After what felt like a quiet September in the UFC despite having a few fun events, the promotion kicks off October by returning to Las Vegas for UFC 216. At first glance, this weirdly constructed card lacks the marquee star-power one associates with UFC Pay-Per-Views (PPV). However, the card has two title fights as co-headliners and a heavyweight matchup that could lead the winner to a number one contender fight. The card has the feel it may not do massive PPV buy numbers but I think it will treat fans to some fun and explosive fights. I’ll breakdown the best fights on the card and offer some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Main Card Fights:
Fabricio “Val Cavalo” Werdum (2nd) vs Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (Heavyweight)
Preview: The heavyweight division has found some stability with current champion Stipe Miocic but the rest of the divisions top 5 has been a carousel of who will ge the next shot against the champion. The next heavyweight carousel will happen in Vegas as Fabricio Werdum takes Derrick Lewis with the hopes of the winner making a chase to get a number one contender shot fight to the winner. Werdum is likely making his last push to reclaim the UFC championship at 40 years old. Derrick Lewis is looking to rebound from his first loss in two years after seeing his six fight wins streak come to an end at the powerful hands of Mark Hunt. Both men come into this fight looking to rebound from losses, this could add a little desperation and pressure to their fight, as the loser is no longer in title contention. Werdum will look to exploit Lewis’s raw and wild style, that sees him tire in later rounds if he is unable to knockout his opponent in the first two rounds. He will likely seek to test Lewis’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu as well as put his cardio to the test by forcing him to defend the takedown and get off the mat in the 1st round. Lewis’s game plan is simple, catch Werdum coming in sloppily which he’s been known to do or force him to exchange and trust his power to deliver a knockout victory. Lewis will have a slight reach advantage which could prove important in a fight that will likely hinge on a single punch or takedown.
Odds: Lewis (+220) vs Werdum (-260)
Prediction: I think this fight gets decided in the first round, even if it does not necessarily end in the first round. I think this stems from the fact that if Werdum is able to get Lewis to the mat with relative ease, ‘the black beast’ is in for a long painful night. However, if Lewis is able to defend the early takedown and hurt Werdum he could stop him before his gas tank ever runs out. I tend to think the first scenario is the most likely to play out simply by judging each man’s body of work in the UFC. Lewis has some highlight reel knockouts but they are against relatively average UFC heavyweights. His best win is against a Travis Browne who many think is completely washed up. Werdum on the other hand is a former champion who has beaten many of the best to ever grace the octagon. As long as Werdum does not get sloppy or take Lewis lightly, I think he easily takes Lewis down and pummel him until the ref steps in to stop this fight.
Werdum via TKO (-260))
Flyweight Title Fight
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (Champion) vs Ray “The Tazmexican Devil” Borg (3rd) (Flyweight 125lbs)
Preview: Arguably one of the greatest if not the greatest UFC champion of all-time looks to break his tie for most championship title defense in Las Vegas Saturday night. Demetrious Johnson has reigned over the flyweight division for nearly 6 years now and is looking to cement his claim to greatest ever by capturing his 12th title defense against a scrappy Ray Borg. Many people got disappointed when Mighty Mouse did not take a ‘super-fight’ vs TJ Dillashaw, Dominic Cruz, or Cody Garbrandt for this fight. Breaking this title defense record meant something to Johnson, and after a legendary career, he’s earned that right about who he chooses for his next opponent. Eventually, I think fans will get to see Johnson against one of those ‘super-fight’ candidates, but first he has to dispatch Ray Borg. Make no mistake, Borg will attempt to derail Mighty Mouse’s plans but he is completely outclassed heading into this bout. Borg is known as a world-class ‘grappler‘ so he will attempt to drag Johnson into an ugly and long fight, but it likely will not matter. Johnson has cleaned the flyweight division out through his 11 title defenses and many of whom are more talented & dangerous than Borg. The greatness of Demetrious Johnson should not get overlooked and even if he has never gotten the star treatment he deserves fans should tune in to appreciate watching a master at his craft achieve a record that may never get broken again. Borg will try to implement his grappling gameplan, but Johnson can dictate the style of this fight however he sees fit. Borg is slightly bigger than Johnson but that is basically where his advantages end in this bout. Johnson’s strike rate, takedown rate, and takedown defense are all much better than Borg. Johnson will also have a reach advantage which could further complicate Borg’s ability to get into Johnson’s chest to grapple. It may seem like a fool’s errand but I think Borg needs to risk selling out early before Johnson can gauge his timing for him to have any success in this fight. He will likely have to risk burning through his cardio early in hopes of catching Johnson off guard and attempting to stun the MMA world with one of the biggest upsets in UFC history if he pulled it off. Johnson is just phenomenal at everything which makes him a nightmare for any opponent he faces. I do not envy Borg and his camp for figuring out a gameplay they can believe in that leads them to victory against a living legend.
Odds: Johnson (-1250) vs Borg (+850)
Prediction: Johnson by knockout, by submission, or by decision are all possibilities. If you like Johnson you almost have to bet the outcome exactly or bet the over/under round proposition to make it an even odds bet. I do not think Borg has the skill set to even bother Johnson let alone stop him but at +850 price in a championship fight, you may want to sprinkle a little on that as a hedge if you don’t have a strong position on how Johnson finishes this fight. Stranger things have definitely happened in the UFC, and while I do not see Borg pulling off the upset this is a huge price to get in a title fight. I think we may see Borg attempt to sellout early hoping to score a surprise victory, this should open him up late in the fight when he gassed and drowning against Johnson’s elite cardio. I think Johnson captures the UFC title defense record via submission in the championship rounds.
