who could actually touch up his shaky chin. Godbeer can only really go one round without gassing badly and turning into mush. For that one round though, that’s scary enough to make me hesitate on picking Walt Harris despite his recent emergence and success. Godbeer spams the right overhand like no one’s business, and he’s pretty good at it with 9 of his 12 career wins via KO/TKO. Harris has largely been dependent on his huge frame and long reach to win the majority of his fights, but that won’t be the case against Godbeer as both are large men with similar reach. I’m still not sold on Harris’ improvement of late to warrant such high odds, as his past few wins have been questionable to me. Cyril Asker basically ran right into Harris’ fists while his win against Chase Sherman may have been one of those “lucky” shots considering he was able to land a knee. Harris is in that Ovince St Preux mold where he relies on pure athleticism to be able to stay funky and land acrobatic/explosive one shot snipes. He definitely could do that against Godbeer’s mediocre striking defense and lack of head movement. Godbeer’s lack of endurance also favors Harris considering Harris’ fighting style is to sit back and counter-strike with a hard left straight. I’m leery of picking Harris just because I know the moment he gets hit hard by a rogue punch, that’s going to be a KO loss. I guess if Harris can continue keeping his strikes compact and crisp while waiting out Godbeer while he spams his right overhand, he should be able to overtake him in the later rounds. I’d suggest having a little bit of Godbeer just in case.

Harris via 2nd round KO

Pearl Gonzalez vs Poliana Botelho

Both women are quite similar fighters with a few exceptions, as they are both forward-pacing strikers who can fight in the clinch. Gonzalez is the better grappler and likely will try to take advantage of that edge. Botelho is the better striker, being more compact and patient but still swinging the hammer with overhands and attacking the body. Gonzalez is more aggressive and can be very wild at times for the sake of running down her opponents into the fence. Gonzalez has a Muay Thai background, but she isn’t exactly the picture of technical striking. Botelho looks like she has some serious power in her hands, but often loses positioning on an overhand which opens her up to a take-down. That’s what Gonzalez should be looking for as her top control is very difficult to defend. Gonzalez has 4 armbar submission victories out of 6 wins, and it’s no surprise considering her submission-oriented top control. It’s going to be many close-quarter battles for both of them, making the pick much more difficult as they’re both just so fast-paced with glaring holes in their striking defense. I slightly lean towards Gonzalez just off her ability to create take-downs from the clinch and edge in grappling. I’d hedge this fight as they both should be low ownership with sneaky upside considering their styles.

Gonzalez via 2nd round armbar

Bobby Green vs Lando Vannata

Oh, this should be a fun scrap. Bobby Green loves to mock his opponents and try to out-strike them in his own unorthodox way. What’s so unorthodox about it? Well, he keeps putting his hands down and tries to stare at his opponents while calling them a bum. Bold strategy, Cotton. His boxing pedigree allows Green to be able to pull that strategy off, as he’s consistent with his combinations and accurate enough to not get too off target. Problem with Green’s style is it cost him the fight against Dustin Poirier, eating left straights for breakfast and becoming comatose from too much straights. He did a better job against Rashid Magomedov, but one thing was clear in both fights. Green just doesn’t have the kind of speed he used to have that made him a dark horse contender. His snap, hand speed, twitch, whatever you want to call it seems slightly off to me. That isn’t good as his opponent is a master of angles with his own unorthodox striking style. Vannata constantly circles around his opponent as he tries to create space for wayward strikes that come from unexpected spots. Much like Green, Vannata will often put his hands down and force exchanges, winning via counter-strikes and what can only be described as tomfoolery. Green has already showcased an inability to slow down offensive pressure, something Vannata excels at. For that reason, I’m going to pick Vannata in what should be a high volume of significant strikes for both provided Vannata doesn’t knock out Green instantly. Angles beat stationary objects!

Vannata via unanimous decision

Nik Lentz vs Will Brooks UPDATE: THIS FIGHT IS OFF!!!!

