UFC 216 preview
After a week off, the next event from the Ultimate Fighting Championship comes from the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada. This may be the quieter part of the UFC season, but there are nevertheless a couple of highly notable duels on the fight card.
Tony Ferguson v Kevin Lee
The evening’s main event is not exactly one of the more low key that you will see in the UFC. Ferguson comes into this one despite being in the midst of a heated rivalry with Khabib Nurmagovedov, yet the Russian has been unable to step into the octagon over recent months.
Ferguson had been scheduled to take on Nurmagovedov on three different occasions, yet each fight fell through for varying reasons. Now, Lee has stepped up to take on his compatriot.
Both of these fighters are aggressive and immensely talented, and this should make for an intriguing contest. And, to add a little more heat to the mix, both athletes have been in excellent recent form.
Ferguson has won his last nine contests, an astonishing achievement in an organisation as intense as the UFC. Lee, by way of comparison, arrives for this encounter on the back of a five-fight winning streak of his own, and confidence is unlikely to be lacking this coming Saturday night (6 October).
Given Lee’s recent success, he should be a more than able replacement for Nurmagovedov, who failed to make weight for his most recent scheduled contest with Ferguson. Lee enjoys the theatrical side prior to a fight, and ramped up the antics prior to his last victory, over Michael Chiesa.
That success in turn gave him the confidence to call out Ferguson, and the two will now go at it for the interim lightweight title. Ferguson, however, looks to be in even better form, and it is a tough task trying to highlight any weaknesses to his game.
His stamina is second to none, and his striking and grappling are both clean and accurate. Ferguson is about as dangerous an opponent as you could wish to face, and you get the impression that Lee may have bitten off more than he can chew this time around.
Lee, meanwhile, is strong in the wrestling and jiu-jitsu disciplines, and will look to try to take this fight down to the mat. The only trouble is Ferguson is also adept at this style of fighting.
Both men can boast eight submission wins in their UFC careers, and trying to call a winner in this one is by no means an easy task. If this contest does indeed go down to the mat, then fans will be in for a spectacle as two submission specialists grapple it out.
This should be a memorable one between two incredible contestants. However, given his extended run of victories and lack of weaknesses in his game, Ferguson should just about edge this one, via submission.
Odds: Tony Ferguson (1.45), Kevin Lee (2.80)
Demetrious Johnson v Ray Borg
The flyweight bout between Johnson and Borg will also be worth keeping an eye on. These two were scheduled to meet at UFC 215, but Ray Borg was forced to pull out with illness just a few days beforehand.
Johnson goes into this one looking to break the record for most UFC title defences, and there is a solid case for describing him as the greatest fighter of all time. He won the flyweight title back in 2012, and since then 10 challengers have come and gone without managing to remove the title belt from around his waist.
That is a record Johnson currently shares with Brazilian legend Anderson Silva. On Saturday, the champion has a chance to make it all his own, and there are not likely to be many backing against him.
Borg, though, will be confident he can stop the streak. He has battled his way to the top of the contender pile, following impressive decision victories over Louis Smolka and Jussier Formiga, where his wrestling skills helped get him over the line – if he is to find a way to snatch victory on Saturday night, a similar tactic would surely be his best method of doing so.
But whether he will be able to get a stranglehold on this contest is another matter entirely. Johnson is a huge fan of dictating the tempo from the off, and if he comes shooting out of the blocks then Borg could become overwhelmed very quickly indeed.
In addition, Johnson has the motivation and incentive of that 11th championship defence in his sights. Borg has it within him to take the title, but on this particular night is unlikely to happen – back Johnson to take the match and the UFC’s belt defence streak.
Odds: Demetrious Johnson (1.083), Ray Borg (8.00)