After the devastating events in Las Vegas one week ago, UFC 216 will soldier on in the UFC’s home state and hopefully provide an event which can go in some small way to entertain and take the minds of those affected away from the recent tragedy.
Headlining UFC 216 is an interim lightweight championship fight with what should be a future Conor McGregor bout at stake for either longtime number one contender Tony Ferguson or rising star Kevin Lee.
In the co-main event berth, Demetrious Johnson will belatedly get his chance at breaking Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defences when he takes on Ray Borg. Elsewhere in the supporting spots, a top-ranked heavyweight clash between former champion Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis will promise fireworks while Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham will battle it out in the hope to crack into the top 10 in the lightweight division.
The preliminary card for UFC 216 also holds some quality match-ups with Tom Duquesnoy vs Cody Stamann and Lando Vannata vs Bobby Green as the two most prominent early bouts.
Tony Ferguson (22-3) vs Kevin Lee (16-2)
The logic in this fight would dictate that Tony Ferguson will come out the victor here. Ferguson’s unconventional striking, ability in the scramble and unforgiving submission grappling is a proven commodity at the elite heights of the lightweight division while Kevin Lee simply hasn’t faced the same level of competition.
Fortunately for Kevin Lee, however, MMA is a fickle beast.
With Lee possessing a dangerous grappling pedigree of his own and constantly showing signs of improvement with each outing, ‘The Motown Phenom’ will certainly be a live dog in this fight. For Lee to emerge victorious he will have to be the best Kevin Lee that we’ve seen and make his counters pay against Ferguson’s non-stop movement.
Ultimately I predict Lee to find moments in the fight where he can land some decent punches and maybe even hold a positional advantage on the mat but with Lee’s troubled weight cut and Ferguson’s overwhelming pressure, you have to side with Ferguson to continue his own remarkable run and probably find a way to bring a premature end to the bout.
Pick: Tony Ferguson
Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) vs Ray Borg (11-2)
Demetrious Johnson is in my opinion, the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
He has electric speed, he’s a fierce grappler and has all of the tools on the feet and in the clinch. Add in his impeccable and symbiotic relationship with his corner and I simply don’t see him ever losing at flyweight.
Borg is a talented fighter in his own right with his grappling being his greatest strength but for Borg to win would be a Matt Serra level upset.
With Borg’s historic troubled weight cuts thrown into the mix, I think Johnson pulls out the stoppage win from as early as the second round either on the feet or via submission.
Pick: Demetrious Johnson
Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1) vs Derrick Lewis (18-5, 1 NC)
It’s the heavyweight division which means there will be a certain amount of lottery attached to their knockout power but technically Werdum is superior in every aspect.
Werdum has more tools to choose from on the feet, is better than pretty much every heavyweight on the mat and has the ability to dictate where the fight goes.
For Lewis to win he’ll have to hope for Werdum to run hands down, chin up as he did against Stipe Miocic or catch the Brazilian with one of his unexpected head kicks that he can throw.
It’s very much a head vs heart pick when you delve into Werdum’s political affiliations but Fabricio Werdum should be winning this fight.
Pick: Fabricio Werdum
Mara Romero Borella (11-4, 1 NC) vs Kalindra Faria (18-5-1)
Borella comes into this fight on short-notice after Andrea ‘KGB’ Lee wasn’t forsaken the waiver of USADA testing and it’s simply bizarre that this fight is on the main card.
With Borella lacking a full camp and Faria having faced greater competition throughout her career, I expect Faria to get the win here and no one to care.
Pick: Kalindra Faria
Beneil Dariush (14-3) vs Evan Dunham (18-6)
Evan Dunham will look to continue his under the radar ascent in the lightweight division here but Dariush is just seemingly the better fighter.
Dunham unquestionably has the wily veteran tag and will employ those sneaky techniques that experience affords but Dariush is improving all the time.
Dariush was on the end of a devastating knockout in his last bout but he was giving Edson Barboza all sorts of problems prior to the finishing knee. With his boxing sharpening and his grappling as high-level as it is, I can see Dariush finding the counters to Dunham’s higher output.
Pick: Beneil Dariush
(Last Predictions: 4/5, Total: 78/124, 63% Success Rate)
(2016: 61% Success Rate)