 This is essentially Brooks’ last chance to give the UFC brass a valid reason for keeping him around. He’s already been upset twice in a row and has been rather mediocre in his wins. For a former Bellator champion and an explosive prospect, Brooks just simply hasn’t been the athletic phenom many thought he could be. Lentz is a wily veteran who can’t be overlooked, but he’s simply over-matched from a skills standpoint. His struggles against premier wrestlers who can take out his legs has long been a trend for Lentz. Brooks was supposed to be one of the division’s top wrestlers, boasting a size advantage and fast-twitch movement, but as I said before that’s been a missing component in his past fights. Maybe this is the fight we finally see that missing compnent come to light, with Brooks dominating Lentz on the ground with heavy top control and keeping Lentz stuck on the mat for what may seem like eternity. If that scenario happens, he’s a great play on DK with take-downs and advances. Unfortunately, Brooks may elect to simply stand up against Lentz and hope his boxing can keep him in it. Who knows? Still, Brooks has every advantage against Lentz as long as he doesn’t give up his neck so easily to a guy with the most guillotine attempts in UFC history. Stay busy, Brooks!

Brooks via unanimous decision

Cody Stamann vs Tom Duquesnoy

Duquesnoy nearly had his hype train derailed on a knock-down in his last fight, then re-ignited said train with an absolutely devastating KO that preceded his patented hellbow attacking style. He’s been a knockout artist from the start, recording 8 total KO/TKOs with several submissions off knock-downs. Duquesnoy won’t get an easy match-up against Cody Stamann though, as Stamann has the requisite skills needed to slow down Duq’s lethal attacks. Stamann’s got a strong base with serviceable wrestling, but what made me like Stamann was his ability to continuously change up his stance and string together combinations on the fly. That particular skill-set allowed Stamann to put up 94 sig strikes in his debut. That’s also including 8 landed take-downs, which made Stamann a fantastic DK scorer. Duquesnoy hasn’t really been tested against competitive wrestlers so if Stamann decides to take it to the ground, who knows what will happen there? The issue with that scenario is Stamann has struggled to contain his opponents from top control, often losing his grip and positioning which allows for escapes. That gives me enough pause to consider Duquesnoy as the slight favorite in the match-up, as his forward pacing, long arching striking style could be an issue for Stamann. In his debut Stamann showed some struggles at defending up against the fence, unable to circle out against pressure and electing to simply match blow by blow. That is exactly how Duquesnoy won his debut, shredding his opponents into tiny bits of flesh with his elbows up against the fence. It’s a very close match-up that could go either way depending on what Stamann is able to do regarding his wrestling. I think Duquesnoy is too savvy on the feet to allow Stamann any kind of octagon control, forcing him to be backed up into no man’s land. Time to drop the People’s elbow.

Duquesnoy via 2nd round TKO

Beneil Dariush vs Evan Dunham

I like this fight quite a bit. It’s two southpaws who can apply pressure from the get-go and have excellent grappling prowess. Dunham has the more combo-intensive, high volume output striking while Dariush is more calculated and relies on the left straight. Dunham has had several fights where he’s eclipsed the 100+ sig strike mark, including 3 in his last 4 during his 4 fight win streak. Very impressive! Dariush is coming off a surprising flying knee KO loss against Barboza despite dominating the veteran Muay Thai striker for most of the fight. It was an unbelievable adjustment by Barboza, but it’s been that kind of career for Beneil as he’s lost fights he should win or was winning in. Dariush is still a dangerous foe for Dunham, especially since anything that involves clinching up and all ground work should be thrown out of the window. Dariush is a top tier BJJ black belt with fantastic offense/defense out of the clinch. That likely pits both men smack dab in the middle of the octagon with only their striking skills as their primary tool. While Dunham is all about volume and pressure, one thing he needs to be careful about is over-extending himself as Dariush is the better counter-striker of the two. If Dunham is able to stay busy while circling away from Dariush’s pressure, he should be able to grind his way to a decision with plenty of leg kicks and effective 1-2 combos. That’s a difficult task to ask out of a fighter who’s so used to doing things one way, which is why I’m giving Dariush the edge in the striking department.

