It’s another Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim belt on the line this Saturday (Oct. 7, 2017) as Tony Ferguson dukes it out with Kevin Lee for Lightweight glory and — assuming the sort of just universe we’re clearly not living in — a future crack at reigning 155-pound kingpin Conor McGregor.
Thirty pounds south, wunderkind Ray Borg challenges Demetrious Johnson for the former’s Flyweight title, while big boys Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis lock horns at Heavyweight on UFC 216’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card.
The latter four “Prelims” undercard matches are on FX this time (not FOX Sports 1), so let’s dig in (check out the Fight Pass portion here):
135 lbs.: Tom Duquesnoy vs. Cody Stamman
Tom Duquesnoy (15-1) ran roughshod over the competition in BAMMA, winning the promotion’s Featherweight and Bantamweight titles en route to becoming Europe’s top prospect. He made his long-awaited UFC debut in April and made good on his -1000 odds with a brutal beating of Patrick Williams.
Twelve of his wins, including five of his last six, have come by stoppage.
Cody Stamman (15-1) bounced between Featherweight and Bantamweight while compiling the seven-fight win streak that brought him to UFC. In his debut, he took on former BAMMA champion and LFC title challenger Terrion Ware and used strong wrestling to take home the decision win.
“The Spartan” has scored a knockout in six pro fights, including two of his last three.
This is an excellent featured “Prelims” bout and a very solid test for Duquesnoy. “Fire Kid” is savage in the clinch and an extremely capable grappler, but appears to lack physicality despite his history of competing at 145 pounds. Stamman is the sort of powerful, disciplined wrestler who will force Duquesnoy to prove he can hold his own against a takedown artist who won’t run out of steam in five minutes.
I believe in Duquesnoy. Stamman is worryingly hittable and every failed shot puts him in range of Duquesnoy’s elbow onslaught. Duquesnoy keeps it standing and punishes Stamman’s level changes before ultimately mulching him in the second.
Prediction: Duquesnoy via second-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Will Brooks vs. Nik Lentz
Once the undisputed king of Bellator MMA’s Lightweight division thanks to two wins over Michael Chandler, Will Brooks (18-3) edged Ross Pearson in his UFC debut before things went off the rails. An injured rib cost him dearly against an overweight Alex Oliveira last October and Charles Oliveira’s grappling proved more than he could handle six months later.
He will have two inches of height and four inches of reach on Nik Lentz (27-8-2).
Lentz ended his 4-2 run as a Featherweight after a submission loss to Charles Oliveira, a move that paid quick dividends in the form of wins over Danny Castillo and Michael McBride. Islam Makhachev proved a tougher out, utilizing quality top control to defeat Lentz by decision.
He has gone 11-5-1, 1 NC overall during his eight years in the organization.
It’s hard not to feel that there’s been something missing from Lentz in his recent fights. That frantic, murderous pace just isn’t there anymore and, while his durability remains intact, he’s slower and easier to hit than ever. Worse, he struggled with lightweight wrestlers even at his best; Mark Bocek and Evan Dunham completely shut down his takedown offense and Makhachev threw him around like a ragdoll.
In short, he’s pretty much fodder for Brooks. “Ill Will” is bigger, younger, stronger and more technically adept in both the striking and the wrestling. He dominates on his way to a trio of 30-27s.
Prediction: Brooks via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Lando Vannata vs. Bobby Green
Lando Vannata (9-2) impressed onlookers by pushing Tony Ferguson to the limit on short notice in his debut, then uncorked a “Knockout of the Year”-worthy wheel kick finish of John Makdessi to keep the hype train rolling. “Groovy” earned his third bonus in three UFC fights against David Teymur in April, but couldn’t get the decision against the Muay Thai specialist.
All but one of his wins have come by knockout or submission.
Bobby Green (23-8) joined his Strikeforce compatriots in UFC in 2013 and quickly rattled off four straight wins, most notably a decision over Josh Thomson. The momentum proved unsustainable, however, and he enters the cage having lost three straight.
He replaces the injured Abel Trujillo on just under two months’ notice.
It looks like UFC is cashing out on Green. Get it? Green, like dollars. I’ll see myself out ... Green has not turned in a quality performance since 2013. His solid striking technique and power are entirely overshadowed by his lack of urgency. Vannata may be too lackadaisical in his defense, but he’s relentless, quick, and has shown more variety and fluidity to his striking than Green. He batters his way to a wide decision victory.
Prediction: Vannata via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Pearl Gonzalez vs. Poliana Botelho
Six consecutive victories — one of them a submission of Cortney Casey — brought Pearl Gonzalez (6-2) to UFC, where she debuted against Cynthia Calvillo on the main card of UFC 210. She showed some skill, but was ultimately forced to tap to Calvillo’s rear-naked choke.
All four of her submission wins have come by armbar.
Poliano Botelho (5-1) picked up five (technical) knockout wins in her first six fights, losing only to current UFC contender Viviane Pereira. She was set to debut against Valerie Letourneau in Dec. 2016, but suffered an injury, making this her first fight in over two years.
She stands two inches taller than Gonzalez at 5’8”.
Botelho, at the very least, is damn fun to watch. She’s big, aggressive and knows how to get her hips behind her punches. She’s also hittable and iffy with her takedown defense, which are good for making dramatic fights but not great for consistent wins.
Luckily for her, Gonzalez is submission-savvy but not a particularly strong takedown artist, and Botelho has the anti-wrestling masters of Nova União to help her shore up her defenses. Her power and length give her the edge on the feet, where she lands heavy punches and her nasty spinning back kick to the body on her way to a finish.
Prediction: Botelho via second-round technical knockout
Remember that UFC 216 will feature two title fights and a hard-hitting Heavyweight showdown between Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis, all of which are definitely worth the price of admission. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 216 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FXX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record for 2017: 113-64 (1 NC)