UFC 216: Breakdown, Predictions
UFC 216 has been understandably overshadowed by the recent tragic events in Las Vegas, but the promotion hopes to put on a spectacular event on Saturday to give the city a much-needed boost.
The main event of UFC 216 is likely to provide the type of action fans will be looking for. Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee fight for the interim lightweight title, with a lot more than a belt on the line. The winner positions himself to potentially get a crack at Conor McGregor in the Irishman’s first fight since his foray into boxing, which would provide a massive payday.
The co-main event also represents a special opportunity for both fighters. Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson is seeking to make history by breaking Anderson Silva’s record of 11 consecutive title defenses, while young challenger Ray Borg looks to stop him and shock the world.
Let’s break down the two main matchups of UFC 216, starting with the co-main event.
Demetrious Johnson (c) vs. Ray Borg:
‘Mighty Mouse’ is more than a 10-1 favorite in this matchup, and it’s hard to argue with that line. The flyweight champion has cleaned out his division several times, facing every style of opponent and dominating them in all facets of MMA. There’s a reason he is ranked the #1 pound-for-pound fighter: there’s no one on the UFC roster with as complete of a game as Demetrious Johnson. He has outstruck the best strikers in his division. In his last fight, he submitted a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. There simply aren’t many holes in the game of ‘Mighty Mouse’.
But Ray Borg does have his chances, however slim they may be. He’s 24 years old and clearly improving leaps and bounds with every fight. He comes from a great camp in JacksonWink, where he’s undoubtedly studied Johnson and come up with a solid game plan.
Borg won’t be able to outstrike Johnson and he’ll have a hard time taking ‘Mighty Mouse’ to the ground. But where he excels is in the scrambles and grappling transitions, and that’s where he’ll look to make the fight ugly and try to catch Johnson by surprise.
Still, it’s hard to pick against the champion in this matchup. He’s faced more proven athletes in the past and defeated them with ease, and he should make easy work of Borg and break Anderson Silva’s record.
Prediction: Demetrious Johnson by submission (third round)
Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
The main event pits together two lightweights at different stages of their careers. Ferguson has been on a tear over the past few years, facing a tough lineup in the sport’s most challenging division and running through them all. He last beat former champion Rafael Dos Anjos, and before that he took out other top-10 opponents like Edson Barboza and Josh Thompson.
Lee, on the other hand, has only recently burst onto the scene. The 25-year-old has put together five straight wins, but not against opponents as fearsome as Ferguson. He’s talked the talk better than most in the sport, and so far he’s been able to back up the bravado. But while Ferguson has proved himself on the big stages, Lee is still looking to do so.
He’ll have to show massive improvements if he wants to get through a fighter like Ferguson. Lee has spectacular takedowns and ground-and-pound, but he’s shown that his striking ability still has a ways to go before it is on an elite level. He’ll need to take Ferguson down as soon and as often as possible, and when he does he will look to control him and get to his back, as he’s won his last three fights by rear-naked choke.
Ferguson’s style is unlike anyone else’s in the UFC. He has solid wrestling fundamentals that will make it hard for Lee to take him down, but on the feet Ferguson is an enigma. He constantly presses forward, attacking from strange angles and throwing punches, elbows and kicks in an unorthodox rhythm. Few fighters have been able to figure out his style, and most of his recent opponents have found themselves on the end of a vicious beating or caught in Ferguson’s trademark D’arce choke.
Much like the co-main event, experience plays a big factor in this fight. Lee has the tools to be an elite fighter for years to come, but this may be too big of a step at this stage of his career. Look for him to have early success with a takedown or two before succumbing to Ferguson’s pressure as he gets dragged into deep water.
Prediction: Tony Ferguson by TKO (round 4)