UFC 216

Ferguson x Lee / Johnson x Borg

Picks, Parlay, and Predictions

Fights in All Shapes and Sizes

UFC216alt.jpg

PICKS

Ferguson x Lee
Johnson x Borg
Werdum x Lewis
Dariush x Dunham
Stamann x Tom D
Lentz x Brooks
Vannata x Green
Harris x Godbeer
Bibulatov x Moraga
Leites x Tavares

Parlays

“Whirling Dervish” EDITION
Ferguson (-225)
Werdum (-260)
Duquesnoy (-170)
Vannata (-225)
Leites (+160)
$2.16 to win $23.61

“Play it Straight” EDITION
Dariush (-230)
Stamann (+140)
Lentz (+275)
Green (+175)
$2.16 to win $74.54

PREDICTIONS

Adding Belts, Padding Legacies

Tony Ferguson x Kevin Lee for the Interim Lightweight Championship

Another interim bout. Can we stop the make-em-up belts, please? Can’t this just be for the actual championship? The chances of McGregor returning to defend the lightweight title against either of these two seems outlandish when there’s so much more money to be made in a third Diaz fight. The belt is meaningless if the actual champion is unwilling to defend it. Give it to the winner of this contest unless McGregor vows to make a defense his next move. I know that this is technically sports entertainment, but for the sake of legitimacy we need to keep these divisions fluid.

Are you indoors? If so, put on your sunglasses and show some love to the weird and wild Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson. Owner of the longest win streak in lightweight history and eight Performance of the Night bonuses, Tony looks like he can beat anyone they put across from him. With style points, too. Nothing this man does is predictable. His training is preposterous, his jiu-jitsu is dynamic, and his striking is from another planet. He might be from another planet. Opponents don’t know what hit them – elbows, d’arce chokes, ankle picks, salsa dancing, and somersaults are all on the table. El Cucuy is literally the boogieman. It all comes together in such a unique package that if you saw a silhouette of him fighting, you’d know it was him. A strong wrestling base keeps him out of trouble and the towering, well-rounded MMA skillset that he’s masterfully assembled is the icing on the cake. That means that if Tony Ferguson was a cake, he’d be a regular cake topped with a different cake made entirely out of icing. There’s literally nothing like it.

Ferguson will have his hands full with the up-and-coming Kevin Lee. Lee hasn’t exactly faced the same level of competition that his opponent has, but has only dropped two of his eleven UFC bouts and hasn’t recorded a loss since 2015. If you’ve got two legs and a neck, Kevin Lee knows how to get you to the ground and choke the life out of you. Kickboxers? Wrestle’em. Grapplers? Wrestle’em. Russians? Wrestle’em. It’s like clockwork. Kevin’s strong suit is painfully obvious and he’s been doing his best to promote himself as the next big thing, which usually involves a lot of hyperbole and a goofy outfit. Audiences are starting to get amped about his fights and that’s all that matters.

Aggression and compression are the biggest factors Kevin Lee brings into the octagon. Tony Ferguson is usually wily enough to stay away from strong grapplers – I remember him cartwheeling out of Josh Thompson’s grasp – but Lee has surprised me before with his dominance. If Lee can figure out a way to stop El Cucuy from shucking and jiving, he’ll take away the element of surprise and everything that makes his opponent so dangerous. Ferguson may bring a lot to the table, but he still needs to breathe and a choke is a choke.

As impressed as I am every time Kevin Lee is able to masterfully execute his gameplan, I can’t help but notice that it rarely changes. The problem with this matchup is Kevin is at his best with a calculable opponent, but nothing about Ferguson is certain. Where Lee might show up with an A or B plan, Tony has options A through Z to work with. Opponents have tried to contain Cucuy, but he is simply too muy. Ferguson can be ridiculously elusive and the more time you spend chasing him, the more you reveal about your intentions. Lee will try his damndest. He has high hopes for his career and this will be his biggest and most important step towards the big show. There isn’t a significant size or reach advantage for either man, so it will be up to their skills to make the difference.