If Dunham still tries to press Dariush with an onslaught of combinations and body attacks, two things should happen in that scenario. One, Dariush evades the press and starts overwhelming Dunham as he approaches the fence, giving him the potential to finish the fight with uppercuts or a quick take-down into a RNC. Or two, Dunham’s pressure catches Dariush off-guard and flushes him down the toilet with his massive striking output. Dariush has had chin and cardio issues, which makes the latter an interesting scenario to think about. I’ll stick with Dariush’s counter-striking and octagon control to be able to neutralize Dunham’s high-octane offense. Being the better grappler certainly helps as well.

Dariush via unanimous decision

Kalindra Faria vs Mara Romero Borella

Faria was supposed to fight phenom Andrea Lee, but USADA said NOPE! DENIED! Now she’ll get an easier match-up against Borella, taking the fight on less than a week’s notice. Not a great start for Borella, but life marches on. I’ll be honest with you guys. I tried. I really did. I watched most of Faria and Borella’s fights. I just can’t. They are both sloppy, undisciplined strikers with only Faria having faced actual competition and having some semblence of an offense. Borella looks flat-footed, often stands like a statue waiting for a pigeon to sit on her shoulder. Not only that, Borella just simply doesn’t have an offensive game-plan, battling bouts of inactivity and being entirely dependent on the other opponent bringing the fight to her. Faria will certainly do that as she’s willing to press on with what can only be described as willful negligence as she spaghetti arms her way into her opponent’s clinch. From there, Faria is competent enough to hit on a bodylock or a trip for the take-down, going directly into side/full mount for submission shenanigans. Borella is coming into the fight with less than a week’s notice, hasn’t faced stellar competition outside of Milana Dudieva (I watched it, ugh), struggles against pressure and just basically moving out of danger, and simply looks out-classed as a fighter compared to Faria. I say all of this in the nicest way possible, as I’m sure they could both kick my ass. Stick with Faria and hope she can get it to the ground quickly and doesn’t get lulled to sleep by Borella.

Faria via 2nd round TKO

Derrick Lewis vs Fabricio Werdum

The Black Beast has returned! And he gets the most difficult fight of his career as he squares off against a former champion in Fabricio Werdum. It’s likely going to a battle of wits, waiting to see who blinks first. Werdum will be the more willing fighter in engaging and igniting striking exchanges. That may play right into Lewis’ hands, both metaphorically and literally. Lewis does not want to come forward against anyone who can knock him out with one swing of their hammer, so he’s content just sitting back and biding his time. Werdum has already faced a similar style against Alistair Overeem, and it took two rounds before Werdum finally shifted into second gear. He ambushed Overeem in the third round, dropping him and nearly stealing the win from Overeem. Werdum has shown in the past he can be very good at finding the right angle for the surprise blitz, and Werdum’s ability to stick at long range while landing hard kicks to Lewis’ legs will be a major factor. Lewis will also be at a disadvantage from a tools standpoint, as any and all grappling/clinch exchanges will go very badly for him. Lewis will need a Werdum mistimed blitz for the KO win, much like what happened between Werdum and Stipe Miocic where Stipe was able to land a counter-right after escaping the blitz. Outside of that? It’s tough to see Lewis not turning into a pumpkin again like he did against Hunt, constantly backing up and getting stuck on the fence. It’s a heavyweight battle though, which means literally anything could happen. A flying knee KO from Lewis wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. Be forewarned – the fighting styles of both men may result in several minutes of inactivity and could drip into a decision. I lean towards a Werdum blitz and dominating Lewis from the fence, lighting him up from range and attacking his body.

