At first, UFC 216 (October 7th, Las Vegas) wasn’t shaping up to be a very interesting card. Besides a great tilt between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight title, it lacked any real excitement. But with the addition of Demetrious Johnson defending his flyweight title against Ray Borg, all of a sudden business picked up.
Tony Ferguson was slated to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209, unfortunately, the undefeated Nurmagomedov had to withdraw after becoming ill during his weight-cut. So instead, Ferguson and Lee will fight for the “prestigious” interim lightweight title at UFC 216. Usually, whoever holds the interim title is, effectively, the number one contender and gets an opportunity at the real champ, which in this case is the missing-in-action Conor McGregor.
One problem, McGregor is looking for a fight that will draw big pay-per-view numbers in order to max out his purse. Neither Lee nor Ferguson are the PPV draws the lightweight champ wants at this time.
That doesn’t mean Ferguson/Lee isn’t a great fight. In fact, quite the opposite. Both these guys have lengthy winning streaks and are the biggest reason to keep your eyes on the division, even if the current champ is holding things up.
The Johnson/Borg fight was moved to UFC 216 because Borg fell ill prior to UFC 215. Now fans finally get to see Johnson try to make UFC history by defending his title for a record 11th consecutive time.
Also on the card is a heavyweight showdown between Fabricio Werdum and KO-machine Derrick Lewis. The 40-year-old Werdum is looking to get back into the title picture, having been plagued by inconsistency of late. Add a solid scrap between Paige VanZant and Jessica Eye in the women’s flyweight division, and this card could actually be full of some great fist-a-cuff entertainment.
Let’s take a closer look at the main and co-main event of the evening and give our full preview and predictions. Head over to our sportsbook reviews before making your bets. They’ll help you find the best site for your wagering needs, along with the best sign-up bonuses.
UFC 216 ODDS AND PREDICTIONS
Tony Ferguson (-182) vs. Kevin Lee (+130) (Interim Lightweight Championship)
When Kevin Lee (16-2) “choked out” Michael Chiesa (currently being disputed by Chiesa) back in June, who knew he would be elevated to a title shot? It’s a great opportunity for Lee, who could be a star in the making.
On the other side of the Octagon is Tony Ferguson (22-3), whose fighting style is as beautiful as his sunglasses are ugly. He is coming into this bout on an impressive nine-fight win streak with six of those wins being by way of stoppage. That alone should have gotten the man a chance at the lightweight title, but here he sits in purgatory, despite being unbeaten since 2012 and earning “Fight of the Night” honors in each of his last five bouts.
Ferguson is well balanced. No matter where the fight goes, he has the skills to pay the bills. In the stand-up game, he’s mostly a volume puncher with equal power in both hands; on the ground, he can wrap you up and twist you into a pretzel with some slick submissions; he has managed to submit eight opponents despite low takedown numbers.
Kevin Lee is also no slouch on the ground as 50% of his wins have been via submission. The difference between Lee and Ferguson is that Lee averages 3.48 takedowns per match with a 42% success rate on takedown attempts. He likes to dictate where the fight goes and has executed nine takedowns in his last three fights. Once Lee gets his opponent to the canvas, it’s hard to get out of his top control.
While the betting lines currently favor Ferguson, this is really a pick’em fight. Both men are well balanced but Lee brings a ton of upper body strength and clearly holds the advantage in takedowns. Ferguson will use his unorthodox striking to try and win the fight standing up. In a coin flip, the ground game of Lee offers better value at +130
Winner: Kevin Lee (+130)
Demetrious Johnson (c) (-667) vs. Ray Borg (+445) (Flyweight Championship)
We already broke this fight down in our UFC 215 preview, but I will quickly regurgitate the finer points.
“Mighty Mouse” Johnson (26-2-1) is one of the best fighters on the planet and will go down in history as one of the greatest ever. Enjoy watching this legend now instead of appreciating his accomplishments after the fact. Even if he doesn’t finish all his fights with highlight-reel knockouts, you’re always asking yourself: can anyone even challenge him? And that is what makes his fights must-see-TV
Ray Borg (11-2-0) thinks he is the man for the job even if the current odds don’t agree. The Albuquerque native is coming off a big win over Jussier da Silva at UFC Fight Night 106 and has won five of his last six. He has an impressive 11-2 record with 55% of his wins coming via submission. He was essentially hand-picked by the champ to be his next opponent, which says something about the 24-year-old’s skill set.
But unless Borg calls upon the collective (forgive terrible Star Trek reference), it doesn’t matter how many submissions he has in his arsenal. When you sign up to fight the champ, you better bring an all-around game because Johnson can beat you anywhere at anytime. Borg might have solid grappling, but his standup is average and that is where DJ will ultimately pick him apart.
This is a pretty easy fight to call. DJ is just too fast, too technical, and too crafty to lose to a one-dimensional fighter like Borg. Johnson has a legacy he wants to continue to build and a win at UFC 216 will give him his 11th consecutive title defense, a UFC record.
At some point, “Mighty Mouse” will need to step up to bigger challenges. If he beats Borg on October 7th, super-fights in new weight classes should be something the champ entertains going forward.
Pick: Demetrious Johnson (-667)