TONY FERGUSON and Kevin Lee will meet on Saturday for the UFC’s Interim lightweight championship at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas at UFC 216 with a potential shot at current champion Conor McGregor on the line for the winner.
It’s a shot that has been a long time coming for Ferguson, who weighed in for a clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov in March which fell through at the 11th hour, but now the TUF 13 champion finally gets his shot at the gold against Lee, who has emerged as a genuine threat to anyone in the lightweight division.
It pits the unpredictable Ferguson, who is on a nine fight winning streak, with the strong ground game of Lee, who is coming off a big win over Michael Chiesa to catapult himself into the conversation at 155lbs. However, how will he prepare for the creativity that “El Cucuy” brings to the cage?
Lee’s game-plan is simple. Get Ferguson on the ground and strangle the life out of him. No one has attempted the rear naked choke more than Lee in the history of the lightweight division in the UFC and the #7 ranked “Motown Phenom” has no issue in securing the takedown to put his plan into motion.
But this isn’t just any opponent. It’s Tony Ferguson. The 33-year-old from Oxnard always seems to find a way and there is a chance that if Lee fails to adapt during the course of the fight, he may get desperate, playing straight into Ferguson’s hands.
Not only is Ferguson a high level striker, he is a master of the D’Arce choke, so is capable of stopping this fight any way that he decides. His movement, especially as he switches stances, can be incredibly difficult to get to grips with, negating the takedown for the wrestler in Lee, who will constantly be pressing forward in search of it.
If Lee does secure the takedown, he has to control the position and use his excellent ground-and-pound to get to Ferguson, who is dangerous from anywhere. One thing he will certainly do is force Ferguson to work for every second of the fight and he is capable of taking advantage of any mistake that “El Cucuy” makes.
It’s hard to see this fight going the distance and the sensible pick is a submission victory for either man. I’m edging towards Ferguson, who deserves his crack at the big-time, whoever that may be, as let’s be honest, McGregor could decide to do anything next.
As for Lee, a defeat is only a minor setback and he has the potential to re-build and come again. I’m sure Chiesa would be more than happy to take him on in a rematch of their clash from June, where there is debate over a premature stoppage, although it did seem like it was a matter of time anyway.
Ferguson to secure the win and become the lightweight champion elect, as McGregor remains on the sidelines. Lee will give it everything, but Ferguson’s experience and creativity will be too much for the 25-year-old, who will improve massively as a result of the disappointment.
In the co-main event, Demetrious Johnson will defend his UFC Flyweight championship against Ray Borg in a fight that was originally scheduled for UFC 215 last month, until Borg was ruled out due to illness, putting Johnson’s chance at breaking the UFC’s record for most consecutive title defences on hold.
Johnson is currently tied at 10 with Anderson Silva and it is difficult to look past him and see how Borg has a chance to rip the title from his grasp and spoil the party. If the majority of his other title defences are anything to go by, this should be nothing more than a procession for “Mighty Mouse”.
The champion at 31 has seven years on his latest challenger and his experience will be a major factor in this fight. Borg was still an amateur when Johnson was chasing the gold up at bantamweight, before the flyweight division was created, and it’s hard to see how he has enough to get past Johnson.
Yes, this has been said before about Chris Weidman and more recently Cody Garbrandt, so what can Borg do? He can use his speed, as his striking can be chaotic at times, but when he gets you to the ground, he is superb at controlling the action.
Johnson had some issues early on with John Dodson who used his speed, but he quickly turned the tide in his favour, as he always does. The champion always finds a way and makes very few mistakes, so Borg has to try and force him into traps. Very difficult to do against someone who never seems to lose control.
“Mighty Mouse” is so efficient, he barely wastes a shot or even a single motion during a fight. Borg is hard to catch cleanly, but his game consists of securing the takedown and going after the submission. He will be going after the back, but he has to get close to Johnson to put this into effect.
This fight ends whatever way and whenever Johnson decides, as Borg doesn’t possess the answers or the ability to deny Johnson the record. For Johnson it will be the record he has been coveting and hopefully his final fight in the flyweight division, as we will see him move back up to the bantamweight division.
Johnson has beaten everyone in the flyweight division and it’s clear there is no one capable of knocking him off his perch. His grip over the 125lbs division could well be loosened as he moves up to bigger and tougher challenges to secure the pay-day’s he believes he deserves.
He won’t get those payday’s at flyweight, whilst at bantam there are much bigger names, as Johnson continues to build his case as one of the greatest of all time. Ray Borg will simply be another name on the list of people who fell to “Mighty Mouse” come Sunday morning.
Also on the card will be a heavyweight clash between former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis. Expect a win for Werdum there, whilst there is an intriguing lightweight clash between ranked fighters Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham.
The preliminary card is headlined by Frenchman and former BAMMA standout Tom Duquesnoy, who is a must watch fighter, against Cody Stamann, whilst the always entertaining Lando Vannata faces Bobby Green. Will Brooks, a former Bellator champion, who hasn’t had the best of stays in the UFC, will take on Nik Lentz.
The Fight Pass portion of the card is headlined by British heavyweight Mark Godbeer, who was victorious at UFC 209, who goes up against the hard-hitting Walt Harris.