The UFC returns home for the first time in 2017 as UFC 209 takes centre stage in the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.
Headlining the event is the hotly anticipated rematch between welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson.
In their first encounter, both these fighters fought a war for five rounds which the judges ultimately scored it a majority draw. This time around both the champion and the challenger will be looking for that extra edge to guarantee victory.
How will this second clash pan out? And where should you be putting your money across the card?
Once again, we’ve got top MMA blog Ultimate Fight Chat.to dissect the card and put their own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
TYRON WOODLEY vs. STEPHEN THOMPSON
After fighting to a draw in their last encounter, “The Chosen One” and “Wonderboy” will face off again for the welterweight championship.
When they last met at UFC 205, Stephen Thompson was the favourite to get the job done but it was Woodley who showed better skills mixing in takedowns with his strikes early on.
For the rematch, Tyron Woodley will need to do the same again but this time continue it for the duration of the fight, rely more on his wrestling and taking control of the fight.
If Woodley decides to stay standing then it is imperative he gets in close and keeps Thompson on the back foot.
Thompson’s game is all about controlling the distance. He uses his long jab to set up wild kicks but take that distance away and you effectively take away his kicking game, as Woodley demonstrated in their last outing.
The most important changes for either of these fighters to gain victory lies in their respective ground games, Woodley needs to press more for the takedowns and Thompson certainly needs to improve his defending of them. I think “Wonderboy” is the better all-round fighter and I believe he will have made the right adjustments for this fight. I think he will control the range better and should inflict enough damage to capture a knockout in the later rounds.
Verdict: Thompson to win by KO or TKO @ 7/4
KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV vs. TONY FERGUSON
This fight should be a headliner on its own as it’s the best match up to be made in the lightweight division, outside of McGregor defending his belt. Early injuries stopped Khabib Nurmagomedov from already being crowned champion, but the Dagestan native seems to have put those initial set-backs behind him and continues to manhandle everyone put in front of him.
“The Eagle” has an undefeated record of 24-0, has vice grips for arms and once he gets you to the mat it’ll take something very special to get back up.
That something special could be Tony Ferguson. “El Cucuy” is a versatile striker and a submission whizz and he is perfectly comfortable and dangerous when his back is pinned to the canvas.
There is no doubt that this is the toughest fight to date for Nurmagomedov, Ferguson will hold a six and a half inch reach advantage and could use his unpredictable attacks to upset the rhythm of “The Eagle.”.
However, I don’t believe Ferguson will be able to avoid being taken down, Nurmagomedov is far too smart and relentless when he dives for the legs. If this fight goes into the championship rounds, it will be interesting to see whose cardio fades first but I honestly don’t believe it will even make it that far.
My prediction is Nurmagomedov gets this fight to the floor, starts working on an armbar and collects win number 25 of his career and an eventual showdown with Conor McGregor.
RASHAD EVANS vs. DAN KELLY
Former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans finally returns after failing the last two times to get medical clearance.
The last time “Suga” was seen inside the Octagon was eleven months ago when he suffered a brutal first round knockout at the hands of Glover Teixeira.
At 37-years-of age and last tasting victory in 2013, Evans has now decided to drop down to middleweight.
If “Suga” can roll back the years and showcase his smooth striking and great wrestling, that helped him claim the light-heavyweight belt, then this is a great opportunity for him to get back in the win column.
Dan Kelly is no easy task, he signed with the UFC in 2014 and has gone 5-1 with the promotion, 12-1 overall. Kelly is an accomplished judoka and has finished eight of his twelve wins inside the distance; the Aussie has yet to set the division alight but a victory over a former champion here would certainly go a long way in doing that.
These two fighters are on the wrong side of 30 and are doubtful to make a surge for the title anytime soon but a victory is paramount for both, more so in Evans case. I think we will see the “Suga” of old and he will dominate on his way to a decision victory.
LANDO VANNATA vs. DAVID TEYMUR
Lando Vannata burst onto the scene when taking a short notice fight against Tony Ferguson. The product of the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp, “Groovy” did not disappoint in that fight despite losing, demonstrating his wide variety of skills and rocking Ferguson on more than one occasion.
After that loss Vannata bounced back by recording a first round wheel kick knockout of John Makdessi, to improve his record to 10-1.
His opponent on Saturday, David Teymur, is a former TUF contestant who lost in the quarter finals, while on the show Teymur showed his great stand up which was enough for the UFC to sign him.
Teymur has won both his UFC fights thus far winning both by knockout in the second round and building his record to 5-1.
The Swede is a rangy fighter and will have a slight two inch reach advantage for this bout, expect him to hit and move for the duration of this contest.
Vannata’s strength is to close the distance quickly and get in his opponents face, he likes to set a tiresome pace and outwork an opponent. I’m going for Vannata to continue his rise and win via the scorecards.
ALISTAIR OVEREEM vs. MARK HUNT
The king of the ‘walk-off’ is back. Mark Hunt returns to the Octagon for the first time since fighting Brock Lesnar at UFC 200.
Since that fight, Hunt has been embroiled in lawsuits regarding Lesnar’s failed drug test and has refused to fight until the UFC ultimately forced his hand.
Hunt doesn’t bring any particular skill set into the Octagon with him, he simply plants his feet onto the mat, walks his opponent down and waits to land that huge right hand of his.
Prior to his loss to Lesnar, Hunt had put together consecutive KO victories, The Super Samoan is now 42-years-of-age but his power hasn’t faded.
Alistair Overeem has all the tools to become the heavyweight champion but it never seems to click all together for him.
“The Reem” is a kickboxing champion with great power, he’s in tremendous shape, has decent takedown defence but he has tendency of leaving his chin in the air.
Too many times Overeem has walked onto the end of an opponent’s punch and been put to sleep, if he gives Hunt a sniff of that then it’ll be lights out again.
This will be the second time this pair have met, they first fought in DREAM were Overeem won by submission and if he is to win again here, he needs to utilise his six inch reach advantage and not get close enough for Hunt to connect.
This probably is Overeem’s fight to lose, barring he fights smart, but I just can’t help but think he’ll make the same mistake he always does and chase Hunt down only to get caught with the counter.
BEST OF THE REST
Marcin Tybura vs. Luis Henrique
Tybura to win.
Darren Elkins vs. Mirsad Bektic
Bektic to win.
Luke Sanders vs. Iuri Alcantara
Alcantara to win.
Mark Godbeer vs. Daniel Spitz
Godbeer to win.
Tyson Pedro vs. Paul Craig
Craig to win.
Amanda Cooper vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Cooper to win.
Albert Morales vs. Andre Soukhamthath
Morales to win.
The adventurous bet: all 12 predictions in an accumulator.
The inbetweener bet: Mark Hunt and Stephen Thompson to win by KO
The conservative bet: Khabib Nurmagomedov by KO/TKO, Submission or Technical Decision.
And click here for the latest UFC 209 odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing