Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on pay-per-view (PPV) this weekend with the UFC 216: “Ferguson vs. Lee” mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card, which takes place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Oct. 7, 2017.
UFC 216 will be headlined by the lightweight interim title fight between top contenders Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee, while flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson puts his 125-pound strap on the line against Ray Borg in the five-round co-main event.
Before we start deconstructing the five-fight main card, see what the handsome and dashing Patty Stumberg had to say abut the UFC 216 preliminary bouts — spread across FX and Fight Pass — by clicking here and here. UFC 216 odds and betting lines can be perused here.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
155 lbs.: Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (22-3) vs. Kevin “Motown Phenom” Lee (16-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: Kevin Lee has been doing a lot of yapping in recent weeks, calling out everyone from Khabib Nurmagomedov to Conor McGregor. But his battle cry for UFC 216, in particular, is how above all else, he deserves to be here.
He’s not wrong.
After a tough debut loss against Al Iaquinta in early 2014, “Motown Phenom” captured nine of his next 10 and finished his last four fights by way of knockout or submission. The biggest knock on Lee during that span was his level of competition, which didn’t come against anyone in the top 10 save for the No. 10-ranked Michael Chiesa.
And that shit just happened like three months ago.
But he got the call anyway because nobody else wanted to fight “El Cucuy” and for good reason. Ferguson is the winner of nine straight with six finishes and stands at 13-1 inside the Octagon. He’s also a two-time collegiate All American with a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Eddie Bravo and coming off a win over former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
He can strike, he can wrestle, and cardio is never an issue.
Finding holes in Ferguson’s game will be a daunting task and Lee will undoubtedly have his work cut out for him. I know some pundits will criticize “El Cucuy” for his performance against Lando Vannata, but that showed me a fighter who can suffer adversity, adjust, and come back victorious.
Lee, a standout wrestler in college, is an explosive fighter with outstanding jiu-jitsu. But only one knockout in 18 professional fights is cause for concern, especially when paired with a boxer as skilled as Ferguson. And that’s the thing about the former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champ. It doesn’t matter what your style is, he finds a way to win.
Edson Barboza is one of the best strikers in the division while Abel Trujillo is a four-time All-American wrestler. Both have two very unique styles and both were taken down and choked out by Ferguson.
Lee is a talented fighter, but without a clear path to victory, I just don’t see a way for him to win.
Final prediction: Ferguson def. Lee by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (26-2-1) vs. Ray “Tazmexican Devil” Borg (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: If you listen to all those pre-fight video promos, flyweight No. 1 contender Ray Borg sternly tells the camera that reigning 125-pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson has never faced a fighter like him.
He’s right. “Mighty Mouse” has faced much, much better.
Johnson is perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the sport and one title defense away from immortality. Along the way, he’s defeated fighters who hit harder than Borg (John Dodson), who were faster than Borg (Joseph Benavidez), and who were better wrestlers than Borg (Henry Cejudo).
What exactly is the “Tazmexican Devil” — who lost to Justin Scoggins just last year — going to bring to the Octagon that Johnson hasn’t already seen … and conquered?
That’s really what this fight boils down to. Borg, a solid all-around fighter, must somehow present a problem that Johnson can’t solve or perhaps give him a new look (think Tim Elliott) and if he cannot, hope he can get lucky with a one-hitter quitter or a sneaky submission.
Not really a winning strategy.
Johnson is the best for a reason. He has superior skill sets in every facet of mixed martial arts (MMA). He can strike, he can wrestle, he can grapple, and above all else, he can maintain a breakneck pace for all five rounds. He’s truly a special (albeit tiny) fighter and no one in the division has yet to find his achilles heel.
Borg won’t be the first.
Final prediction: Johnson def. Borg by decision
265 lbs.: Derrick “Black Beast” Lewis (18-5-1) vs. Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (21-7-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Fabricio Werdum is not in any big hurry to stand and bang with heavy hitters, evidenced by peek-a-boo performances against Alistair Overeem and Fedor Emelianenko, among others. You won’t find a more dangerous grappler in the heavyweight division, so why fuck around on the feet?