Johnson via submission (+190) / Bonus Play 1/2 unit on Borg (+850)
Interim-Lightweight Title Fight
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (2nd) vs Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee (7th) (Lightweight 155lbs)
Preview: This is by far the best fight on the card and rightfully the main event on a card that has limited star power. Tony Ferguson campaigning to get a title shot after nine consecutive victories at 155lbs. However, with the UFC’s biggest star and current Lightweight champion Conor McGregor taking a hiatus with his boxing endeavor, Ferguson must clean the rest of the division out while he waits on McGregor’s next move. The waiting and bad luck of having the Nurmagomedov fight canceled on him may have paid off as the UFC has granted his matchup with Lee interim-title status. A win will give Ferguson ‘a belt’ he’s been chasing, even if he and the fans know it is not truly ‘the real’ lightweight championship belt. Ferguson’s opponent Kevin Lee, has followed the Conor McGregor bleep-talking spectacle blueprint all the way into a interim-title shot. A year ago he was fighting on undercard’s and non-main event UFC Fight Night cards. However, after a series of victories and memorable press confrences, post-fight interviews, and a punch to Michael Chiesa’s face on stage went viral. Lee is quickly becoming a known commodity in the UFC. Yes, Kevin Lee is a loudmouth and not as polished as McGregor when it comes to the mic skills, but he can also really fight which is a necessary part of the McGregor brand building blueprint. Fans love guys who will hype the fight but if you cannot backup the trash-talk you merely become a sideshow. Kevin Lee has the skills to back up his talk and now fans will get a chance to see who between Ferguson and Lee improve their shot at a McGregor showdown in the future. Ferguson is a little bigger than Lee but both men possess about the same reach. Both fighters are really the embodiment of the evolution of MMA fans have seen in the past couple of years. Both men can grapple, strike, and wrestle at elite levels. Neither man will feel uncomfortable on the ground or pressed against the cage. They’ve both been stopped earlier in their careers so it’s not impossible to see either man getting knocked out if their opponent catches them with a big shot in this fight. Ferguson’s work rate and strikes per minute is higher than Lee’s but Lee’s striking defense looks a little better at least on paper than Ferguson’s. There are only two real glaring differences in this fight that I think could give fans an idea of who may win this interim title: talent of past opponents & experience. It’s very clear looking at both men’s resumes that Ferguson has fought and beat vastly superior fighters than Lee’s resume. Part of this has to do with Lee being relatively young and Ferguson having been in the game longer allowing him to fighter better opponents. However, this disparity cannot be overlooked when breakdown a fight. Lee is taking a major step-up in class against a Ferguson’s caliber. Lee will likely tell you he’s so good it won’t matter who Ferguson beat or how talented Ferguson is, but it can’t be overlooked. Lee’s best win to date came in his last fight against a very tough Micheal Chiesa. Chiesa is good but not great fighter. Ferguson has beaten the former Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and a prime dangerous Edson Barboza both of whom are vastly more accomplished than Chiesa. Ferguson has also gone the full five rounds of a main event fight, something Lee has never done in his young career. In fact Lee hasn’t even gone the full 3 rounds of a fight since April of 2016 which could be interesting how he responds if this fight makes it to the 4th or 5th round of this fight. I think fans could see a fight of the night candidate as both men have the ability to hurt one another in a variety of ways. They also seem to thrive off of momentum which could swing back and forth throughout this fight as each has shown resiliency during times they’ve gotten rocked or put into trouble in past bouts. I think Kevin Lee may attempt to ‘blitzkrieg’ Ferguson early in this fight. His camp may want to see if a man who has not fought in the Octagon in a year has any ring rust against their young dangerous fighter. Ferguson appears to like to get into the flow of the fight for a few minutes before he starts implementing his game plan, I think it may prove difficult to stay patient against an aggressive fighter like Lee. This fight has fireworks from the opening bell type feel to it.
Odds: Lee (+217) vs Ferguson (-280)
Prediction: I was honestly a little shocked at the odds when I looked them up for this fight breakdown. I definitely think Ferguson has the edge in both experience and big fight preparation. However, I was hoping the Lee hype machine was going to make the odds a closer to an even fight leaving some value to back Ferguson. Vegas however does not appear to buy the hype of Lee, and I have to be honest; neither am I…at least not yet. This comes down to a belief that I think Tony Ferguson presently “is” an elite mixed-martial artist, while Kevin Lee is still building towards becoming an elite fighter. Lee is immensely talented and I do think we may see him again in a year or two challenging for championship at 155lbs. However, I think this class jump is a little too much for him at this point in his career. He’s not fought anyone with the skill set Ferguson possesses nor has he had to do it for potentially five full rounds. Lee’s skills in and outside the Octagon got him this fight but I think he’s running into an opponent perfectly matched to derail his ascension to the top of the division. Ferguson is a dangerous fighter and he knows if he stops Lee in impressive fashion he could help his chances at getting a chance at a big showdown with McGregor. Anyone who has followed Ferguson’s career knows he has carved himself into a dominant contender over a long career, he will not get derailed against a young guy looking to jump the line. Ferguson’s experience and toughness I think will carry him in this fight as he gets a late stoppage against a gassed out Lee, whose still learning how to become an elite MMA fighter.
Ferguson by TKO (-260) / Bonus Play Over 2.5 Rounds (-140)
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (57-41-1) (+$915.50)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only