UFC 216 is much better than you think it is.
The main event is expected to be a fast and ferocious war between two lightweight fighters who have been trash talking each other for months. The co-main event features Demetrious Johnson’s attempt at breaking Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses. Also on the main card is an exciting battle between two of the most exciting fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
The rest of the card also highlights some of the best up-and-coming talents on the UFC’s roster. Tom Duqeusnoy and Magomed Bibulatov have the potential to be dominant fighters in their respective divisions, and their quest for greatness continues at UFC 216.
UFC 216 will take place on Saturday, October 7, live from Las Vegas.
Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
Even Kevin Lee’s greatest fans couldn’t have imagined that he would be headlining a pay-per-view with Tony Ferguson so soon. Just a few months ago, Lee defeated Michael Chiesa and was attempting to talk his way into a slot on ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’
Kevin Lee has got more heart than half these dudes in the top five. And since he’s got more heart, we’re going to go in there and give you guys a show.
Instead, Kevin Lee (16-2) found himself as the only man available to challenge Tony Ferguson (22-3) after Khabib Nurmagomedov confirmed that he would not be able to compete again until December. A fight with #2 ranked UFC lightweight Tony Ferguson would have been more than enough for Kevin Lee, who is ranked #7. The cherry on top was the announcement that the UFC Interim Lightweight Championship is up for grabs.
While an interim title certainly isn’t the end of the road for either of these two fighters, a win at UFC 216 will surely entitle them to a shot at Conor McGregor and the UFC Lightweight Championship. “The Notorious” recently announced that he wants to return and “legitimize the title,” and that statement alone has added even more significance to the bout between these lightweight contenders.
Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee is likely to be one of the best fights we’ve seen all year. Ferguson’s crafty and unusual striking techniques will be matched against Lee’s powerful wrestling. But, describing this battle in such a simple way doesn’t do justice to the overall capabilities of these two lightweights.
Ferguson is possibly the most dangerous lightweight on earth. His stand-up has improved dramatically, and he is now capable of beating strikers over the distance of a fight. Ferguson employs many unusual techniques such as inversions and leg attacks, which are features of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.
While Ferguson is a tricky customer, Lee is one of the most predictable fighters on the UFC’s roster. In each of his last three fights, he has used traditional wrestling techniques to drag opponents down to the mat before submitting them with a rear-naked choke. Much like Demian Maia, or other dominant grapplers, Lee seems to be able to defeat opponents using just his core skillset.
Will Kevin Lee get Tony Ferguson to the mat, or will Ferguson inflict damage every time Lee attempts a takedown? We’ll find out at UFC 216.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
If Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg looks strangely familiar; it’s because it is. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (27-2-1) had his hopes set on breaking Anderson Silva’s UFC record for most consecutive title defenses at UFC 215. With a win over Borg, Johnson would secure his 11th straight title defense since becoming the inaugural UFC flyweight champion five years ago. However, an illness forced Borg to withdraw from the bout just days before the UFC Flyweight Championship bout was scheduled to take place.
Everybody in the UFC, everybody in the world, they say, ‘He’s the most boring fighter. He doesn’t sell any pay-per-views.’ But everyone keeps wanting to fight me. I don’t understand why they keep saying that.
While it might seem a little awkward that a ‘real’ UFC championship bout is sitting underneath a fight for an interim title, Demetrious Johnson doesn’t mind. No one else really cares, either. In fact, it’s likely preferable Johnson and Borg, who just went through weeks of promotion leading up to UFC 215. The flyweights can sit back and let Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee do all the promoting this time. Kevin Lee went as far to say: “Demetrious has to give it up to me. I’m putting money in his pocket; how can he be upset?”
Regardless of when and where the fight takes place, it’s going to be a historic event no matter the outcome.
If “Mighty Mouse” beats Borg and sees his hand raised as a champion for the 11th time, history will be made.
Alternatively (the more shocking of the two outcomes), if Ray Borg manages to pull off the seemingly impossible and defeat Demetrious Johnson, he’ll go down in the history books for his feat.
While it’s difficult to back any flyweight against Demetrious Johnson, Ray Borg does present some interesting challenges for the champion.
Ray Borg is an exceptional scrambler and uses his athleticism to outwork opponents in grappling exchanges. Borg schooled Louis Smolka, who is technically sound on the mat, by beating him to every position with speed and strength. Against Jussier Formiga, Borg managed to evade dangerous situations by relying on his explosiveness. Borg’s punches are becoming quite the concern for opponents now as well. In particular, Borg’s counter uppercut is a speedy and powerful strike.
Demetrious Johnson is arguably the most well-rounded fighter in mixed martial arts history. While Johnson’s fights usually feature him dishing out punishment while receiving none of his own, Tim Elliott did manage to scare the champion in the first round at UFC on FOX 24.
While an overwhelming majority of fans are predicting Demetrious Johnson to break Silva’s record at UFC 216, Johnson would be silly not to pay Borg the respect he deserves.
Predictions for Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
Just when you thought exciting heavyweight matches between top contenders were becoming a rarity, the UFC announced Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis. If that’s not enough, Alistair Overeem is set to face Francis Ngannou at UFC 218, also.
I hope I get a very nice submission, and I go directly to a title shot, because Stipe Miocic hasn’t fought for a very long time, and it’s not good for the heavyweight division.
Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1) stated that he feels “zero pressure for this fight” and is predicting a submission victory over Derrick Lewis. Werdum would be crazy to look past Lewis already, though, considering Werdum enters this fight after inconsistent performances in his last three outings. After losing to Stipe Miocic at UFC 198, Werdum had an excellent first round against Travis Browne but never got the finish he wanted. At UFC 213, Werdum lost a majority decision to Alistair Overeem and was the victim of the lack of aggression we saw in the last two rounds against Browne.
