UFC 216 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from Ferguson vs Lee Fight Card
It wasn't for a full-calorie UFC title, but it still brought the promise of something delicious.
When Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee fought Saturday for the interim lightweight title at UFC 216, they were doing it with their sights set on the biggest prize in MMA today: a shot at the lineal lightweight beltholder, whose name is Conor McGregor. McGregor brushes his teeth with money. It doesn't get his teeth very clean, but it's impressive that he has that much just lying around. Every other fighter wishes they could do that, dental hygiene difficulties be damned.
McGregor himself had said he'd watch the evening's main event with interest. What happens next is up to McGregor, but both competitors have it in them to make a powerful impression.
Ferguson is a well-rounded fighter known for rabid aggression. Lee is a powerful up-and-comer who has ripped off five straight wins. Ferguson's streak, by the way, is at nine, and he'll be the biggest test of Lee's career.
And all of this is to say nothing of the great Demetrious Johnson, who defended his flyweight title against Ray Borg in the co-main event. You may recall this as the main event of UFC 215 until it collapsed after a last-minute Borg withdrawal, which was related to his weight cut. Johnson's win broke Anderson Silva's hallowed record for consecutive UFC title defenses.
The card definitely lost some shine, though, when Derrick Lewis' balky back prevented him from stepping in against fellow heavyweight Fabricio Werdum. Walt Harris, a powerful but far less experienced fighter than Lewis, stepped up from the deep prelims to face Werdum instead. But it was a much less interesting bout. More on all of that below.
In the meantime, there was still intrigue on the card, and as usual the final stat lines don't reveal everything. Here are the real winners and losers from UFC 216.
Full card results appear at the bottom.
Winner: The UFC and Las Vegas
Six days before this event, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas, killing 59 and injuring more than 500 more.
The UFC chose to move forward, and it used the event in part as a way of acknowledging the tragedy.
During the broadcast, there was a moment of silence. Everlast came in to sing "America the Beautiful" before the pay-per-view card began. Victims were honored, and 1,500 first responders got free tickets. A special "Vegas Strong" T-shirt sale benefited the victims, who have already reportedly received $1 million from the UFC.
Las Vegas is the home of the UFC and plenty of its fighters. It was great to see the company reaching out to the many who were affected by this. Kudos to the UFC for doing the right thing for the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Remember where you were.
Demetrious Johnson is now the record-holder for UFC title defenses. After dismantling Ray Borg in the co-main event, he has now made 11 such defenses in a row.
But that's not what made this co-main event more memorable than the ostensible primary attraction. If you didn't see the finish, which came about halfway through the fifth and final round, you missed one of the most amazing submissions in UFC history. That is not hyperbole.
As they clinched along the fence, Johnson got hold of Borg's back. Suddenly, with an audible grunt, he hoisted Borg into the air for a suplex. As Borg—poor, poor Borg—was on the way down, Johnson leapt into the air and hooked his body on to Borg's. It was hard to discern what was happening in that moment, but once they both hit the mat, it was clear. Johnson had locked on an armbar. Essentially in midair. He torqued the hold on Borg, who was as shocked as anyone but still game. Johnson had to bend his arm backward at the elbow to elicit the tap.
I mean, it was crazy. That description doesn't even do it justice. It's easily the submission of the year and maybe much more. And it happened in a title fight—a title fight for a record, no less.
"Ray Borg was running his mouth, saying my scrambling was garbage," Johnson told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. "I was just playing around, and I’ve hit that suplex to armbar so many times in the gym. And I knew I was gonna get it."
That makes one of us, DJ.
"I'm in the business of getting in here, making a fool out of you, getting you in the air like a bag of potatoes and breaking your arm," he continued.
Does any or all of this make Johnson the greatest UFC fighter of all time? That's still an open question and one subject to plenty of, well, subjectivity. Most sensible fans and pundits probably now agree, however, that Johnson is the best fighter doing it at the moment. Sorry, Jon Jones apologists. That torch has been passed.
Throughout the fight, Johnson seemed to know what Borg was going to do before Borg did it. He won every scramble, baited Borg with submissions that opened the door to a better position, anticipated and neutralized every iota of danger while methodically pounding Borg to the head and body.
After two rounds, according to the UFC, Johnson had landed 62 significant strikes. Borg had one.
