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UFC 209 predictions, preview, and analysis

UFC Hong Kong Wing Chun Gym Visit Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is going to answer a very important question with Saturday night’s (March 4, 2017) UFC 209 pay-per-view (PPV) event, scheduled for T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Who is the true champion at 170 pounds?

Since Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson battled to a draw at UFC 205 back in November, we still don’t know who rules the welterweight roost; hence, our five-round main event in “Sin City.”

In the (former) co-headliner, Khabib Nurmagomedov was pulled from his Tony Ferguson bout after being hospitalized for “weight management medical issues” (more on that here). On the bright side, we still have Mark Hunt vs. Alistair Overeem, among others.

Sad face.

To see what’s doing on the UFC 209 “Prelims” card — split across FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass — head over to Patty Stumberg’s comprehensive breakdown here and here. For all the UFC 209 odds and betting lines click here.

Enough potatoes, let’s get to the meat.

170 lbs.: Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley (16-3-1) vs. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (13-1-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: I don’t think there is much I can say about the first fight between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson that hasn’t already been said — ad nauseam — in the months after their five-round draw at UFC 205.

But I have a word count to hit, so I’ll say it again anyway.

Thompson, one of the premiere strikers in this (or any) division, was a muted version of himself, realizing just how unpleasant it can be to get taken down and pounded on by “The Chosen One.” That reduced output took away his best tools which carried him to victory over the likes of Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks.

Similarly, Woodley was also keeping his arsenal in check, though I reckon that was to conserve power for the later rounds. The strategy worked, as “Wonderboy” was on his ass and nearly finished on two occasions.

What changed between now and then?

Not much. If Thompson is going to win this fight, he has to be fearless. Woodley is going to shoot, but it’s hard to be an effective wrestler in reverse. Just look at how “Bigg Rigg” was backed up and beaten senseless because of Thompson’s forward pressure.

For as many times as “The Chosen One” has looked phenomenal (Robbie Lawler, Dong Hyun Kim) he’s looked equally putrid (Rory MacDonald, Kelvin Gastelum). He probably has more ways to win this championship rematch, but his inconsistency gives me pause.

Not enough to pick against him.

This fight will be won or lost on confidence which means the first couple of takedowns will dictate how this contest plays out. If “Wonderboy” can stuff them, he should be able to go all the way.

If not, he’s in for a long night.

Final prediction: Woodley def. Thompson by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (24-0) vs. Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (22-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: I predict “The Eagle” gets hospitalized and pulled from the card.

Final prediction: They don’t fight. See how good I am?

185 lbs.: “Suga” Rashad Evans (19-5-1) vs. Daniel Kelly (12-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans hasn’t been seen in almost a year, thanks to a series of pre-fight medical snafus that booted him from UFC 205, and then again from UFC 206.

When we did see him last, “Suga” was looking up at the lights following a series of doom fists from Glover Teixeira at UFC on FOX 19. Prior to that, Evans returned from an extended absence in a losing effort to Ryan Bader at UFC 192.

It’s been over three years since he’s seen the win column.

What helped propel Evans to the top of the 205-pound weight class — long since abandoned for greener pastures at 185 pounds — was a combination of speed and power. It appears both of those attributes have suffered as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 2 champ reached the second half of his thirties (he’s now 37) but we won’t really know just how far he’s fallen until fight night.

Dan Kelly is not a top 10 fighter.

That doesn't make him a bum, but there is reason this fight was slapped together. A victory for Evans gets him back into the win column and another chance to fight someone in the upper echelon of the division, while victory for the Aussie gives him a “name” under his belt, a conduit for bigger and better opportunities.

Kelly turns 40 this October.

What we have here is a decorated collegiate wrestler against an Olympian who spent his entire life mastering judo. As we saw with Ronda Rousey — and Kelly’s knockout loss to the heavy-handed Sam Alvey — that only takes you so far.

Evans may be in the twilight of his career, but he’s still far and away the superior striker with a quick jab and plenty of power. Kelly will need to get him down and keep him down to get something going from a submissions perspective. Considering “Suga” has never been submitted across 13 years and 25 fights, I don’t see that happening.

Final prediction: Evans def. Kelly by technical knockout

155 lbs.: “Groovy” Lando Vannata (9-1) vs. David Teymur (5-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: It was only a matter of time before Lando Vannata found himself competing for UFC, having compiled eight straight wins — with seven violent finishes — on the regional circuit.

Coming off the couch to face top-ranked Tony Ferguson is probably not what he had in mind, at least in terms of his Octagon debut, but we got to see just how dangerous the Jackson-Winkeljohn product is at the tender age of 24.

That’s because “Groovy” was able to drop “El Cucuy” and was oh-so-close to a monumental upset, eventually succumbing to the more experienced lightweight. Whispers that perhaps Ferguson was having a bad night or just got caught were silenced when Vannata rebounded with a spectacular knockout win over veteran “Bull” John Makdessi.

This kid’s for real.

Hoping to derail the “Groovy” hype train is Swedish sensation David Teymur, who cut his teeth on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 in summer 2015. While he came up short in the quarterfinals, a call back proved to be fruitful for both fighter and promotion.

To the tune of back-to-back technical knockout victories.

You can’t say that Teymur’s wins on the regional circuit don’t mean anything without also saying the same thing about Vannata. That’s what the regional circuit is, a chance for the cream to rise to the top while leaving the cans, the dreamers, and the journeymen at the bottom.

That gives us a pair of UFC fights to compare and contrast.

Like Teymur, Vannata is primarily a striker with sneaky power, but differs from the ever-improving Swede in that he’s a better kicker who is also more fluid, easily gliding through transitions from stand up to ground game.

A first-round finish would not surprise me.

Final prediction: Vannata def. Teymur by technical knockout

265 lbs.: Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt (12-10-1, 1 NC) vs. Alistair “Demolition Man” Overeem (41-15, 1 NC)

Nostradumbass predicts: There was a time in the not-too-distant past when this sort of heavyweight bangfest would have headlined a major PPV show. But then Mark Hunt (who is no longer being rallied for) decided to file a lawsuit against UFC and Alistair Overeem started getting knocked out every other fight.

The result? Zero promotion for this heavyweight rematch.

A lot has changed since Hunt was submitted by Overeem under the PRIDE FC banner, which took place nearly a decade ago. The “Super Samoan” hasn't gotten any faster with age (he turns 43 later this month) but he still hits as hard as anyone in MMA.

Combined, they share 25 professional losses with 22 finishes.

The Hunt who was wrecking dudes in K-1 has devolved into a lumbering power puncher who does little more than swing for the fences. In most cases, that’s enough to get the job done, which is why guys like Roy Nelson and Frank Mir ended up kissing canvas.

But let’s not forget that Hunt was also stopped by Stipe Miocic and Fabricio Werdum.

That has to be taken into consideration when you look at the size differential. Let’s face it, Hunt is a fat middleweight while Overeem could only go back to light heavyweight by way of amputation.

“Demolition Man” is also an accomplished K-1 kickboxer but isn’t afraid to wrestle when he’s in danger of getting finished. Can he hold his own against Hunt? Probably, but why risk getting creamed when he holds a significant advantage on the ground? The Samoan is not so Super with his grappling, dropping six of 10 losses by way of tap, nap, or snap.

Assuming his ego doesn’t get the best of him, Overeem can — and probably will — win this fight by cheating the fans out of a firefight. It’s not the prettiest way to get back on the winning track, but an ugly victory is still a victory.

Final prediction: Overeem def. Hunt by submission

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 209 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

For much more on this weekend’s UFC 209 extravaganza click here.

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