If we’re talking about fighters who feel no pressure, then let’s talk about Derrick Lewis (18-5). Lewis recently ‘retired‘ from the sport after losing to Mark Hunt in Auckland, New Zealand. However, just months later, Lewis announced his ‘return’ to mixed martial arts and snapped up this fight with Fabricio Werdum, much to the dismay of Hunt. This is arguably Lewis’ greatest test since joining the UFC in 2014.
If Fabricio Werdum thinks he is going to take Derrick Lewis down to the mat and submit him, he better have a backup plan. Yes, Werdum is one of the most talented submission artists the heavyweight division has ever seen, but Lewis is an abnormality.
“The Black Beast” has never been submitted in his mixed martial arts career and while he lacks advanced understanding of jiu-jitsu, he is surprisingly capable of just standing back up whenever he wants to. His sheer strength and size may cause trouble for Werdum, regardless of his masterful jiu-jitsu.
Both Werdum and Lewis can fight at a languid pace, and this is likely how this one will play out at UFC 216. Werdum, cautious of Lewis’ stopping power, will be reluctant to engage. While Lewis, who will be anticipating the opportunity to land a knockout blow, will find himself waiting for too long.
Predictions for Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham
Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham is an exciting matchup between two guys who are desperately trying to break into the top ten of the UFC’s lightweight division.
Beneil Dariush (14-3), who has already on the verge of breaking out, seemed as if he was going to score the biggest win of his career against Edson Barboza before he slowed down in the second round and ate a thunderous knee that ranks as one of the best knockouts of 2017. The knockout put an end to a two-fight winning streak that featured wins over James Vick and Rashid Magomedov.
Evan Dunham (18-6) has been competing in the UFC since 2009 but has only recently got his act together. Dunham enters UFC 216 after stringing together four unanimous decision victories that include wins against the experienced Joe Lauzon and Ross Pearson.
While all eight of the scheduled UFC 216 preliminary fights have potential to be excellent, these are the three fights that we’ll be keeping a close eye on:
Tom Duquesnoy vs. Cody Stamann
It’s exceedingly rare see a matchup of this nature between two unranked fighters. It’s also unexpected to see the UFC pit two up-and-coming prospects against each other early in their careers.
Cody Stamann claims that Tom “Fire Kid” Duquesnoy (15-1) was “spoon-fed” an opponent for his UFC debut. Stamann isn’t far from the truth. Duquesnoy was matched against Patrick Williams (8-4) and the bookmakers had the “Fire Kid” as a -1000 betting favorite. The performance from French Duquesnoy wasn’t all that impressive, however, and he was clipped multiple times by the challenger. Still, the “Fire Kid” is expected to be one of the next big stars in the UFC.
Standing across from him at UFC 216 is Cody Stamann (15-1), who has similar credentials, a matching record, a well-rounded skillset but none of the hype. Stammann successfully debuted in the UFC on late notice against Terrion Ware at UFC 213.
All eyes will be on his opponent in this matchup, but Stamann is more than capable of ruining Duquesnoy’s night.
Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Green
Lando Vannata (9-2), a favorite of The Body Lock and many MMA fans around the world, will be making his return to the Octagon at UFC 216.
Vannata stepped in to replace Michael Chiesa and face Tony Ferguson July 2016 on short notice, but you wouldn’t have known it. He took it to Ferguson from the very first seconds of the fight and threatened an upset over “El Cucuy”. Despite losing, the fight would go down in our memories as one of the best fights of 2016. Vannata would soon back up his debut performance with an incredible knockout victory over John Makdessi. Although David Teymur would score a decision victory over Vannata, the two fighters were awarded Fight of the Night at UFC 209.
Bobby Green’s (23-8) eight-fight winning streak came to an end in November 2011 against Edson Barboza. Since then, Green has tasted defeat twice more at the hands of Dustin Poirier and Rashid Magomedov. He got the call to replace Abel Trujillo against Lando Vannata at UFC 216 in August and gladly accepted.
John Moraga vs. Magomed Bibulatov
We can all debate whether or not the UFC did the right thing by acquiring Magomed Bibulatov (14-0), who has ties to a terrible regime in Chechnya. However, no one will argue that his skillset isn’t UFC caliber.
Bibulatov, a talented grappler, is reminiscent of a mini-Khabib Nurmagomedov. Bibulatov slams opponents into the mat while quickly transitioning past their guard and locking them into awkward positions such as the crucifix from side control. While he didn’t get the finish he may have been hoping for at UFC 210 vs. Jenel Lausa, Bibulatov’s composure helped him to secure a unanimous decision.
Just when people were starting to write John Moraga (17-6) off, he came out and dominated Ashkan Mokhtarian at UFC Fight Night 110. It was the best that Moraga has looked in years and reminded us all why he was once a former UFC flyweight title challenger.
UFC 216 card
UFC 216, live from Las Vegas, begins with the UFC Fight Pass Prelims on Saturday, October 7 (6:30 pm ET / 3:30pm PT).
Pay-per-view (10pm ET / 7pm PT)
- Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
- Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
- Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
- Kalindra Faria vs. Mara Romello Borella
- Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham
FX (8pm ET / 5pm PT)
- Tom Duquesnoy vs. Cody Stamann
- Will Brooks vs. Nik Lentz
- Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Green
- Pearl Gonzalez vs. Poliana Botelho
Fight Pass Prelims
UFC Fight Pass (6:30 pm ET / 3:30pm PT)
- Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer
- John Moraga vs. Magomed Bibulatov
- Thales Leites vs. Brad Tavares
- Matt Schnell vs. Marco Beltran