Borg is a good fighter, and he never gave up—well, until he finally tapped to that matrix midair armbar. At another point while the two were standing, Borg jumped on Johnson's back and began looking for a choke. Johnson stayed calm and literally shrugged him off. Who does that?
The best MMA fighter in the world, that's who. He's an absolute delight to watch, he's a great ambassador for the sport, and the sport is lucky to have him.
Johnson and the UFC have had well-chronicled differences, including Johnson's position that the UFC is not paying or promoting him enough or generally not giving him a fair shake in negotiations and the like. For this fight, hopefully all sides can celebrate this milestone and this unadulterated greatness and the benefits it could and does confer on all parties involved.
And hey, if it serves as a springboard to big fights at bantamweight, with guys like, oh, I don't know, T.J. Dillashaw, what's the harm? I'd say flyweight is pretty well cleaned out.
Loser: Conor McGregor
Tony Ferguson broke down Kevin Lee with relentless pressure and aggression. Lee got battered, he got tired, and in the third round he got overwhelmed. After narrowly escaping an armbar, Lee wound up in a triangle choke that ended his night and handed Ferguson the interim title.
It was a familiar formula for Ferguson and those who have watched him pave this trail, which for now ends with his 10th consecutive UFC win.
"This is exactly where I wanted it to be," Ferguson told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. "I wanted to use my aggression and leave him with no energy for that submission."
Sounds about right. His next comment, though, may have been more illuminating. I can't really quote it because it was all expletives, except for articles and conjunctions and one other word: "McNuggets."
Some of the other profanities gave just enough context so that I can generally surmise that he meant McGregor. Somewhere deep down McGregor probably realizes that he is, at his base, an MMA fighter, and that straying too far from that base for too long ultimately erodes the energy core that fuels his other ventures. The same applies inside MMA. He's the lightweight champion.
A bout with Nate Diaz will sell plenty of units regardless, but if McGregor isn't seen to be credibly defending that belt, it and he will atrophy and become paper tigers. If his next fight isn't with the interim champion in his own division, he will open himself up to more questions about ducking—this time more pointed because of the tangible nature of Ferguson's championship status.
Not to mention Ferguson himself, a guy who's clearly running right toward him and doing so with a full complement of formidable skills. Neither man has a massive edge on the other, but both men have a path to victory. Plus it's a pretty safe bet Ferguson will match McGregor's trash talk, in sheer volume if nothing else.
Right after Lee tapped, broadcaster Jon Anik observed that Ferguson was "a problem" in the lightweight division. I'd put a littler finer point on it. Ferguson is a problem for Conor McGregor.
Loser: Walt Harris
At UFC 216, Walt Harris took a gamble. That gamble did not pay off.
When Lewis bowed out with his injury, the UFC scrambled to save the bout. They came up with Harris, another hard-hitting heavyweight who happened to be fighting Mark Godbeer on the Fight Pass portion of the card (and we're getting to Godbeer).
Harris obviously saw an opportunity. A big step up in prestige (and presumably pay) and a puncher's chance against arguably the best heavyweight to ever do it. Who can blame Harris for taking the fight, even if it was only on three hours' notice? Even though it was against easily the toughest opponent of his career? He still had dynamite in his fists, right? That had to level the playing field at least a little bit, no matter who's across from you.
Well, you can probably guess what happened. Harris got taken down, mounted and armbarred in 65 seconds. I'm not sure either man broke a sweat.
In a way, everyone won. The UFC kept a much-needed name on the card in Werdum. Werdum collected an easy win and had a chance to call out champion Stipe Miocic after the fight (although he may need a slightly tougher challenge first before getting that rematch). The underdog took a loss but was well-paid for the effort and can theoretically rebook with Godbeer some time in the not-so-distant future.
But in a more specific way, Harris lost. He'll fight again, and the UFC tends to remember these kinds of acts, but it's pretty clear things didn't go his way Saturday.
Winners: Lando Vannata and Bobby Green
When they announced this fight as a draw, it felt like a gift. Why? Because now there's gonna be a rematch.
Lando Vannata and Bobby Green battled back and forth for every second of the three rounds, and it resulted in a Fight of the Night performance.
Vannata knocked Green to the ground in the first round and came within a whisker of finishing him. The only thing that saved Green was an illegal knee that Vannata threw in the heat of the moment. It stopped the action and it cost him a point.
