WATCH: TOMMY TOE HOLD – UFC 209
UFC 209 takes place on Saturday, March 4th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it should be a thrilling night of action. The main event sees welterweight champion Tyron Woodley battle Stephen Thompson for the second time in four months, following their scintillating draw at UFC 205. Meanwhile, the interim lightweight belt is at stake between undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, who is riding a nine-fight winning streak.
Before the fights start, let’s take a closer look at some of the fighters on this card who could come through in the clutch and deliver high point totals for your DraftKings team(s).
Tyron Woodley ($7,800) vs. Stephen Thompson ($8,400)
We know that Woodley and Wonderboy fought to a draw, but the high point of their November clash was Woodley’s dominant round 4, which saw him drop Wonderboy, hurt him several times and then lock in a tight guillotine, only for Thompson to miraculously escape. Prior to their matchup, Woodley captured the belt with a stunning first-round starching of Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. As for Thompson, he is unbeaten in his last eight bouts. He firmly stamped himself as a 170 lbs contender by knocking out former champion Johny Hendricks, then outpointing Rory MacDonald by unanimous decision.
Woodley has dynamite in that right hand of his, and also gave Thompson serious problems on the ground in the opening round. The adjustments made by both men will make for fascinating viewing. Thompson didn’t look comfortable leading exchanges, but did find success with his kicks. At $7,800, I think Woodley’s the better value pick, especially since I believe he’s far more likely to find various ways to score fantasy points.
Number of note: 22. Stephen Thompson only accumulated 22 fantasy points (off of 43 significant strikes) in the first Woodley matchup.
UPDATE: The Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson fight has been CANCELLED.
Khabib Nurmagomedov ($8,900) vs. Tony Ferguson ($7,300)
Dagestan’s Nurmagomedov has hardly skipped a beat after a two-year layoff due to repeated injury problems. He was scheduled to fight Ferguson last April, but when Ferguson pulled out, Khabib ended up with a glorified tune-up against Darrell Horcher, which he easily won. Khabib had some early struggles against Michael Johnson at UFC 205, but eventually found his rhythm and pummeled “The Menace” on his way to a third-round kimura. Ferguson is coming off the biggest win of his career, defeating former LW champion Rafael dos Anjos in an incredible five-round scrap. His last three outings have all earned Fight of the Night honors, including a superb d’arce choke finish vs. Edson Barboza in December 2015.
Ferguson’s creative, unpredictable striking could keep Khabib off balance and throw him off his game. He’s electrifying on the ground with his aggressive guard and love of sweeps and submission attempts. Will that work against a wrestling and grappling savant like Khabib? I’m leaning towards no. Keeping in mind that takedowns are worth 5 points and advancing position is worth 3, I expect Khabib to pile up the points through those two things, plus a heavy dose of significant ground-and-pound strikes, and end with a high score even if he wins by decision.
Number of note: 169. In his last two fights, Nurmagomedov has landed a total of 169 significant strikes. He landed 195 significant strikes combined in his first six UFC appearances.
Lando Vannata ($9,300) vs. David Teymur ($6,900)
“Groovy” Lando nearly spoiled the Khabib vs. Ferguson matchup as we know it. He made his UFC debut on short notice against Ferguson, rocked “El Cucuy” multiple times and nearly knocked him out, but Vannata lost by d’arce choke in an incredible war. Vannata got himself in the UFC win column with a sensational wheel kick KO of John Makdessi at UFC 206. Sweden’s Teymur is off to his own great start in the UFC, scoring back-to-back knockout wins over Martin Svensson and Jason Novelli. Teymur was a part of season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter, but lost in the quarterfinals to Marcin Wrzosek.
This is a great matchup between two hard-hitting strikers who are both highly entertaining to watch. Teymur possesses powerful boxing and good kicks, but Vannata looks like a really special talent. Excellent athleticism, as well as high-volume, crafty, unorthodox striking with serious power to boot. While we haven’t seen much of his wrestling game, it’s also very formidable. I believe Vannata keeps his momentum rolling with another flashy finish.
Number of note: 7. Seven of Vannata’s 10 professional fights have ended in first-round victories, including the KO vs. Makdessi.
Alistair Overeem ($8,300) vs. Mark Hunt ($7,900)
Overeem was so close to winning the UFC heavyweight title in September, but failed to capitalize on an early knockdown and ended up being KO’d in the same round by Stipe Miocic. The heartbreaking loss ended Overeem’s impressive four-fight winning streak, which included a knockout of former champ Junior dos Santos. Hunt also has a loss to Miocic, a one-sided 5th round TKO in May 2015. The Super Samoan proceeded to stop Antonio Silva later that November, then performed his trademark walkoff KO vs. Frank Mir in March. His unanimous decision loss to Brock Lesnar UFC 200 was overturned to a no-contest after Lesnar failed multiple USADA drug tests.
In their first matchup way back in 2008, Overeem easily submitted Hunt, but Hunt has vastly improved since then. However, this is still a difficult matchup for Hunt, as Overeem is the faster, more well-rounded fighter. His kicks and knees are lethal, and if he takes Hunt down then the grappling battle is clearly in the Dutchman’s favor. You can never rule out Hunt with his vaunted knockout power in both hands (especially considering Overeem’s shaky chin), but I expect a dominant performance and a big win for The Reem.
Number of note: 37. A whopping 37 of Overeem’s 41 career victories have come by knockout or submission, a finishing percentage of approximately 90.2%.
Andre Soukhamthath ($7,700) vs. Albert Morales ($8,500)
The preliminary card kicks off with the Octagon debut of Andre Soukhamthath, who sports a professional record of 11-3. “The Asian Sensation” comes in as the bantamweight champion for CES MMA, a well-regarded regional promotion in the New England area. Morales entered the UFC with a perfect 6-0 record, but is still searching for his first UFC win. The 25-year-old fought to a draw vs. Alejandro Perez, then was brutally KO’d by Thomas Almeida, although there’s no shame in that.
I’m really intrigued by Soukhamthath. He’s used his knees to win by knockout in his last two fights. Morales is tough, has an aggressive style, and is surely going to engage in a firefight. I favor Soukhamthath and his cleaner, more technical striking to carry him to victory. Morales is a good prospect but his skillset is a tad too raw for me.
Number of note: 1. Both Soukhamhath and Morales have only won by decision once in their respective careers.
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