The cage is in for a severe rattling as some of the UFC’s most heart-thumping talent rolls up at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with a would-be fight-of-the-year tucked into the deck.
Our UFC odds expert, Mark Sylvester, tells us what to expect at the T-Mobile Arena this weekend.
If you get your breath back from a couple of gilt-edged clashes for the interim lightweight belt and flyweight crown, there’s a bone-splintering heavyweight battle.
You couldn’t swing a cat (don’t, it’s cruel) at UFC 216 without hitting a tasty helping of Octagon action. But the rest of the card will do well to stay with the scrap for the interim lightweight title as Tony Ferguson squares up to Kevin Lee.
It’s got all the ingredients for a classic.
Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson is simply one of the best lightweights on this or probably any other planet, while Kevin ‘The Motown Phenom’ is a scintillating rising star with a personality that can be seen from space.
And, along with the glittering bauble of the interim belt, both warriors will be hoping to fight their way onto the radar of one Conor McGregor, for a showdown of supernova proportions.
“A Good Anvil Fears No Hammer” #UFC216
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) September 30, 2017
Both fighters have pretty much everything an MMA master needs in their tool bags of terror, and Ferguson will be hoping that a little bit of extra experience at the top gives him the edge when things get down, dirty and decidedly painful in the trenches.
He’s on an almost mythical nine-fight winning spree, having last lost way back in May 2012, when, to be fair, Michael Johnson gave him a schooling in the Octagon’s dark arts.
And they were lessons he learned.
Since then, this fighter with a seemingly bottomless tank has left a collection of UFC’s finest dazed, confused and folded into shapes bodies simply weren’t designed for.
His 22-3 record includes nine KOs, including the IED that exploded on Katsunori Kikuno’s button in round one at UFC 173.
And while he’s more than capable of landing a KO or TKO on Lee, up against a guy who also has a superb stand-up routine, El Cucuy may well want to take this to the torture chamber – AKA the mat.
He has fine-tuned his grappling.
And pretty much perfected the D’Arce choke, like the one that ended a barnstorming battle with Lando Vannata in July last year.
You’ll get Ferguson to finish Lee before the final bell at 41/50, which is not to be sniffed at.
But Lee’s a real prospect. His #7 ranking does little justice to his silky striking skills, gruelling ground & pound game, magnificence on the mat, and five-win streak.
He turned in an MMA master class in his last outing to dominate Michael Chiesa before choking him out. Chiesa might not have tapped, but his eyes were about to pop, so the ref got that one right! Lee to stop Ferguson? That’s 7/2, thank you.
Both are relentless warriors and hungry as attack dogs.
Ferguson is closing in on being the perfect fighter, while Lee simply has no reverse gear.
— UFC (@ufc) September 29, 2017
Lee could cause an upset, and to win you’ll get him at 9/5.
But I don’t think so. Ferguson’s just come down from a brutal training camp in the Californian mountains and looks harder and scarier than ever. By hook or by crook, by rear-naked choke, or a pool of points he’ll win. That’s an uncontroversial 2/5.
Johnson v Borg Betting
In other news, we’ve the little matter of the flyweight crown to decide as the divine Demetrious ‘Might Mouse’ Johnson seeks to settle matters with young gun Ray Borg.
DJ’s gunning for immortality in the shape of a bewildering 11 title defences. He just needs to get through the armour-plated ‘Tazmexican Devil.’
One word to describe @MightyMouseUFC?
— UFC (@ufc) October 5, 2017
Borg is tricky enough to take DJ the distance and eye-catching enough to sneak a decision. Borg to win, by any method, is 7/1. If he does, the method will be decision. Believe me.
More likely is DJ will meet his date with destiny before the final bell has even got out of bed. DJ to finish the fight early is at an easy 8/11.
Werdum v Lewis Betting
A few kilometres up the weight scale sees the prospect of heavyweights Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis whaling on each other using cement bags disguised as fists.
Werdum’s looking for a way back in from the cold since losing to Alistair Overeem. This one will see both fighters spend a lot of time upright, pounding away.
But Werdum knows swapping heavy artillery with a man who punches like the Incredible Hulk isn’t the cleverest tactic. Werdum’s a submission master; Lewis doesn’t like to grapple. Do the math. Werdum should finish it, a snip at 13/10.
Oh, and just one last thought. If you were wondering, Ferguson’s nickname ‘Le Cucuy, is a Latin American monster bogeyman who devours those who don’t obey. Take note, Kevin Lee!