At UFC 216, the lightweight division will finally have an active title picture for the first time in the Conor McGregor era. Either Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee will become the interim title holder in the division that hasn’t seen a championship fight since The Notorious won the title in November 2016.
With McGregor temporarily going to the world of boxing for his spectacle against Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the 155-pound division has been put on a hiatus.
Ferguson and Lee will close out the night at the T-Mobile Arena, and the winner will be first in line to welcome the Irishman back to the Octagon.
It’s not just a one-fight card, though. The lightweight interim title fight will be preceded by Demetrious Johnson’s historic 11th title defense against Ray Borg in the flyweight division. Former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum is also on the card taking on knockout artist Derrick Lewis for a well-rounded trilogy of fun fights.
Here’s a look at the complete card with the latest odds from OddsShark.
Main Card (PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- Tony Ferguson (-200) vs. Kevin Lee (+170)
Demetrious Johnson (-1200) vs. Ray Borg (+750)
- Fabricio Werdum (-250) vs. Derrick Lewis (+210)
Kalindra Faria (-185) vs. Mara Romero Borella (+165)
Beneil Dariush (-230) vs. Evan Dunham (+190)
Prelims (FXX at 8 p.m. ET)
- Tom Duquesnoy (-165) vs. Cody Stamann (-145)
- Will Brooks (-340) vs. Nik Lentz (+280)
Lando Vannata (-220) vs. Bobby Green (+185)
Poliana Botelho (-130) vs. Pearl Gonzalez (+110)
Prelims (UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET)
- Walt Harris (-300) vs. Mark Godbeer (+250)
Magomed Bibulatov (-550) vs. John Moraga (+425)
- Brad Tavares (-185) vs. Thales Leites (+165)
- Matt Schnell (-125) vs. Marco Beltran (+105)
Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
If there’s an underdog to like on this card it’s Lewis.
Werdum is a former heavyweight champion with one of the best resumes in the sport, but he’s 40. Coming off of a loss in two of his last three fights, he isn’t the Vai Cavalo that has defeated Mark Hunt, Cain Velasquez, Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem.
Werdum’s last loss—majority decision loss to Overeem—might have been controversial, but it wasn’t really a win for either of them. Both looked slower than usual as the 37-year-old Overeem did just enough in the judges’ eyes to get the nod.
Now, the slower, older version of Werdum will take on a man who has been a finishing machine since 2013.
As Michael Carroll of FightMetric noted, few have more finishes than Lewis in recent UFC history:
That’s bad news for Werdum and a risky pick as a relatively big favorite. According to FightMetric, Vai Cavalo absorbs 2.19 significant strikes per minute. That’s not terrible, but it isn’t an elite defensive heavyweight either.
Lewis doesn’t need many opportunities to land a big strike to turn out the lights on Werdum. This fight feels much more like a coin flip than the odds indicate.
Prediction: Lewis via second-round TKO
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
Johnson rules the flyweight division with a fast iron fist. This matchup will offer a prime example of it.
Borg is a lightning-fast fighter in his own right. He’s younger, he’s an inch taller and he just defeated a top contender in Jussier Formiga. Still, he’s a plus-750 underdog heading into the night’s co-main event.
That’s a testament to just how good Johnson is. Mighy Mouse’s combination of speed, technique and Fight IQ make him nearly unbeatable at 125 pounds.
He has taken on the best there is in his weight class, and now the UFC is left to throw whoever has the smallest amount of momentum to try to take away his belt. Even if Borg is a physically gifted fighter, Johnson’s mastery of all things MMA sets him apart.
Former opponent Ian McCall broke down just what makes him so difficult to beat.
“It’s the way he puts everything together. He’s not flawless—no one is flawless—but he’s as close as flawless as possible,” Uncle Creepy said, per Greg Rosenstein of ESPN. “It’s how seamless he makes his technique. That’s the big thing, that’s what people don’t get.”
Borg may have his moments. He might even be a championship-caliber fighter at some point in his career. But that point isn’t now when he’s just 24 years old.
Expect Johnson to put on a clinic en route to his record-setting 11th consecutive title defense.
Prediction: Johnson via fourth-round TKO
Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
This isn’t the lightweight title fight that anyone asked for, but it’s the one we need right now.
The rivalry between Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov has yet to yield an actual fight in the Octagon despite being scheduled on three separate occasions. Instead, a blossoming rivalry between Ferguson and the red-hot Lee will have to suffice.
It isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Ferguson is on a nine-fight win streak that extends all the way back to 2013, while the 25-year-old Lee is looking to add to a five-fight win streak that he started with a decision win over Efrain Escudero in April 2016.
Lee’s skills are real. Although his resume isn’t littered with big names, he’s backed up his trash talk with finishes in four of his five wins. The question is whether he’s ready to step up to someone as skilled as Ferguson at this point in his career.
If he is to prove that he’s ready, dictating where the fight takes place will be huge. As Paul Gift of Bloody Elbow noted, the two like to spend their rounds in much different positions:
“The two fighters certainly take a different approach to positioning with Ferguson spending 3:38 seconds of every round at distance, 18 seconds in the clinch, and 1:04 on the ground, and Lee doing 2:10 on the ground, roughly two minutes at distance, and one minute in the clinch.”
In a nutshell, Lee does his best work when he’s working from top position, and the clinch is a way for him to ultimately get to that position. However, Ferguson is going to work to keep the fight standing and at a distance.
El Cucuy has some of the best overall striking in the division and a gas tank that never hits “E.” If Lee can wrestle him to the ground, he isn’t the best defensive grappler. Taking Ferguson down is a very real possibility, too. Edson Barbosa did it twice, and he’s as far removed from being a wrestler as a mixed martial artist can be.
Lee will get Ferguson into some compromising situations and even win some rounds, but ultimately Ferguson’s better experience will win out as he sets up a potential fight with either his rival in Nurmagomedov or a championship showdown with Conor McGregor.
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