Werdum via 2nd round TKO

Demetrious Johnson vs Ray Borg

Another fight for DJ, another as an over -1000 favorite. What else is new? Does Ray Borg stand a chance? Eh, not really. Borg may be a great young talent for the UFC to mold into a star, but as of right now he’s just simply too raw to compete against the elites. Borg’s strongest skill is his ability to grapple on the ground, boasting a ferocious top control that is all about positional advantage to create submission attempts. Johnson is already the best wrestler in the division, so trying to out-wrestle him is out of the question for Borg. Even if it did hit the ground in some shape or form, DJ is still considered a very good grappler and has dismantled plenty of BJJ black belts during his time in the UFC. That also includes his submission win over Wilson Reis, a widely regarded top level grappler. There goes that advantage for Borg. Not only that, DJ is light-years ahead of Borg in the striking department, it might feel like a sparring match for Johnson as the fight drags on. It may seem like I’m beating a dead horse here, but DJ has just been unstoppable as a flyweight over the past years. Borg needs a couple years to hone his craft and learn new strategies, then he will be a problem for years to come with his aggressive grappling. Until then, there just isn’t a real contender who can stop Mighty Mouse’s FW run. Johnson by whatever he wants.

Johnson via 3rd round TKO

Kevin Lee vs Tony Ferguson

And here’s the piece de resistance of the UFC 216 card. A 5 round battle between two fighters who have been very vocal in their displeasure of each other. Ferguson is riding an astonishing 9 fight UFC winning streak while Kevin Lee also has a 5 fight win streak of his own. They both have very contrasting fighting styles, as Ferguson is more of a run-n-gun banger with slick unorthodox grappling/escapes and Kevin Lee is an athletic wrestler with an affinity for bodylocks that is the basis of his offense. It’s going to come down to whoever can establish their style consistently, as both fighters’ strengths directly attack the other’s weaknesses. Let’s start there.

Ferguson is a balls-to-the-wall striker that wants to apply pressure from the start, pushing forward with hard leg kicks and jabbing inside to cut down the space needed to jump into range. He’ll attack their entire body with constant combinations, but is mindful of when to scramble and to exit out of his attacks. There are times where he can lose sight of where he is on a strike and ends up getting clobbered on a counter, but his ability to eat shots helps keeps Ferguson steady throughout the fight. He will have a huge advantage if he can force Lee to continually back-pedal while negating the timed shots from him. Lee has struggled to escape pressure without back-pedaling as he prefers to either stand pat and engage in a war, or try a level change/clinch-up in order to stop the bleeding. Ferguson is well aware of this strategy and will be looking for those said shots, utilizing his popular method of stopping scrambles in the D’arce choke. That is how I think Ferguson will win, but more on that later.

Kevin Lee is a very tenacious wrestler who knows his skill-set and what butters his bread. It’s all about timing on the take-down attempts as he tries to predict when they will throw out a strike, leaving themselves open to a quick take-down. The key for Lee isn’t about succeeding on most take-down attempts, but rather simply getting his hands on his opponents and locking it up from there. He attacks with bodylocks and will either leverage his way into the ground or create situations where Lee can trip his opponents down. Ferguson’s last close fight was a split decision win against Danny Castillo, an orthodox but strong wrestler. Castillo was able to take advantage of Ferguson’s choice of using D’arces and not using under-hooks to defend against take-downs. That was 3 years ago and Ferguson has improved at defending take-downs from a more defensive base rather than trying to flip it into an offensive advantage. Still, that’s Lee’s bread and butter so you know he’s going to have more tricks up his sleeves than an ordinary wrestler.

What it really comes down is whoever makes the 1st mistake when it comes to scrambles. Lee is going to force Ferguson to defend against his timed take-downs or clinch-ups, and that will likely decide the rest of the fight. If Ferguson is still nonchalant about his take-down defense and allows Lee to lock up the bodylock, then it might be a long night for Ferg-Face. If Lee is unable to lock it up and ends up in a stalemate more often than not, then the onus is on Lee to defend against the pressure of Ferguson. I don’t think Lee can withstand that kind of offensive pressure, so he’s likely going to be dropping down as much as possible. That’s gonna open up the D’arce choke for Ferguson, and that’s how it’s going to end for the NEW (sort of) LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION TONY FERG-FACE!

Ferguson via 2nd round D’arce choke