UFC 209 is here, and the buzz surrounding the event took a massive hit yesterday, when the hotly anticipated Interim Lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson got cancelled.
Still, it’s a card that’s chock full of fun prelim bouts, and most of the main card bouts should deliver. Granted, the new alignment for the main card is aggravating and insulting, but it should still be a fun main card. Here are my predictions for the five main card bouts on deck for tonight.
UFC 209 Main Card (10/9c, PPV)
Alistair Overeem (41-15, 1NC) vs. Mark Hunt (12-10-1, 1NC)
Opening the main card is a dream match of sorts, between MMA and kickboxing legends Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem. A pair of former K-1 superstars, it’s shocking that the two never met in MMA until tonight. That’s why it’s even more shocking that even when the card needed a worthy co-main due to yesterday’s events, this bout still isn’t the co-main event of the evening, or even the middle bout. Instead, it’s the main card opener, which implies the main card is stacked and loaded, when it really isn’t.
Both men are past their primes, with Hunt being 42 and being 3-3-1 with a no contest since his four-fight winning streak. Overeem is 5-4 in his last nine, but had won four straight to earn a title shot against Stipe Miocic last September, going from winning in the first round to losing with 33 seconds left in the same round. This is his first fight since, and he’s been knocked out 10 times now. That’s why I’ll pick Hunt, although a grinding submission win for Overeem should shock no one. Heart pick: Hunt via ko, round 2.
Cynthia Calvillo (3-0) vs. Amanda Cooper (2-2)
It’s not often that a clear-cut Fight Pass bout winds up on PPV. Then again, most PPVs aren’t as terribly mishandled as this one has been over the past day. Both women are young, green and have potential. Cooper is a boxer, while Calvillo is a teammate of Paige Vanzant that likes to take folks down and win via ground n’ pound. I spoke about this bout ad nauseum in an earlier article, so I won’t expand on it much more than that. I’ll pick Calvillo, and hopefully neither woman looks too green in this one. Prediction: Calvillo via tko, round 2.
Rashad Evans (19-5-1) vs. Dan Kelly (11-1)
Up next is Rashad Evans Middleweight debut, against former Judo Olympian, 4th dan Judo black belt and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Dan Kelly. Evans has a pair of black belts as well, with one in Gaidojutsu and one in no gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. That said, he also hasn’t had more than one fight in a year since 2013, and barely got clearance for this card, after not getting clearance in New York for UFC 205. He’s 37, has lost four of his last six, and is making his Middleweight debut against a dangerous foe.
Kelly, as mentioned above, is an elite Judo specialist, with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well. He may be 39-years-old, but he’s finished eight of his 11 wins, is 5-1 in the UFC with his lone loss coming in a quick knockout against Sam Alvey, and is looking to make a statement. He’s also the fresher fighter. I think Evans will do his best to take Kelly down and grind him, despite Kelly’s expert ground skills. Evans will be the bigger fighter, but he may still lose. This is a clear head vs. heart situation. Head pick: Kelly via decision or late submission. Heart pick: Evans via decision.
Lando Vannata (9-1) vs. David Teymur (5-1)
What does it say about a PPV when the co-main event is a clear-cut prospect battle that would be best served as either a main card opener, or a televised bout? I get that the initial co-main, which was the “people’s main event,” got cancelled just one day before the card. Still. the co-main now should be Overeem vs. Hunt, which is clearly the way to go, barring pettiness by the UFC. Alas, I digress.
At the very least, this should be a fun fight. Vannata has only gone the distance once, and his only loss came on short notice against Tony Ferguson last July, in a fight where he almost won in the first round. Teymur has knocked out four of his opponents, so this is a clear-cut bout between finishers. I’ll pick Vannata to win via knockout, but a teymur win, especially via knockout, shouldn’t shock anyone. Prediction: Vannata via ko, round 2.
UFC Welterweight Championship: (c) Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) vs. (1) Stephen Thompson (13-3-1)
In the main event of the evening, the co-main event of UFC 205 will be rematched, as Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson will duke it out for the belt once again. Last time, Woodley dominated at times, but the end result was a split draw. He’s got great power and wrestling, and will probably try to take it to the ground even more tonight. Thompson is a kickboxer with a lot of flashy knockout ability, and will try to keep it standing. I’ll be honest, I don’t want Woodley to retain. His constant whining is tiresome, and his initial title shot still bothers me. I’m rooting for Wonderboy to destroy him, even though my head and gut both believe Woodley will retain and possibly finish the fight.
Head/gut pick: Woodley via late tko. Heart pick: Thompson via ko, round 2.