Cleat Geeks

UFC 216 Predictions

Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham

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The main card kicks off with a lightweight bout between top-15 ranked fighters Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham. The latter has had 17 fights in the UFC, winning 11 of those, while dropping 6 to only the elite competition in the 155-pound division. Dunham is good everywhere but I wouldn’t say he’s great anywhere. He’s also a four-time Performance of the Night winner and has won four straight. Dariush is 7 years younger at 28 years old and boasts an impressive 8-3 record as a lightweight in the UFC. Both fighters are black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but Dunham has only one submission victory while his opponent owns 3. Both fighters are 5’10” while Dariush will own a 2-inch reach advantage and does have the power to end this fight on the feet. He was doing well against Edson Barboza before he caught a flying knee that rendered him unable to continue. Dunham has struggled with the upper echelon of the division for too long, and while the jury is still out on whether or not Dariush is elite, he does hold notable wins over Jim Miller and Michael Johnson, who are much better than any fighter Dunham has beat in his time. Dariush wins a close, back-and-forth decision.

 

Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis

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2 of the biggest guys on the entire roster look to get back on track, both coming off losses in their most recent performances. Both fighters really underperformed, Werdum found some success with his punches and had Overeem all but finished on his feet but opted for a takedown instead of follow-up shots that earned him a split decision loss. Lewis wore out over the course of his four-round affair with Mark Hunt and fell victim to a Hunt TKO, which there’s no shame in. Werdum has lost 2 of his last 3, the other loss coming at the hands of current Champion Stipe Miocic in a first-round knockout shocker. He’s improved his standup dramatically but he did nothing to push the pace in the Overeem fight, even though he seems to have a better gas tank than Overeem. He’s still much more comfortable on the ground and should look to get this fight to the mat as soon as possible. Lewis has an underrated gas tank but that wasn’t the case in his last fight, wearing himself out and getting finished more from exhaustion than from punishment. Prior to the loss to Hunt, he had won 6 straight, finishing 5 of those 6 fights. He had a brief retirement after the loss to Hunt but now finds himself still very close to a title shot. A win over a former Champion like Werdum would put him within reaching distance of a shot at gold. Fortunately for him, every fight starts standing up and let it be known that is where he wants this fight to stay. If Werdum is able to drag him to the ground, he’s in big trouble. His last 3 fights have all been scheduled for 5 rounds and I think a 3-round fight suits him better. Lewis likes to push the pace and chase his opponents down and throw combinations. He’ll have to be careful doing that against someone as seasoned as Werdum, but he will evade the takedowns en route to a unanimous decision.

 

Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray BorgImage result for demetrious johnson vs. ray borg

 

Demetrious Johnson may very well be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Although the idea of a superfight with TJ Dillashaw would likely have served a much better fight on paper, I’m sold on Ray Borg. Borg is only 5-2 in the UFC and has struggled to make weight in a few of his bouts, most recently his scheduled title bout from last month at UFC 215. Both of his losses came by way of decision and he’s never been put in trouble in his young UFC career. He’ll have his hands full with the best flyweight of all time, by a wide margin I might add. Johnson has slick submissions, great takedowns, the gas tank to go for days and the striking to compete with anyone in the division. Borg possesses all of those same skills, but doesn’t have anywhere near the experience that Johnson has. Mighty Mouse comes into this fight looking for his 11th consecutive title defense, with the opportunity to pass Anderson Silva for most consecutive title defenses in UFC history. Borg was quoted as saying that TUF 24 Winner Tim Elliott laid the blueprint to beating the Champion. While Elliott did enjoy some early success and had the Champion in trouble with a submission attempt, I don’t think a blueprint exists to beat a guy as well-rounded as Johnson. His resume speaks for itself and aside from his first fights with Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, he’s beat the majority of his opposition with ease. For as great as he is, I think Mighty Mouse avoided the fight with TJ because he saw the bout with Borg as an easier road. I also think he’s distracted by multiple things, including but not limited to, not headlining a PPV and taking a back seat to an interim title that really means nothing at this point. I wrote months ago about how I believed Borg was the guy to dethrone the Champion and I still believe that to be true. Borg is younger, hungry and extremely confident. He’s also coached by Greg Jackson, whose fighters always have a great game plan in Championship fights. I’ll stick to my guns and pick Borg to shock the world and win a unanimous decision.

 

Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

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I want to get excited about this fight but I just can’t. I love the trash talk that’s ensued between these two and I think Kevin Lee is a great talker, but I’m not sure he’s a great fighter. Watching him fight, I don’t see any areas where he can be problematic for a guy like Tony Ferguson. Aside from a minor setback that came in the form of a unanimous decision loss against Michael Johnson, Ferguson has looked unstoppable. He overlooked Lando Vannata when he stepped in on late notice to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov and found himself in early trouble but he rebounded in the second route and choked him out with a D’Arce choke. In the last 2 years, Ferguson has beat Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza, Vannata and Rafael dos Anjos. In the same 2 years, Lee has defeated 6 guys but none of them are as good as the competition Ferguson has fought recently. His last win, a submission win over Michael Chiesa, was very controversial and ultimately got him this fight. Both fighters are well-rounded and are very evenly-matched when it comes to height and reach. Lee doesn’t have what I consider to be big fight experience and Ferguson has had his fair share of big fights, having gone five full rounds with former lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos. Ferguson fights long and keeps his opponents at the end of his jab but has the grappling skills to compete with the best in the division. Both fighters grew up in Michigan and attended Grand Valley State University as wrestlers. Ferguson is 8 years older and for that reason, they never faced each other in any form of wrestling nor did they spend time together on the same team. Ferguson’s chokes are some of the best in the division but he proved his standup is lethal as well when he beat Edson Barboza back in December of 2015. Lee certainly has the tools to upset the favorite but Ferguson looks poised to take over the lightweight division. The winner of this fight, although they will be the interim lightweight Champion, may have to sit out while Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz settle their score, although that’s not been made official yet. Ferguson will use his boxing and striking at range to pepper Lee and wear him out over time, mixing in some takedowns throughout the fight. Ferguson will finish the fight via submission in the third round and make a strong case for a fight with McGregor to unify the lightweight belts.

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