411’s MMA Roundtable Preview – UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2
Don’t be scared, two championship bouts headline UFC 209! In the main event, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson aim for a definitive end in a welterweight title rematch! In the co-main event, unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov faces Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title! At middleweight, Rashad Evans returns to face Dan Kelly. At lightweight, “Groovy” Lando Vannata takes on David Teymur. Plus, heavyweights Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem clash, and more!
THE PRELIMINARY CARD:
First three prelims on UFC Fight Pass, rest on Fox Sports 1.
Bantamweight Bout: Albert Morales vs. Andre Soukhamthath
Jeffrey Harris: Albert Morales, Decision
Robert Winfree: Albert Morales, Decision
Dan Plunkett: Soukhamthath, Decision
The staff picks Albert Morales, 2-1.
Strawweight Bout: Amanda Cooper vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Jeffrey Harris: Amanda Cooper, Decision
Robert Winfree: Amanda Cooper, Decision
Dan Plunkett: Cooper, Decision
Light Heavyweight Bout: Tyson Pedro vs. Paul Craig
Jeffrey Harris: Paul Craig, Decision
Robert Winfree: Paul Craig, Submission, Round 3
Dan Plunkett: Pedro, TKO, Round 1
The staff picks Paul Craig, 2-1.
Heavyweight Bout: Mark Godbeer vs. Daniel Spitz
Jeffrey Harris: Daniel Spitz, Decision
Robert Winfree: Daniel Spitz, Decision
Dan Plunkett: Godbeer, Decision
The staff picks Daniel Spitz, 2-1.
Bantamweight Bout: Iuri Alcantara vs. Luke Sanders
Jeffrey Harris: Iuri Alcantara, Submission, Round 2
Robert Winfree: Luke Sanders, Decision
Dan Plunkett: Alcantara, Decision
The staff picks Iuri Alcantara, 2-1.
Featherweight Bout: Mirsad Bektic vs. Darren Elkins
Jeffrey Harris: Mirsad Bektic, TKO, Round 2
Robert Winfree: Mirsad Bektic, Decision
Dan Plunkett: Bektic, Decision
The staff picks Mirsad Bektic, 3-0.
Heavyweight Bout: Marcin Tybura vs. Luis Henrique
Jeffrey Harris: Luis Henrique, Submission, Round 2
Robert Winfree: Luis Henrique, Submission, Round 2
Dan Plunkett: Henrique, Submission, Round 2
The staff picks Luis Henrique, 3-0.
THE MAIN CARD:
Heavyweight Bout: Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt
Jeffrey Harris: These two previously fought in Japan for the now defunct DREAM promotion. Overeem submitted Hunt in the first round. At the time, Hunt was on a pretty bad skid, and it didn’t look like he would rally and become a top heavyweight fighter again in the UFC. This is an interesting fight. Overeem still probably has certain advantages here in terms of his grappling. But, Hunt has greatly improved for his overall grappling and submission defense in recent years in his UFC tenure. Standing up, I would say Hunt is far more technically sound. However, it’s not very often you see a fight like this either: two K-1 champion level kickboxers fighting against each other in MMA. Ultimately, I’m leaning toward Mark Hunt here. As long as he’s motivated and has trained hard, I think he walks away with a walkaway knockout. Mark Hunt decides.
Winner: Mark Hunt, TKO, Round 1
Robert Winfree: This is a rematch of a fight where Overeem submitted Hunt with an americana several years ago in DREAM. I’m not sure how much that will inform this fight as both men have changed a lot in the intervening years. Hunt has improved his all around game tremendously but remains primarily a striker with brutal power. Hunts best punch is the lunging left hook when he’s at distance, in close he favors the uppercut to punish his opponent for ducking their head. Overeem has adopted a more cerebral approach, fighting long with kicks to the leg and body then trying to crash fully into the clinch if his opponent gets close to use his knees. Overeem is the better grappler, though taking Hunt down isn’t the easiest prospect in the world and his success doing so would likely come from the clinch where he can trip Hunt up. I’m leaning Overeem here, though Hunt winning wouldn’t be a surprise at all.
Winner: Alistair Overeem, Decision
Dan Plunkett: This is fun. Overeem has tremendous physical advantages over Hunt that could be a difference maker, but I can’t get past the matchup of Hunt’s power versus Overeem’s chin. For that reason, I’m going Hunt.
