It is officially UFC 209 fight week, and there are two titles on the line Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. The rematch of the epic Welterweight title fight that ended in a draw between champion Tyron Woodley and challenger Stephen Thompson will be headlining the event to finally determine the best 170-pound fighter in the UFC. The second title fight is in the lightweight division and is for the interim lightweight belt (while the champ McGregor takes time off) between undefeated top-ranked lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov and the long awaited top contender ‘El Cucuy’ Tony Ferguson. Two amazing fights headlining a truly great fight card with a star studded line up.
The night is starting off with an actual bang, as two of the most legendary heavyweights will face off in the octagon and are sure to throw bombs. Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt is a fight that has everything: fan favorites, legends, heavyweights, power punchers, and guys with cool accents. It is Hunt’s first fight since his controversial bout with Brock Lesnar after the UFC let the steroid filled Lesnar pound on Hunt. This is the first fight for Alistair since losing his title fight to Stipe. It is going to be a big fight for the two to see who is going to have one more run in them, and who is on their way out.
The second fight of the night features an upcoming star out of the Jackson camp, Lando “Groovy” Vannata. He has had two fights in the UFC, and even though he lost one, he has had two of the most impressive first fights in UFC history. His first fight he stepped in on short notice to fight Tony Ferguson and almost knocked him out in the first round! He gave everyone a crazy fight against the top-ranked guy in the division, and even after being finished in the second round, people saw that he just brought Ferguson to the brink. In his next fight, he hits John Makdessi with a spinning back heel kick and knocks him out cold, giving the UFC a highlight for years.
Vannata is a fighter to keep an eye on at the age of 24. This kid could really become a top UFC fighter in the near future. I became a fan of his before ever watching him fight. Just watching him get introduced and make his walk to the octagon was all I needed to see. First off, his name is Lando, which I do not have to explain, because if you are a Star Wars fan you understand, and if you are not then you’re a joke, and I don’t want you to understand. Then to have a nickname like ‘Groovy’ and have us watch him dance his way to the octagon, he became one of my favorite fighters before he ever fought.
Next up UFC legend, Rashad Evans finally makes his way back to the octagon after being medically scratched from his last two fights due to a heart problem. He has been fighting like hell to get back in there, and he will Saturday night against Daniel Kelly who has composed a 5-1 record in his early UFC career. It is the biggest fight of Kelly’s career and a big comeback fight for Evans to show the world he still has it like he says he does.
The co-main event, in my eyes, is the fight of the night. Khabib Nurmagomedov has been one of the biggest forces the UFC has ever seen, destroying everyone he has faced without having a close fight. Everyone has been waiting for him to fight a top guy to really have him prove his worth. Well, Ferguson is that top guy, and this is a real fight between two true top-level fighters. A lot of people complain about how much the UFC puts up interim belts while there is already a champion in the weight class, and I usually always agree, but I like that they made this fight for the interim belt for one reason: this fight needs to be five rounds. If it was just a regular co-main event it would only be a three-round fight. A fight this good, with this much on the line, with two top-level guys, you need to give them five rounds to find a winner. Khabib needs to control the grappling and put Ferguson on his back and pound him. Ferguson needs to keep the fight standing and stay on the outside and light Khabib up with his barrages of punches and kicks. This is my pick for the fight of the night knowing it could last only one round with either of these two guys, but whatever happens in this fight, it will be exciting.
The main event is a great welterweight title fight. A rematch from November when the champ Tyron Woodley and the contender Stephen “Wonder Boy” Thompson went to war for five rounds. It was a back-and-forth fight, and when it finished everyone was looking to their left and right asking people who they thought won. It was too close to really know, and when the decision came in as a draw it seemed people agreed. This fight is interesting, because it is hard to predict what each fighter will do now since both will come in looking to tweak certain things that they saw in the first fight. It should be a more polished performance by each fighter, but I am looking for them to deliver another exciting fight. Woodley should look to land that huge overhand again, but this time put “Wonder Boy” out with it and end the fight. “Wonder Boy” should look to keep distance and use his precision striking with kicks and punches.