While it may not do blockbuster business, next weekend’s UFC 209 is a massive card for hardcore MMA fans. Headlined by a pair of very intriguing title conflicts, the card also features lots of fan favorites, and several of the highly regarded prospects on the roster at the moment. The most important event will be the welterweight title rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson. Their struggle on the huge UFC 205 card turned out to be a much better competition than many anticipated, end in a vast majority draw. Woodley had the far more demonstrative moments in the fight during the first and fourth rounds. But, Thompson managed to back him against the cage for long stretches of the middle rounds, and even though he didn’t achieve much once there that he took these rounds. The fifth saw Thompson open on a weary Woodley and finish the struggle on a strong note, but it was just enough to get him back flat on two scorecards. Just as Woodley and Thompson did at UFC 205, the co-main occasion could steal the show here as well. The interim lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson comprises two of those fighters in the division who have taken the long road to their name shots. Nurmagomedov is currently 8-0 within the Octagon and 24-0 overall in his career. He’s been exploited for large things considering entering the UFC, and after overcoming a rash of severe injuries, eventually seems always fit and is favored to win the buckle on March 4th. Ferguson has seen his own bumps in the road on the way to this particular shot. After winning the 13th season of’The Ultimate Fighter’ back in 2011, he also scored three consecutive wins. He dropped a choice to Michael Johnson in 2012 that just stopped his sanity for a moment. Since then, he’s reeled off nine consecutive wins against the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, and Josh Thomson, always putting on must-see fights. The combo of Nurmagomedov’s dominance and Ferguson’s high-paced, all-action approach creates their imaginations of the best bookings at the UFC in some time, and almost makes you forget that there is a guy out there holding the UFC lightweight title who appears to possess 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 DREAM back in 2008 under a variety of conditions. Overeem was only beginning his transformation to Ubereem, while Hunt’s commitment to the game was about based on Mario Yamasaki’s desire to stop fights on time. Both guys are much different fighters at this point, as Overeem has adopted a far more conservative style and Hunt has rounded out his game considerably. In their first battle, Overeem quickly took Hunt down and submitted him, but we haven’t seen a lot of his offensive fighting game lately. Will this fight mark its recurrence, or will the K-1 Grand Prix champions engage 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 now 37-year-old Evans is 2-4 in his past six, and hasn’t won a fight since 2013. Kelly, despite turning 40 later this season, has impressed in his UFC conduct — despite the amount of competition has been a far cry from what Evans could have provided within his prime — heading 5-1 despite being that the gambling underdog in every one of his UFC outings. Finally, among the rising stars at lightweight has the opportunity to show off his striking, but from a technical perspective this may be his stiffest test yet on the toes. Lando Vannata stormed into the UFC, almost upsetting Tony Ferguson on short notice in his introduction, and then scoring the favorite pick for 2016’s knockout of the year against John Makdessi. He will be confronting an underrated opponent in David Teymur, with a set of TKO wins on his UFC resume after breaking into the organization via TUF. The undercard also has some struggles to keep your eyes , as undefeated prospects Mirsad Bektic, Luke Sanders, Paul’The Bear Jew’ Craig, and Tyson Pedro create their returns. The latter two have been paired using a light heavyweight division which desperately needs 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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