UFC 209 Woodley vs. Thompson: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2017

UFC 209 Woodley vs. Thompson: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    UFC 209 hits the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday with an anticipated title clash.

    In the main event, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson run back their instant classic from UFC 205. The November contest ended in a majority draw, which allowed Woodley to retain his welterweight belt.

    In the co-main, Lando Vannata will take on David Teymur. The bout gained the elevated status after Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson was scuttled when the former failed to gain medical clearance following his Thursday night hospitalization for issues stemming from a weight cut.

    Still, the card offers a nice slate of fights, and the Bleacher Report crew are here to break it down and offer you our predictions.

    On the call are Craig Amos, Scott Harris, Steven Rondina and Nathan McCarter.

    Want to get down to business? Here are the UFC 209 main card predictions from the B/R staff.

     

    *The Amanda Cooper vs. Cynthia Calvillo bout does not appear, as staff picks were made prior to the card's reshuffling.

Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt

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    Scott Harris

    What a way to kick off the pay-per-view. The 36-year-old Alistair Overeem is more skilled, but I just don't think it matters. Mark Hunt wades through and gets his hands on the 'Reem's aging chin.

    Hunt, KO, Rd. 1

              

    Craig Amos

    Overeem was putting it together before running into Stipe Miocic. I expect the evolution in his style to play up against Hunt, who is effective but predictable.

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 2

              

    Steven Rondina

    Hunt can fell anyone, but as Craig detailed, Overeem has made subtle improvements that should give him a definitive edge over the Super Samoan. Obviously, Hunt can never be counted out, but Overeem is just the safer bet.

    Overeem, TKO, Rd. 2

             

    Nathan McCarter

    I'm a little surprised no one here mentioned their previous bout from DREAM 5 in 2008. Overeem won that fight via submission in just 71 seconds. And, I agree, he has gotten better. But I'm still not picking Overeem. He's always had a suspect chin and, against Hunt, that's just not something that makes me confident. In fact, that's why I pick against him the majority of the time.

    Hunt's improved so much in recent years that he'll avoid being put on his back, and on the feet, he'll eventually put Overeem to sleep with another walk-away KO.

    Hunt, KO, Rd. 2

Rashad Evans vs. Dan Kelly

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    Scott Harris

    Does Rashad Evans have enough left to win a UFC fight against any opponent? Injuries and time away have surely taken their tolls, but he should be able to take out the 39-year-old judo specialist.

    Evans, unanimous decision

                

    Craig Amos

    Don't expect this one to be pretty. What's left of Evans will be enough to maintain an edge in striking, and he'll ride that to victory. But I don't anticipate a vintage performance.

    Evans, unanimous decision

              

    Steven Rondina

    Dan Kelly is a lot better than most give him credit for, but Evans' experience will carry him to victoryunless the cut down to 185 pounds takes a lot out of him.

    Evans, unanimous decision

             

    Nathan McCarter

    Evans is much better than Kelly. That's all there is to it. Kelly has had a surprising UFC run, but his body is broken down. Evans (37) is well past his prime, but he still has significant athletic and technical advantages. He'll look good in beating Kelly, but it'll be a false flag. Don't buy into Evans' return just yet.

    Evans, TKO, Rd. 1

Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur

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    Scott Harris

    Lando Vannata hasn't given anyone reason to pick against him thus far in his UFC career. He's exciting and unorthodox, but it's built on a solid, complete skill set honed at Jackson Wink. David Teymur is a fun fighter in his own right, given his kickboxing foundation, and he's no pushover. Vannata may need to take this to the ground or throttle back on the spinning wheel kicks, but he'll get it done.

    Vannata, unanimous decision

              

    Craig Amos

    This should be a fun one. Both guys are up-and-comers and are likely to have significant tenures in the UFC. While both men have performed well thus far, Vannata has done so against a steeper level of foe. There is more reason to be confident in his ascent, and reason enough to believe he'll win on Saturday night.

    Vannata, TKO, Rd. 3

            

    Steven Rondina

    I'm with Scott and Craig on this one. This should be a fun bout, and Vannata is an interesting talent. It's not exactly a high-stakes, title-relevant contest, but it should be entertaining.

    Vannata, unanimous decision

              

    Nathan McCarter

    Let's make it unanimous. I'm not as high on Teymur as Vannata, and that's why I'll pick Vannata by a finish. Although, I will disagree with Steven in saying this doesn't have high stakes. It doesfor Lando. He's shown he's about to compete with the elite (Tony Ferguson) and is insanely exciting. After another win, expect him to jump into contention in 2017.

    Vannata, TKO, Rd. 2

Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson

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    Scott Harris

    There's one simple tool in Tyron Woodley's arsenal that will swing this for the champ: his ability to catch kicks and turn them into takedowns. It worked in their first fight and will make Stephen Thompson think twice about kicking, which is probably his primary weapon. Woodley will use that and other general craftiness to get Wonderboy to the ground and control him there long enough to win rounds. The boos will rain down, but Woodley will have a clear win this time.

    Woodley, unanimous decision

                    

    Craig Amos

    I figured Thompson would take the first fight but came away believing Woodley looked superior, so maybe it's stubbornness that's led me to take Thompson. But he's my pick. He is such a cerebral fighter and has the ability to come at opponents from so many different angles. He'll adjust, do better at avoiding damage this time and outpoint Woodley to capture the strap.

    Thompson, unanimous decision

                 

    Steven Rondina

    Thompson is amazing, but I'm expecting Woodley to win convincingly. That might come early via knockout, in the middle rounds via submission or maybe on the scorecards. Either way, I expect the champ to retain the belt for a good, long while.

    Woodley, unanimous decision

                

    Nathan McCarter

    I'm surprised the champ has gotten this much love here. I was expecting to be the dissenter with my Woodley pick.

    Woodley is just a bad stylistic matchup for Thompson. That isn't to say Thompson cannot win this fight with relative ease. Woodley loves to get involved in striking exchanges, and that's Thompson's world. But when they both employ their respective game plans, Woodley has a distinct edge with his skill set.

    If Woodley sticks to what he does best, he takes this on the scorecards without much issue. Takedowns, takedowns, takedowns.

    Woodley, unanimous decision