Winner: Hunt, KO, Round 1
The staff picks Mark Hunt, 2-1.
Lightweight Bout: Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
Jeffrey Harris: I think this is the right type of fight to throw to Landa Vannata after his highlight reel win over David Teymur at UFC 206. Vannata is a strong prospect, and this is a bit of a softer touch to hopefully give him some more experience and get another solid win in the UFC. That said, he can’t take a fight against an unknown name like David Teymur lightly. Regardless, I’m hoping Vannata will put in another strong performance.
Winner: Lando Vannata, TKO, Round 2
Robert Winfree: Lando Vannata turned some serious heads when he nearly bested Tony Ferguson on short notice, then he followed that up with a beautiful wheel kick knockout to prove that wasn’t a total fluke. David Teymur hasn’t lost yet in the UFC and might turn into a solid fighter, but here he’s basically going to make Vannata look good. Lightweight is a crazy division, the best top to bottom in the entire sport, but Vannata has looked great so far and this seems designed to give him a big moment on a PPV card.
Winner: Lando Vannata, TKO, Round 1
Dan Plunkett: This is going to be fun and groovy.
Winner: Lando, TKO, Round 2
The staff picks Lando Vannata, 3-0.
Middleweight Bout: Rashad Evans vs. Dan Kelly
Jeffrey Harris: It’s hard to really analyze this fight. Rashad Evans hasn’t fought in a while, and he’s also making his middleweight debut here. It’s hard to envision that Evans can reinvent his career at 37 years of age at a lower weight class. I’m not sure cutting all that weight will really give him that much more of an advantage. Dan Kelly may not be an elite middleweight, but he’s done fairly well for himself so far. He’s 5-1 in the UFC, and he’s put together a three-fight winning streak. People forget that he’s an Olympic level judoka. Parts of me say that Kelly can get an upset here. But other parts of me feel like I have to pick Rashad Evans here. It’s just that Evans hasn’t looks really strong or dominant in quite some time between injuries and layoffs, and now a move down in weight. Regardless, with so many intangible factors, I’m picking Rashad Evans here. But I’m not expecting a barn-burner of a fight or win.
Winner: Rashad Evans, Decision
Robert Winfree: Logically this should go to Rashad Evans, he’s the better wrestler, better striker, more experienced MMA fighter, and hits harder. That being said there’s a couple of reasons I’m going with Dan Kelly. This will be Evans’ first cut to middleweight in conjunction with a long layoff, that’s a less than encouraging situation. Also Dan Kelly constantly over performs in situations like this, he might be a little sloppy but he’s determined and wont stop trying until the fight is over. I’m more than prepared to be wrong about this one, but I’m going with Kelly.
Winner: Dan Kelly, TKO, Round 3
Dan Plunkett: I agree with Robert. To add to it, Evans has shown his age in each of his past two performances and lost for it. Conversely, Dan Kelly has shown his age in all of his fights and found ways to win in all but one of them despite that. I suspect this will be close. I suspect it will be ugly. Rashad has been toying with retirement for years, and I don’t know where his head will be at having lost the opportunity to fight twice late last year. I do know that Dan Kelly always comes to fight, is very tough, and can do just enough to edge past opponents. The bottom line is, I know what we’re getting with Kelly, and can’t say the same for Evans.
Winner: Kelly, Decision
The staff picks Dan Kelly, 2-1.
UFC Interim Lightweight Championship Bout: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
Jeffrey Harris: I’m going all in on El Cucuy here. Picking Tony Ferguson time after time hasn’t really steered me wrong yet. Ferguson is an absolute beast, and so is Khabib Nurmagomedov. However, I still truly believe Nurmagomedov is not undefeated. I remember his fight with Gleison Tibau, and it really looked like Tibau should’ve won that decision. To deal with Nurmagomedov, you have to be ready for his takedowns, grappling and wrestling. If Ferguson can defend those takedowns and deal with those shots, then I see him winning this fight. He looks like he’s been getting better each fight out, and he’s on a nine-fight winning streak. He’s 12-1 overall in UFC’s toughest decision. His lone defeat was a decision loss to Michael Johnson; another tough opponent. If you remember, even Johnson gave Nurmagomedov some problems standing up. I think Ferguson will take Nurmagomedov apart there. Ferguson wins this fight, and becomes the true, rightful lightweight champion.
