After almost a year of relative inactivity in the lightweight division, the 155-pound weight class has an interim champion in Tony Ferguson. El Cucuy defeated Kevin Lee to claim the interim belt via third-round submission in the main event of UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The fight was a crowning moment for Ferguson, but it came with positive moments for Lee.
Both fighters came out hot, with each landing early knockdowns. The UFC passed along the exciting start:
Before the third round, it appeared Lee had the advantage on the ground. He finished the first frame in mount with strong ground-and-pound. However, he later admitted he didn't foresee his opponent's strong bottom game, per MMA Fighting:
That bottom game would play out in a major way. After a second round that saw Ferguson take over in striking, Lee went back to the takedown well. The first takedown resulted in El Cucuy's scrambling to get up.
The second one turned out to be the beginning of the end for Lee. Ferguson went to work on an armbar that nearly finished the fight. When Lee successfully defended it, he switched his focus to a triangle choke.
Lee was too exhausted to defend that one, which played right into Ferguson's hands:
It was a complete performance that should set up some exciting possibilities in the future at lightweight. Ferguson used his post-fight interview to challenge lightweight champion Conor McGregor to come back to the cage to defend his belt against him, per the UFC Twitter account (warning: NSFW language).
The entire card turned out to be memorable. Demetrious Johnson cemented his legacy as the most dominant champion of any weight class in history, two fights ended in draws and Fabricio Werdum reminded everyone he's pretty good at grappling.
Here's a look at the full results from the night and a closer examination of each of the main card bouts:
UFC 216 Quick Results
UFC 216 Main Card
- Tony Ferguson def. Kevin Lee, submission (Round 3, 4:02)
- Demetrious Johnson def. Ray Borg, submission (Round 5, 3:15)
- Fabricio Werdum def. Walt Harris, submission (Round 1, 1:05)
- Mara Romero Borella def. Kalindra Faria, submission (Round 1, 2:58)
- Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham, majority draw (28-28, 28-28, 29-28)
Prelims on FX
- Cody Stamann def. Tom Duquesnoy, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
- Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Green, split draw (29-27, 27-29, 28-28)
- Poliana Botelho def. Pearl Gonzalez, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Matt Schnell def. Marco Beltran, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
Prelims on UFC Fight Pass
- John Moraga def. Magomed Bibulatov, knockout (Round 1, 1:38)
- Brad Tavares def. Thales Leites, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
Eleven times a contender thought they could take away Demetrious Johnson's flyweight title. Eleven have failed to do so.
One month after Ray Borg was forced to withdraw from a matchup with Mighty Mouse at UFC 215, the flyweight legend put on a clinic against the young contender in the evening's co-main event.
After dominating the fight for four rounds through his fight IQ, wrestling and smothering top game, Johnson decided to do something memorable for his historic 11th title defense. While throwing Borg, the champion latched on an armbar, winding up on the mat, where he finished the fight.
Andreas Hale of Yahoo Sports gave props to Mighty Mouse for the incredible finish:
The bout itself was just another example of why Johnson is ranked as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the organization. Johnson toyed with an opponent who is ranked No. 3 in the division before picking his time to finish the fight.
Even when it appeared Borg would have his moments, Johnson erased it by scrambling back to his feet.
With another opponent dominated, a new record for title defenses in the UFC and an iconic armbar finish in tow, Johnson showcased why he might be the most underappreciated champion:
Walt Harris vs. Fabricio Werdum
If you step in to fight Fabricio Werdum on five hours' notice, you're going to have a bad time.
That's the lesson Walt Harris learned the hard way. With Derrick Lewis out with a back injury, Harris filled in and took on Vai Cavalo rather than Mark Godbeer, per Simon Samano and John Morgan of MMAjunkie.
As it turns out, it's hard to take on someone with the submission skills of Werdum without preparing for him. In the course of just one minute and five seconds, the former heavyweight champion worked the fight to the mat and secured an armbar.
Chamatkar Sandhu of MMAjunkie broke down the quick payday for Werdum:
After the bout, Werdum used the spotlight to campaign for a shot at the heavyweight title he lost to Stipe Miocic:
A win over Harris is nice, but it doesn't do much for Werdum's chances of getting another crack at the heavyweight championship. The victory comes on the heels of a controversial decision loss to Alistair Overeem.
He'll need more than just a win over someone with a few hours to prepare for the fight if he wants to prove he's ready to take on Miocic again.
Mara Romero Borella vs. Kalindra Faria
The UFC's women's flyweight division is still in its infancy, but Mara Romero Borella set herself apart as a name to watch as its title scene takes shape. The Italian made a successful UFC debut in the organization's newest weight class and submitted Titan FC bantamweight champion Kalindra Faria.
Faria's position as a champion in Titan FC and experience as a bantamweight made her the slight favorite in this bout, but Borella's smooth grappling meant she had something to say about that.
The 31-year-old, who came into the bout on short notice, wasted no time in getting to work, secured a takedown and worked to take Faria's back. It didn't take her long to get the position she was fighting for and worked to sink in the choke from there.
The new division hasn't crowned a champion yet, but it would appear Borella is a name to watch. As UFC Europe notes, she's the first Italian woman to fight in the UFC, and she clearly has the skills to compete in this weight class:
The new class will crown its first champion December 1 with the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter 26. It would be surprising not to see Borella in the mix with whoever comes out of the TV show's tournament as Faria was a game opponent Borella walked right through.
Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham
Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham kicked off the main card with a bang as the two lightweights battled to a draw.
Dariush took the early lead with a dominant first round. The 28-year-old showcased his dynamic striking with elbows that nearly ended the bout:
It would turn out that he needed the 10-8 round just to save face as Dunham came back strong in the last two rounds. The durable veteran took the damage from the first frame and turned the tables on Dariush. The second round was close, but he took the third as Dariush was gassed.
This was an important bout for both fighters, who are just outside the top 10 in the lightweight division. Dariush was attempting to recover from a knockout loss to Edson Barboza, while Dunham brought a four-fight win streak into this fight.
Both fighters showed their ability to put on an exciting display, but what it will do to their stock is yet to be seen. Fans shouldn't have an issue if the two would like to run the encounter back to find a real winner, though.