While it might not do blockbuster business, next weekend’s UFC 209 is a massive card for hardcore MMA fans. Headlined by a set of quite intriguing title fights, the card also features lots of fan favorites, and several of the more highly regarded prospects on the roster right now. The most important event is going to be the welterweight title rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson. Their battle on the huge UFC 205 card turned out to be a much better competition than most anticipated, ending in a majority draw. Woodley had the far more demonstrative moments in the struggle throughout the first and fourth rounds. But, Thompson was able to back him against the cage for long stretches of the rounds, and although he didn’t accomplish much once there he took those rounds. The fifth saw Thompson open on a tired Woodley and end the fight on a solid note, but it was just enough to get him back level on two scorecards. Just 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 the fighters in the division who’ve taken the long road to their name shots. Nurmagomedov is currently 8-0 inside the Octagon and 24-0 overall in his career. He has been exploited for big things considering entering the UFC, and after overcoming a rash of severe injuries, finally seems consistently fit and is favored to win the belt on March 4th. Ferguson has witnessed 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 consecutive wins. He dropped a decision to Michael Johnson in 2012 that just stopped his sanity for an instant. Ever since that time, he’s reeled off nine consecutive wins against the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, and Josh Thomson, always putting on must-see struggles. The combo of Nurmagomedov’s dominance and Ferguson’s high-paced, all-action approach makes their imaginations of the best bookings at the UFC in a while, and almost makes you forget that there’s a guy out there holding the UFC lightweight title who seems to have no desire to defend it. The principal card of UFC 209 also features a heavyweight rematch between Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt. The two fought in DREAM back in 2008 under a variety of circumstances. Overeem was only beginning his transformation to Ubereem, while Hunt’s commitment to the game was about in line with Mario Yamasaki’s want to stop fights on time. Both guys are a lot of fighters in this point, as Overeem has embraced a much more conservative fashion and Hunt has rounded out his game significantly. In their first battle, Overeem quickly took Hunt down and filed him, but we have not seen too much of his offensive fighting game lately. Will this fight mark its recurrence, or will the K-1 Grand Prix winners participate on the toes? Rounding out the main card, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans makes his long-awaited middleweight debut against the always sudden Dan Kelly. The currently 37-year-old Evans is 2-4 in his last six, and has not won a fight since 2013. Kelly, despite turning 40 after this year, has impressed in his UFC conduct — despite the amount of competition was a far cry from what Evans would have offered in his prime — heading 5-1 despite being that the gambling underdog in every one of his UFC outings. Finally, one of the rising stars at lightweight gets another opportunity to flaunt his striking, but from a technical perspective this might be his stiffest test yet on the toes. Lando Vannata stormed into the UFC, nearly upsetting Tony Ferguson on brief note in his debut, then scoring the favorite 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 on his UFC resume after breaking into the business 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 create their returns. Both are paired together in a light heavyweight division which desperately requires fighters to rise up the ranks. Meanwhile, Bektic and Sanders face their stiffest professional evaluations from Darren Elkins and Iuri Alcantara, respectively.
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