Ferguson will take this one and it’s going to be entertaining as hell. Not in my wildest dreams can I imagine him being stifled by such a one-dimensional offense. Tony definitely dances to the beat of his own drum, but his mind is supremely sharp and so is his technique. I love the dark, drunken-master vibe and all of the weirdness he exudes. Root for El Cucuy to take the interim belt and stamp his ticket to an eventual McGregor payday. We need more characters like this, especially if they’re as jaw-droppingly talented. Whoever wins, both men better be ready to cut a quick promo as soon as their hand gets raised. Give Conor a reason to put his belt back on the line.

 

Demetrious Johnson x Ray Borg for the Flyweight Championship

- Ba de ya, say do you remember? Be de ya, this almost happened in September. Be de ya, until Ray Borg ruined the day. Bap! Bap! Bap! Below is my, slightly updated, original take on the fight. Hopefully this bout will reignite the division and fire up the competition. -

This could be it. This could be number 11. If Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson walks through Ray Borg like he’s walked through the rest of the flyweight division, he’ll have the record for the most consecutive title defenses in UFC history. That’s a borderline untouchable number. It’s not outlandish to think that we’ll never see a champion this dominant again. Unfortunately, it’s hard to call a fight against Borg a worthy challenge on paper. As I mentioned, Johnson has already worked through most of the top competitors at flyweight. Some of them he’s even beaten twice, with markedly improved performances. Now the UFC is forced to dig deeper into the roster to search for contenders that probably aren’t ready for such a massive challenge.

Initially, the UFC wanted Mighty Mouse to face T.J. Dillashaw, the ex-bantamweight champion, who was willing to cut the extra ten pounds to make the fight happen. Demetrious Johnson decided to decline that matchup and instead face someone who “has proved they can make the weight.” Which, to me, is a sly way to guarantee a recording-breaking performance. Dillashaw is a buzzsaw and I don’t think the champ was willing to put history on the line. Drama ensued and eventually Ray Borg’s name came up as an alternate. To be fair, Ray Borg is a legitimate flyweight competitor, but let’s not forget that he’s also missed weight in two of his seven UFC appearances. If the weight is an arguable issue with Dillashaw, a consummate professional, then it’s definitely an issue with Borg. I mean, he literally didn’t make it to the scale last time. He’s hardly a sensible substitute. I’m a huge fan of DJ and I’m pulling for him to make history, but I would have preferred to see the Dillashaw fight. Or another Cejudo fight. Or Pettis. Almost anyone else.

Ray Borg has been victorious in five of his seven UFC matchups. He’s currently riding a two fight win streak even though he missed weight in one of those events, less than a year ago. There’s a dangerous spring in his step while he’s striking, but that’s not where his strength lies. Ray is primarily a grappler with slick jiu-jitsu and once the fight hits the mat, he turns into a whirlwind. If you present any possibility for a submission, Borg will dive on it without a second thought. The downsides are his shallow cardio and that he can be overeager, which will often lead to an entertaining scramble. Outside of his aggressive submission attempts, nothing about him strikes me as phenomenal. Don’t get me wrong, Borg is an entertaining athlete who would put me in an early grave, but there’s nothing about him that stands out. He’s lost to guys who are playing the same game as him and he’s not the best at switching between disciplines. That’s all our champion does. Johnson can beat anyone his size, anywhere in the octagon.

Not only is Demetrious exceptional in every discipline, but his composure is steadfast and his game planning with longtime coach Matt Hume is unmatched. There’s no one that compares. Not even the master mind of Greg Jackson, who will be in Borg’s corner. The champ has an impressive collection of knockouts, submissions, and decisions under his belt. If Johnson wasn’t stuck in a 125 pound frame, the whole world would be taking notice. I personally find it compelling that I could get murdered by someone the size of a preteen. A fight against Dillashaw would have helped the public to perk up, but apparently that wasn’t in the cards. Expect Johnson to steamroll over Borg to make history. Maybe after we permanently affix Demetrious’ name to the top of the heap, we can see where to go from here.