UFC 209: Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson Full Card Preview and Predictions
Last Saturday's UFC 208 was an ugly card, but things will return to normal at UFC 209...more or less.
Two incredibly compelling fights sit atop the March 4 event in the welterweight title match between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson and the interim lightweight title bout of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. Backing them up is a heavyweight slugfest in Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt. From there, however, the card drops off in a big way.
The full list of fights is as follows:
- Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
- Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
- Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
- Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt
- Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Kelly
- Darren Elkins vs. Mirsad Bektic
- Todd Duffee vs. Mark Godbeer
- Igor Pokrajac vs. Ed Herman
Other bouts will likely be announced in the coming days, and the order is yet to be determined. As such, it's worth taking a quick look at each of the fights that are confirmed and a deeper look at the three guaranteed spots at the top.
Rashad Evans vs. Dan Kelly
Former champion Rashad Evans' career has officially hit the skids, and he is trying to rehabilitate himself by dropping down to 185 pounds. Aged-but-steely judoka Dan Kelly will welcome him to the division, and while few are giving the four-time Olympian much of a shot, Kelly has a real chance to take this one.
Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
Lando Vannata pulled off a Knockout of the Year candidate in his last fight with a spinning-kick KO of John Makdessi. David Teymur has scored impressive knockout wins in his first two UFC fights. The UFC is trying to give fans a hearty scrap here, and these two will likely oblige.
Darren Elkins vs. Mirsad Bektic
Mirsad Bektic is 4-0 in the UFC and now faces "the wrestler test," as administered by veteran grinder Darren Elkins. If the 24-year-old passes? He will be more than deserving of Top 10 competition. If he fails? It's back to the drawing board.
Todd Duffee vs. Mark Godbeer
Todd Duffee's MMA career has been defined by long layoffs, and he's returning from another one. He looks to bounce back from his 2015 loss to Frank Mir by beating BAMMA veteran (and fellow on-the-rebound fighter) Mark Godbeer. With the UFC releasing middling veterans en masse, the loser of this one could easily find himself back to a regional circuit.
Igor Pokrajac vs. Ed Herman
Speaking of middling veterans on the verge of being released, Igor Pokrajac was unsuccessful in his UFC return, dropping a clean decision to Jan Blachowicz last year. Ed Herman, meanwhile, has been alternating wins and losses since 2012. It's a harsh thing to say, but there's a serious chance that the loser of this fight will get a pink slip.
Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt
Records: Alistair Overeem (41-15, 1 NC), Mark Hunt (12-11-1)
On its own, this would be a solid fight.
Alistair Overeem has reinvented himself since a rocky start to his UFC career and cemented himself as a strong contender for years to come. Mark Hunt, meanwhile, remains a real-life One-Punch Man, capable of ending a tussle with a single shot that leaves his foe in a twitching heap.
The in-cage action on its own would make this one worth paying close attention to. The outside-the-cage action, however, is what makes this one particularly compelling.
Just a few days after the bout's announcement, news broke that Hunt had filed a civil lawsuit against the UFC, UFC President Dana White and previous opponent Brock Lesnar, stemming from Hunt's frustration over Lesnar failing a drug test ahead of their UFC 200 bout last year. The UFC is no stranger to the courthouse and has stood across the aisle from many of its fighters over the years, but Hunt is the first to remain active while in a legal battle with the promotion.
That gives this UFC 209 fight an incredibly strange feel, but one that makes the traditionally boring pre-fight rituals must-watch affairs. Will the UFC keep him out of media day? Are they going to promote him the same way? Will he even be allowed near microphones?
I don't know, but boy, do I want to know. The fight itself will be gravy.
As for a prediction? It could frankly end in either direction at any time, but the most likely outcome is a late finish for the Dutchman.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem def. Mark Hunt by TKO in Round 3
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
Records: Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0), Tony Ferguson (23-3)
This is, quite simply, MMA at its best.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson are two elite-level fighters in their athletic primes, riding amazing winning streaks. They face off in a high-stakes, five-round battle with a shot at Conor McGregor—and his lightweight title on the line.
Both are proven against the highest level of competition with multiple wins over top-10 fighters. Both have compelling styles, with Nurmagomedov owning some of the best grappling skills in MMA today and Ferguson owning a high-pressure style and dynamic finishing skills.
This is an amazing fight for fans of all types—and one that is nigh impossible to predict. It's not really worth overthinking this one. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson 2
Records: Tyron Woodley (16-3-1), Stephen Thompson (13-1-1)
This writer previewed Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson 1 back in October for UFC 205, and most of the X's and O's remain the same. The one thing that has changed is the amount of data available on Woodley.
Entering their first fight, Thompson was the more established fighter by a considerable margin, knocking out numerous Top 10 competitors along the way. Woodley, by comparison, won the UFC welterweight title from Robbie Lawler with a flashy knockout after an 18-month layoff with a questionable resume. The tools had always been there, but there was no real evidence to show that he had put it all together.
That changed at UFC 205. Despite fighting Thompson to a draw, Woodley showed that he is every bit the champion that his belt would suggest. In those 25 minutes, he demonstrated a well-rounded skill set, significantly stronger cardio and an indomitable spirit.
UFC 209 is where he can really cement himself as the unquestionable, undeniable, undisputed best welterweight on the planet. That's not an easy job, of course. Thompson remains one of the most dangerous strikers in MMA.
Woodley can do it, though, and he probably will.
Prediction: Tyron Woodley def. Stephen Thompson by Unanimous Decision