It’s the best mixed martial arts card of 2017, at least until this summer, as UFC 209 is held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday night. While UFC 208 last month was a bit of a snore, UFC 209 features highly anticipated men’s title fights at welterweight and lightweight. The five-fight main card is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. Here’s a look at those main card bouts and their Sports Interaction MMA odds.
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
Records: Woodley (16-3-1), Thompson (13-1-1)
UFC Odds: Thompson -160, Woodley +125
Prediction: Woodley by KO, TKO or DQ at +300
Here’s something you don’t see every day: a champion as an underdog in a rematch fight. Woodley and Thompson battled in a Fight of the Year candidate at UFC 205 for Woodley’s welterweight title. It finished in a majority draw in Woodley’s favour — and any type of draw results in the belt remaining with the champion. The two went toe-to-toe in every round. The one occasion the fight appeared close to potentially ending was in the fourth when Woodley landed a right hook to Thompson’s forehead. Woodley pounced on Thompson and put him in a deep guillotine submission, but Thompson escaped and then was the aggressor in the final round. Woodley is unbeaten in his past four bouts and Thompson in his past eight. The rematch is given an over/under of 2.5 rounds, with the over a -190 favourite.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
Records: Nurmagomedov (24-0), Ferguson (23-3)
UFC Odds: Nurmagomedov -195, Ferguson +155
Prediction: Nurmagomedov by points at +135
This is for the interim lightweight title. Want to get a look at the future most popular fighter in the UFC? Many believe it will be the Russian Nurmagomedov. He has been accusing lightweight champion Conor McGregor of ducking him, and Nurmagomedov might be right. McGregor won the lightweight title at UFC 205 in November but has taken a leave of absence from the UFC for three apparent reasons: 1) he’s about to have his first child; 2) McGregor wants a stake in the company because he’s so popular; 3) he might actually get into a boxing ring at some point in 2017 and take on Floyd Mayweather Jr. So until/if McGregor returns, the winner here will be the lightweight champion and presumably be McGregor’s first return opponent. “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov, from Russia, can beat you in any way possible: he has eight career wins by KO/TKO, eight by submission and eight by decision. Ferguson enters on a nine-fight winning streak, last time out beating former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos.
Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Kelly
Records: Evans (24-5-1), Kelly (12-1)
UFC Odds: Evans -220, Kelly +165
Prediction: Evans by decision (price TBA)
It’s the middleweight debut for “Suga” Evans, the former lightweight champion. At 37, Evans’ best days appear behind him as he has lost two straight and four of five inside the Octagon. Evans was supposed to fight at 185 pounds at both UFC 205 & 206 (that one in Toronto), but was denied a licence both times for medical reasons. He has obviously been cleared for this fight. Not a lot is known of Kelly. He’s a former Australian Olympian in judo and on a three-fight win streak. Kelly hasn’t faced anyone of Evans’ caliber.
Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur
Records: Vannata (9-1), Teymur (5-1)
UFC Odds: Vannata -290, Teymur +210
Prediction: Vannata by decision (price TBA)
Vannata is considered a rising star in the lightweight division. Go ahead and YouTube the 24-year-old American’s last fight. That was at UFC 206 in December and he knocked out John Makdessi with a beautiful spinning wheel kick at 1:40 of the first round. That was Vannata’s second UFC fight. Last July in his debut, he nearly finished Ferguson before losing by second-round submission. Teymur, a 27-year-old from Sweden, makes his third UFC appearance. His first two ended by second-round KO or TKO.
Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt
Records: Overeem (41-15), Hunt (12-11-1)
UFC Odds: Overeem -140, Hunt +110
Prediction: Overeem by submission at +500
Like Woodley-Thompson, this is a rematch. Overeem and Hunt fought way back in July 2008 under the Japanese DREAM banner. Overeem won that by first-round submission. Both guys are on the downside of their careers now. The 37-year-old Overeem fought in September for the heavyweight title and was knocked out in the first round by Stipe Miocic. The 42-year-old Hunt took on former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 last July in Lesnar’s return from the WWE. Lesnar won, but it was later overturned following a failed pre-fight drug test by Lesnar. The UFC never should have allowed him to fight after that failed test, but Lesnar was a big name for an historic event.