While it might not do blockbuster business, next weekend’s UFC 209 is a massive card for hardcore MMA fans. Headlined by a pair of quite intriguing title fights, the card also features plenty of fan favorites, and several of the more highly regarded prospects on the roster right now. The main event is going to be the welterweight title rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson. Their battle on the massive UFC 205 card proven to be a far better contest than many anticipated, ending in a vast majority draw. Woodley had the far more demonstrative moments in the struggle throughout the first and fourth rounds. However, Thompson was able to back him against the cage for long stretches of the rounds, and even though he didn’t achieve much once there he took these rounds. The fifth saw Thompson open up on a weary Woodley and end the fight on a solid note, but it had been only enough to get him back level on two scorecards. As Woodley and Thompson did at UFC 205, the co-main event could steal the show as well. The interim lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson features just two of those fighters in the branch who’ve taken the long road to their title shots. Nurmagomedov is now 8-0 within the Octagon and 24-0 overall in his career. He has been tapped for big things considering entering the UFC, and after overcoming a rash of serious injuries, finally seems consistently fit and is favored to win the belt on March 4th. Ferguson has seen his own lumps in the road on the road to this shot. After winning the 13th season of’The Ultimate Fighter’ back in 2011, he scored three successive wins. He fell a decision to Michael Johnson in 2012 that only stopped his sanity for an instant. Since then, he has reeled off nine consecutive wins against the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, and Josh Thomson, consistently putting on must-see fights. The combo of both Nurmagomedov’s dominance and Ferguson’s high-paced, all-action strategy creates their bout of the best bookings in the UFC in a while, and almost makes you forget that there’s a man out there holding the UFC lightweight name who seems to possess no desire to defend it. The main card of UFC 209 also features a heavyweight rematch between Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt. The two fought in DREAM back in 2008 under far different conditions. Overeem was just beginning his transformation to Ubereem, while Hunt’s commitment to the game was about in line with Mario Yamasaki’s desire to stop fights punctually. Both guys are a lot of fighters in this point, as Overeem has embraced a far more conservative fashion and Hunt has rounded out his game considerably. In their first fight, Overeem quickly took Hunt down and submitted him, but we have not seen a lot of his offensive grappling game recently. Will this battle mark its recurrence, or will the K-1 Grand Prix winners participate on the feet? Rounding out the most important card, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans makes his long-awaited middleweight debut against the constantly surprising Dan Kelly. The currently 37-year-old Evans is 2-4 in his past six, and hasn’t won a fight since 2013. Kelly, despite turning 40 after this season, has impressed in his UFC conduct — despite the level of competition has been a far cry from what Evans would have offered in his prime — going 5-1 despite being the gambling underdog in every one of his UFC outings. Finally, among the rising stars at lightweight gets another opportunity to flaunt his striking, although from a technical standpoint this might be his stiffest test yet on the toes. Lando Vannata stormed into the UFC, nearly upsetting Tony Ferguson on short note in his debut, and then scoring the popular pick for 2016’s knockout of this year against John Makdessi. He will be facing an underrated opponent in David Teymur, who has a pair of TKO wins his UFC resume after breaking into the organization through TUF. The undercard also includes some fights to keep your eyes on, as undefeated prospects Mirsad Bektic, Luke Sanders, Paul’The Bear Jew’ Craig, and Tyson Pedro make their returns. Both are paired together in a light heavyweight division which desperately requires fighters to grow up the rankings. Meanwhile, Bektic and Sanders face their stiffest professional evaluations from Darren Elkins and Iuri Alcantara, respectively.
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