This was probably the best card we’d seen since the historic UFC 205 in New York City. However, UFC 209 lost value, and that big event feel, when Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson was scrapped Friday afternoon. Now, UFC 209 just has one title on the line and feels like nothing more than a reasonable pay-per-view event. Either way, this card still has some appeal, as it features a title fight rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson, a promising lightweight scrap between exciting strikers Lando Vannata and David Teymur, and the middleweight debut of former champ Rashad Evans.
What: UFC 209
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada.
When: Saturday, March 4. The two-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. on pay-per-view.
After battling to a majority draw at UFC 205 almost four months ago, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson will run back their welterweight title fight in the main event of UFC 209. It seems the excitement level for this championship bout is not too high, but let’s not forget that Woodley and Thompson scored the Fight of the Night award in a card packed with action back in November.
Woodley is a skilled wrestler with solid boxing and crazy knockout power. More often than not, the welterweight champ uses his wrestling in a defensive manner to keep the fight on the feet, where he has a power advantage over any welterweight on the roster. Woodley is explosive and can attack with a fight-ending punch at any given time.
Something worth noting, especially for this fight, is that Woodley sometimes has odd periods of inactivity during fights where he significantly drops his striking output and circles on the outside of the canvas. We’ve seen this in his fight against Rory MacDonald and recently against Thompson. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s tired or waiting for the perfect moment to strike, but I am certain that those periods of inactivity cost him rounds, as it allows his opponents to control the Octagon and land strikes. I think that inactivity is partly what stopped Woodley from beating Thompson in the first bout, and I find it to be a key point that could determine the outcome of the rematch.
Looking at Thompson, we have a talented karate striker that uses range very well. He might not hit as hard as Woodley, but Thompson’s accuracy and timing makes him a dangerous fighter. In his fight against Woodley, Thompson proved to have fantastic survival instincts, as he was badly hurt by the champion and yet found a way to stay in the fight. That toughness and resilience should come in handy in the rematch, as Woodley can close the distance and catch Thompson with a big shot at any time in the bout.
I think this fight comes down to who made the better adjustments during training camp. I picked Woodley to win the first bout, but now I’m leaning toward “Wonderboy.” I see Thompson making the adjustments needed to stay light on his feet, away from Woodley’s power, but close enough to use his long-range attacks. I think we’ll see a more patient and calculated “Wonderboy” in this fight.
Lando Vannata is one of the most promising prospects in the lightweight division. The 24-year-old has taken the UFC by storm, coming close to stopping top contender Tony Ferguson on a short-notice fight, which marked his promotional debut, and then following up with one of the best knockouts of 2016 over tough veteran John Makdessi. “Groovy” Lando has shown himself to be a talented striker with quick unorthodox movement. He has good power and speed behind his strikes, and a solid chin. Vannata is also skilled on the ground and has good takedowns, making him a very complete fighter.
His opponent, David Teymur, can also be considered a prospect. Even at 27 years of age, Teymur has shown improvement in the UFC and has scored solid stoppages in both of his UFC bouts. The Swedish fighter is a skilled, powerful kickboxer, who utilizes a lot of heavy kicks to the legs and body. He’s a more traditional striker than Vannata. Teymur also has good takedowns and a solid takedown defense.
Vannata vs. Teymur will likely be on the feet for the majority of the fight with some quick scrambles here and there. I think Vannata’s striking will be too quick and dynamic for Teymur, and I don’t see Teymur giving Vannata too many issues in the grappling department.
Rashad Evans vs. Dan Kelly
This is an odd match-up, but I’m looking forward to it.
Rashad Evans, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, is attempting to reinvent his career by making a drop to the middleweight division. The 37-year-old winner of The Ultimate Fighter 2 is on a two-fight skid and hasn’t looked like himself since his last win back in 2013. It’s impossible to tell how Evans will look fighting 20 pounds lighter, but I expect him to still posses decent boxing, although probably slower, and decent wrestling and grappling. So will that be enough to top Dan Kelly? Maybe, maybe not.
I’m a bit split on this fight. Kelly, a 39-year-old Olympic judoka, might not look like a killer, but he has a talent for forcing his opponents to fight his type of fight – a gritty close-quarters war that’s constantly switching from striking to clinching. Kelly is tough, and never stops moving forward, making it hard for his opponents to effectively strike as they’re always on their heels. This is all accompanied by good, dirty boxing, and great control in the clinch.
I definitely see a scenario where Kelly grinds out a close victory, but I think Evans is still skilled enough to win in the clinching and boxing department, avoiding a loss here against Kelly.
This is a great strawweight fight that’s flying under the radar.
The 25-year-old Amanda Cooper is a solid prospect in the division. She fights very smoothly and composed, and has a well-rounded game with high-volume striking, a solid ground game, and a great scrambling ability. Her opponent, Cynthia Calvillo is a tough, powerful striker with solid takedowns. I think Calvillo has a power and strength advantage in both the grappling and striking departments. However, I do find Cooper to have more tools and be more technical than Calvillo. I think experience will be a key factor here since Calvillo is only 3-0 and has never fought for a major promotion. Meanwhile, Cooper has been competing under the bright lights for sometime, fighting for Invicta, competing at The Ultimate Fighter 23, and fighting twice under the UFC banner.
I see this being high-paced battle where Cooper uses her well-rounded skills, experience and composure to outpoint the UFC newcomer
I’m curious to see how this heavyweight rematch plays out because this is one of those rare cases where the first bout is not telling of the possible outcome of the second.
Hunt and Overeem first fought at Dream 5 in Japan almost a decade ago. Since, Hunt has improved overall, but his fighting style has remained basically the same. Meanwhile, Overeem is a very different fighter today than the one who beat Hunt in Japan. Overeem had a good chin and an advanced ground game for the time. He was also slick fighting off his back, and liked to move forward with his striking. Today, Overeem’s chin is questionable, but being a world-class fighter, “The Reem” has found away around that problem by changing his style of fighting – something many older fighters with fading chins have failed to do. Overeem now fights a lot smarter, as he’s incorporated more takedowns in his arsenal, and now strikes by sticking and moving, staying light on his feet and utilizing more range.
Will “The Reem” be able to use his range, movement and power to beat Hunt, while avoiding Hunt’s haymakers? I think so. I see this being a stand-up battle with Overeem keeping his distance from Hunt, while landing shots of his own.
Marcin Tybura def. Luis Henrique
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