That said, “Vai Cavalo” is not an inept striker and his Muay Thai has turned away bruisers like Mark Hunt and Travis Browne, just to name a few. It’s unfortunate that Werdum can often screw himself out of big fights due to laziness and/or overconfidence, which resulted in knockout losses to Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic.
Derrick Lewis, by his own admission, does not train jiu-jitsu and never will, simply because the Octagon is an excuse to punch someone in the face and get paid for it. Even if he did try to master the art of grappling, the wide chasm in skill sets would make it impossible to make any significant progress in a six-to-eight week fight camp.
Better to just stick with what’s already there.
Trying to out-slug someone like the aforementioned Hunt is a fool’s errand, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Lewis is quick and agile for his size, with lights-out power and sneaky footwork. But when you live by the sword, you die by the sword, which is why “Black Beast” was himself laid out by Shawn Jordan and Matt Mitrione.
It’s a dirty game.
Werdum has more ways to win, but in order to do so, he’s got to last 15 minutes without taking one on the chin. In both of his knockout losses, the Brazilian was moving forward with his hands low, a mistake I don’t expect him to repeat here. Instead, look for his tried-and-true game of cat and mouse, until Lewis gets tired enough or careless enough to silver platter an extremity.
Final prediction: Werdum def. Lewis by submission
125 lbs.: Mara Romero “Kunoichici” Borella (11-4, 1 NC) vs. Kalindra Faria (18-5-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I never heard of these two before this week but that’s okay, neither have you. Mara Romero Borella got the call-up after just one fight for Invicta FC, a split-decision win over Milana Dudieva last July. Prior to that, “Kunaichici” was making a name for herself on the International circuit, specifically her native Italy.
Borella has a nice balance of knockouts (3) and submissions (4).
Faira also made a name for herself overseas, plying her trade on the Brazilian circuit before getting her shot in stateside competition for World Series of Fighting (WSOF) and Titan Fighting Championship, the latter of which resulted in a unanimous decision win over Carina Damm.
This bout has more to do with the promotion’s newly-created flyweight division than it does merit, as both fighters — while talented — may not have been selected for the PPV main card under normal circumstances. But that may actually prove to be a good thing, as the pressure will be on to deliver and I believe they will.
When push comes to shove, Faria has faced better competition but has not competed in over a year, while Borella has already competed — and won — twice in 2017, as recently as last July.
Final prediction: Borella def. Faria by decision
155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush (14-3) vs. Evan Dunham (18-6)
Nostradumbass predicts: Evan Dunham started his career with 12 straight wins, which included consecutive victories of Efrain Escudero and Tyson Griffin to start his UFC run. Trust me when I say that was a big deal back in 2010.
Then it all went to pot.
Dunham spent the next four years mired in a 3-6 slump and after dropping three straight, was likely one lame-duck performance away from getting cut. Instead, the Oregonian battled back to win four straight fights.
Working against him is the fact that he’s been out of action for over a year.
Dariush was also pegged as a future contender after a clean sweep on the regional circuit. Success followed him to UFC where he captured wins over tough competition like Jim Miller and Michael Johnson, but once the model of consistency, the Kings MMA product is just 2-2 since outpointing “The Menace.”
Both fighters are formidable on the ground. Dunham has a black belt under Robert Drysdale while Dariush was belted by Bruno Paulista and Romulo Barral. That said, Dariush is probably the more accomplished grappler with multiple no-gi world championships and silver medals at Mundials.
Both have been submitted inside the Octagon.
Dunham is going to try to make this a brawl and use his wrestling to control the fight. That could prove to be a tall order against an opponent seven years his junior and those who have underestimated Dariush’s striking have paid mightily for it (James Vick).
Final prediction: Dariush def. Dunham by submission
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 216 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
For much more on this weekend’s UFC 216 extravaganza click here.