UFC 216 will go down as the card that experienced its share of ‘drama’ ever since it was announced. Ferguson vs. Lee was put up as the main event over the previously scrapped title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg. In the women’s division Jessica Eye vs. Paige Vanzant was scrapped when Paige got injured unable to compete. The promotional debut of Andrea Lee got delayed by another 6 months due to a UFC anti-doping policy rule stemming from a failed drug test back in 2016. Add to it the heated argument at the press conference, which was highlighted by Fabricio Werdum’s not-so-good choice of words towards Tony Ferguson. Regardless, the event still looks packed and ready to deliver with many stand out artists looking to make their mark and end the year with a bang. Let’s dive in.
PEARL GONZALEZ VS. POLINA BOTHELO
Polina Bothelo finally gets to make her much delayed debut against Pearl Gonzalez who looks to get her first win since her debut in April this year. Pearl faces a much tougher opponent in Polina; a Nova Uniao protégé who is also a former XFCi champion. With just three years in competing MMA, Polina gathered 5-1 record with all the five wins coming by TKO’s. Pearl Gonzalez is known for her submissions skills, but lost her debut fight against Cynthia Calvillo via submission. The FX preliminary card opening bout is a sure to watch out for as both the 115 pounders would go the distance to get their hands raised.
LANDO VANNATA VS. BOBBY GREEN
Three time ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus winner Lando ‘Groovy’ Vannata makes his octagon return against Bobby ‘King’ Green who is on a three-fight losing skid against top tier of lightweight division. Lando made his UFC debut on a two-week notice against Tony Ferguson putting on an impressive performance and almost finishing him. With his stellar performances, Lando earned Fight Night bonuses in his first three UFC appearances; Yoshihiro Akiyama being the first one to achieve this feat. Bobby Green who has his back against the wall looks to give his best performance against an exciting fighter like Lando. We’ll not be surprised if this fight gets the nod for a fight of the night award.
WILL BROOKS VS. NIK LENTZ
Former Bellator champion Will Brooks failed to live up to the hype with which he entered the UFC last year. Having lost his last two fights against guys with the surname Oliveira, Brooks has one thing less to worry against Nik Lentz. Another loss to a tried and tested Lentz will only lead him be cut from the UFC roster. It’s a must win for Will Brooks who can redeem his position as a potential lightweight prospect with a performance that can get the UFC schedule another fight for him early next year. Nik Lentz will be competing for 19th time inside the octagon with mixed results. Despite the ups and downs Nik has managed to actively compete from the past eight years mostly against mid-level competition. If both these lightweights want to be taken seriously, then they can’t risk another loss on their record.
TOM DUQUESNOY VS. CODY STAMANN
Both these bantamweights have 15-1 record to their name, have fought in featherweight & bantamweight divisions and have won their debut fights inside the octagon in this year. Tom has held the featherweight and bantamweight title belts in BAMMA before entering the UFC and is on an eleven-fight win streak. While Cody is on a seven-fight win streak he’s yet to test against a higher calibre fighter like Tom. This is a good test for Cody who can make a statement in this division with a win over upcoming prospect Tom Duquesnoy.
FABRICIO WERDUM VS. DERRICK LEWIS
For a heavyweight who loves his McRib and doesn’t have a nutritionist part of the fight camp, changing things up signals his intentions of going beast mode in his next fight. Derrick Lewis clashes with former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum and promised to make him pay for sticking to a strict diet for this camp. After losing to Mark Hunt, who snapped his six-fight win streak Lewis is more than motivated. If a better version of Lewis shows up, Werdum must pull out all the tricks from his bag to get his hand raised. Since losing his title to Stipe Miocic and a rematch with Overeem, Werdum has been on the wrong side of the news and gaining negative publicity. If he wants to get back to the title contention, a solid performance and a good PR is what he needs to focus on.
DEMETRIOUS JOHNSON VS. RAY BORG
Ray Borg gets another chance to challenge the reigning champion and Demetrious Johnson gets to break the record for most consecutive title defences at 11 in the co-main event. Prior to Ray Borg, three of the Jackson-Wink MMA fighters have challenged mighty mouse and fell short in their quest for the gold. Johnson has speed, accuracy, take down defence, top control, striking volume, knockdown power and everything else that is required to stay undefeated and on top of the food chain for the last six years. This is just another opportunity to seal the title of undisputed G.O.A.T of MMA and create history in the same night. While for Borg, who is known for his hard-hitting strikes this could be the only long shot he has got and if he wins will be known as the guy who stopped mighty mouse from creating history.
TONY FERGUSON VS. KEVIN LEE
The 5-round interim title fight between Ferguson and Kevin will hopefully bring a ray of hope for the lightweight division as winner finally gets a chance to unify the belts provided McGregor agrees to defend. Tony Ferguson is on a 9-fight win streak and has only lost 1 of his last 13 fights in the UFC. He brings in more octagon experience than Kevin Lee, has gone the 5-round distance once and has faced the cream of the division. Kevin is yet to face a top calibre fighter like Tony and this will be a true test that can elevate him to the top of the game. If the fight goes the distance, Ferguson has the advantage, while Kevin can get the early rounds in his books with his takedowns. The Notorious will be closely watching this title fight and whoever wins, it’s going to change his life forever fighting McGregor to unify the belts.