Green rallied and came on admirably, with a heavy right jab leading the charge. It bloodied and battered Vannata's face, as Vannata consistently charged forward, only to meet the end of Green's fist. Vannata countered and threw combinations from all angles. He worked the body. He threw kicks. He hunted for submissions. He threw effective short shots from inside. And Green just kept breaking his face with that jab.
It went down to the final seconds, when an absolutely hellacious punch combination from Green almost starched Vannata as the horn sounded. But he made it to the distance. In the end, the judges scored it 29-27, 27-29 and 28-28. The fight was close, and it was the kind where you didn't want to see a loser. If you found this unsatisfying, you didn't watch the fight. But take heart. There will almost certainly be a next time.
Winner: The Draw
Vannata and Green will be the fight people remember, but it wasn't the only draw on the UFC 216 card. The first bout on the pay-per-view main card, between Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham, also ended in a tie.
Dariush rocked Dunham early and appeared to be close to a finish. But Dunham survived by a hair and came on strong in the end, relying on sheer toughness and some heavy punch combinations to score enough points to ultimately even the score in the minds of two judges. The final score was 29-28 for Dariush and two scorecards of 28-28.
One draw on a card is pretty rare, much less two. The last one this humble reporter could find after a records search was UFC 22 back in 1999. Jens Pulver fought to a tie with Alfonso Alcarez, and Tim Lacjik dug deep and drew with the immortal Ron Waterman.
Could this more recent example be the start of a trend? It certainly wouldn't be a bad thing. Sometimes, things are even. Why not recognize that? It also has the ability to set up some mouth-watering rematches, as was the case in Vannata-Green. I say many happy returns.
Loser: Mark Godbeer
Life comes at you fast.
England's Mark Godbeer was set to compete on the evening's undercard. His opponent? One Walt Harris.
As news spread of Lewis' withdrawal, it seems the UFC may have extended its tendrils into the undercard in search of a replacement. It is not hard to infer from Godbeer's semi-delirious Facebook post—tweeted by MMA reporter Jim Edwards—that UFC officials may have approached him as well as Harris. Perhaps those officials went so far as to suggest that a Godbeer move up to the main card was in the offing.
"Guys my fight has been moved to the main card PPV due to the Lewis vs Werdum fight being canceled," Godbeer wrote. "I'm third from last on the card. S--t just got real. Buzzing."
Welp, things didn't end up going that way, for whatever reason. What a terrible letdown that must have been for the heavyweight.
One also imagines that a new booking for Godbeer would be reasonable compensation, considering he went through a roller coaster of emotions Saturday that were all beyond his control. Godbeer did subsequently confirm that he will receive both his show and win purses, so good on the UFC for that. Godbeer also hinted that he'd be open to competing on the UFC's upcoming card at Madison Square Garden in New York. If the latter happens, maybe this one could be flipped to "winner."
Winner: John Moraga
No one besides Borg was a bigger underdog at UFC 216 than John Moraga. According to OddsShark, he was +303 to pull the upset over Chechen super-prospect Magomed Bibulatov.
Moraga's knockout power was never in doubt, but he didn't seem to have the deep tool box needed for consistent contender status. Coming into Saturday's bout, he had lost three of four.
He changed the discourse inside of one round when he cracked Bibulatov with an overhand right, followed with a kick, then reached back into the center of the sun and pulled out one of the most demonic left hooks you're likely to see, whipping across Bibulatov's chin like a comet.
When Bibulatov hit the mat, he had a lot less hype behind him than he did when he was standing on the same ground a moment before. Moraga may not have made himself a contender with that one shot, but he did probably make himself some money while taking a few steps back up the ladder.
UFC 216 Full Card Results
Tony Ferguson def. Kevin Lee by submission (triangle choke), 4:02, Rd. 3 (for interim UFC lightweight championship)
Demetrious Johnson def. Ray Borg by submission (armbar), 3:15, Rd. 5 (for UFC flyweight championship)
Fabricio Werdum def. Walt Harris by submission (armbar), 1:05, Rd. 1
Mara Romero Borella def. Kalindra Faria by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:54, Rd. 1
Beneil Dariush vs Evan Dunham ruled a draw
Cody Stamman def. Tom Duquesnoy by split decision
Lando Vannata vs Bobby Green ruled a draw
Poliana Botelho def. Pearl Gonzalez by unanimous decision
Matt Schnell def. Marco Beltran by unanimous decision
John Moraga def. Magomed Bibulatov by KO, 1:38, Rd. 1
Brad Tavares def. Thales Leites by unanimous decision