Let’s take a closer look at how all five fights on the UFC 209 main card, including the main event between Stephen Thompson and Tyron Woodley, might play out on Saturday night.
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Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt
Heavyweight greats Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt kick off the main card with the hopes of getting one step closer to fighting the UFC title in 2017.
Overeem beat Hunt by submission back in 2008 in a fight he took on a few days notice. He’d be best served to use a similar game plan he did that night: maintain a safe distance and try to engage the clinch when Hunt gets close.
Overeem’s reach advantage will be key Saturday night and he should use his long jab to stop Hunt’s power punches in their tracks. If he can avoid Hunt’s big right hand and turn this into a grappling match, Overeem has all the skills to walk away victory. That’s a big “if” though.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem by decision
Per Haljestam-USA TODAY SportsPer Haljestam
Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
Two exciting lightweight prospects duke it out when finishers Lando Vannata and David Teymur take the Octagon on Saturday.
“Groovy” is ultra-confident headed into the fight and believes he is far and away the best striker of the two. On paper, though, Teymur is more accurate and does a much better job of avoiding strikes than Vannata does. But we all know fights aren’t contested on paper.
Vannata has an unorthodox fighting style that even managed to give title contender Tony Ferguson issues. He also keeps his hands really low, which would be a mistake against Teymur like it was against Ferguson.
The fight won’t be as easy as Vannata thinks it will be, but I think he earns the victory.
Prediction: Lando Vannata by third-round TKO
Tom SzczerbowskiTom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Kelly
Rashad Evans makes his middleweight debut against 39-year-old Aussie Daniel Kelly. Don’t let Kelly’s age fool you though. He’s only two years older than Evans and has managed to go 5-1 in the UFC with two finishes.
Both these guys are high-level grapplers -- as Evans touts an extensive wrestling base and Kelly is a former Olympian -- and are fully capable on the feet.
Where Evans can separate himself is with his power, athleticism and experience. Nothing should surprise “Suga” on fight now, especially Kelly’s resilience, and he should be able to grind his way to a win.
Prediction: Rashad Evans by decision
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
Two world class fighters face off for the interim lightweight belt as undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov battles Tony Ferguson.
It’s no secret that Nurmagomedov’s grappling is some of the best in the world. He can get the fight to the ground whenever he wants and his ground-and-pound and submissions once there are relentless.
However, Tony Ferguson will be his toughest challenge so far. Ferguson defends takedowns really well and considers himself a wrestler at heart. No doubt he prefers to strike with opponents and has found plenty of success while doing so.
If “El Cucuy” can keep this fight standing, his dynamic and unpredictable striking should help him score plenty of points on the feet. But if this fight is spent predominantly on the canvas, it’s hard not to see “The Eagle” walk away with his 25th straight win.
Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov by fourth-round TKO
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Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
Both Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson believe they have the other figured out after spending 25 minutes in the Octagon together at UFC 205. So fans could be in for another closely contested fight come Saturday night.
Neither fighter was particularly aggressive during the first fight and they would both benefit from pulling the trigger more this time around. Woodley found plenty of success when he dragged the fight to the ground and unleashed some of his world-class wrestling, but he spent a bit too much time with his back against the cage waiting for Thompson to engage.
If Thompson comes out more assertive in this fight, he should present Woodley more problems in the stand-up. But I think Woodley will be smarter and use his wrestling much more this time around.