Winner: Tony Ferguson, TKO, Round 4
Robert Winfree: High level MMA doesn’t come better than this, these are the two best guys in the best division fighting for five rounds. Tony Ferguson has advanced elements of MMA across the board, his wrestling is good and his striking is about as good as it comes. Ferguson switches his stance as necessary, has hard kicks to the body and leg, big power and effective technique with his punching game. Ferguson also has absolutely insane conditioning, he fought five hard rounds at the altitude of Mexico City against Raphael dos Anjos and wasn’t even breathing hard at the end of it. On the other side is Khabib Nurmagomedov, a next level grappler. Nurmagomedov excels at crashing distance then overloading your takedown defense with attacks from entirely different disciplines, and then from top he is an absolute monster. Nurmagomedov has great passing on the ground and relentless ground and pound, he’s content to wear on you, beat you up, and exert dominance in that area. At distance this fight favors Ferguson, he strikes well with both kicks and punches, plus the occasional elbow and knee, and knows how to manipulate his upper body to maximize his reach and make you miss if you try to blindly fire back. In the clinch and on the mat, Nurmagomedov has virtually no peer in the division. Ferguson will have to leave elements of his wild game in the bag for this one, an ill advised Imanari Roll could cost him big time for example, but he moves very well and does a good job of keeping his back off of the fence. Nurmagomedov’s takedowns can be defended, the real difficulty in dealing with them is that he doesn’t get discouraged if you stop him once and has multiple angles of attack rather than hoping for a blast double or reaching single. I will not be surprised by either man winning this one, but given that I haven’t seen Nurmagomedov fight for five rounds I’m leaning towards Ferguson, that’s how narrow the gap is here.
Winner: Tony Ferguson, Decision
Dan Plunkett: Oh boy I can’t wait. This is the toughest fight either guy has ever had. Nurmagomedov’s game plan is unmistakably simple but his implementation of it is tremendously complicated. He is the best wrestler and grappler in the lightweight division with the best top control. Ferguson is a good wrestler, but I don’t believe he’ll be able to consistently stop Nurmagomedov’s takedowns (if the first try doesn’t get you, the second, third, or fourth in the chain will) unless he hurts Nurmagomedov early. It’s a valid point that we’ve never seen Nurmagomedov past the fifteenth minute, and it’s feasible that Ferguson could tire him out and totally take over late. However, Nurmagomedov, to this point, has been unshakably dominant. That’s very hard for me to ignore. I think he’ll take the fight to his world and eventually get the finish.
Winner: Nurmagomedov, TKO, Round 3
The staff picks Tony Ferguson, 2-1.
UFC Welterweight Championship Bout: Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
Jeffrey Harris: In the first fight, I picked Stephen Thompson, but the fight ultimately turned out to be a draw. Now Thompson and Tyron Woodley face off in a welterweight title rematch. Their first fight was close, but honestly, I felt Woodley did enough to win in that; though I don’t really disagree with the draw score either. My problem with the last fight is that Thompson just seemed to lack some of his killer instinct that has made him such a dangerous striker in the past. He couldn’t pull the trigger. I could see this going either way, but this time, I’m leaning toward Woodley by decision.
Winner: Tyron Woodley, Decision
Robert Winfree: These two had a good fight last time, but it was odd not only because it ended in a draw but because it was so very obvious where each man needed to fight differently to change the outcome in their favor. Tyron Woodley didn’t wrestle enough and spent too much time looking for a perfect counter against the fence while Thompson spent too much time in the orthodox stance and boxing rather than using set up kicks to the body and leg to wear Woodley down as the fight went on. Woodley seems to have the easier adjustments to make, and while I’m rooting for Thompson I think Woodley grinds this one out.
Winner: Tyron Woodley, Decision
Dan Plunkett: I’m not sure why Wonderboy is a slight favorite here; I think it should be the other way around. My takeaway from the first fight was that Woodley was able to stand with Wonderboy even when he wasn’t landing monster punches, his punches are a big threat, and if he implements wrestling more he’ll be more successful in a rematch. I think we’ll see Woodley wrestle more and hang in there on the feet on his way to a decision.
Winner: Woodley, Decision
The staff picks Tyron Woodley, 3-0.
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