UFC 216 has the UFC heading back to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for their latest pay-per-view event. The card is headlined by a Tony Ferguson vs Kevin Lee lightweight interim title fight, with the winner hopefully getting a shot at Conor McGregor in the near future. This card was fairly weak with no other title fights expected to be on the card, which brings us to the silver lining of Ray Borg pulling out of his UFC 215 fight vs Demetrious Johnson. This fight has been moved to this card and now we also get to see Mighty Mouse go for the title defense record in the co-main. In addition to these two title fights the main card also features Fabricio Werdum vs Derrick Lewis in a heavyweight tilt and Beneil Dariush vs Evan Dunham as well. Paige Vanzant was expected to face Jessica Eye on the main card as well, but an injury has forced her to the sideline, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Bobby Green and Lando Vannata are bumped to the main card, but that is not official yet.
We’re still two weeks out from UFC 216, but I’m ready to give you my main card picks. The odds are out, but they may change in the lead up to the fights so check out BetOnline.ag yourself to stay up to date.
Tony Ferguson vs Kevin Lee
I see a lot of touts voicing their opinion that Kevin Lee is a live dog and how they think an upset is in the card, but personally I just don’t see the path to victory for Lee. The way Kevin Lee normally beats guys is taking their back and getting the rear-naked choke. He’s won his last three fights by this exact method, but I just don’t see it working against Tony. Ferguson is the bigger, longer guy and I think he will be able to keep this fight at range if he chooses, where I expect him to be able to pick Lee apart with constant pressure. And even if Lee is able to close the distance and get a hold of Ferguson, I still think Tony is the stronger guy, and he’s a submission specialist himself who has only been submitted once in his career back in 2009.
Ferguson has been beating the best of the best in the lightweight division for several fights now, while Lee has been toiling in the lower levels fighting guys who are not even ranked. In fact, Michael Chiesa is the only top 15 win Kevin Lee has in his career. And if you watched the fight with Francisco Trinaldo, Lee was rocked and visibly hurt several times before pulling off the submission. Lee’s striking is slow and sloppy, and if Ferguson can keep this standing he will win easily. And even if Lee does manage to get this to the ground, I give the edge to Ferguson based on strength with just as strong of technique.
Play: Ferguson -208
Demetrious Johnson vs Ray Borg
**I won’t be betting this personally.
I wanted to start with a disclaimer that I won’t be betting this fight personally. I just think that Johnson is too big a favourite to risk a bet on him for the return.
That said, I do think Johnson wins this fight and fairly handily. He has no weaknesses whatsoever and he should be able to throw a variety of different looks at Borg to keep him off balance and never really let Borg settle into the fight. DJ is just better everywhere and he’s smart enough to figure out his best chance to win early and impose that type of game plan. This is a massive fight for DJ, who badly wants the title defenses record, so I don’t expect any mistakes.
Play: Johnson -1050
Derrick Lewis vs Fabricio Werdum
Lewis has a punchers chance in this fight, but that’s about it. If Werdum can get this to the ground he should be able to control Lewis on the ground, while working for a sub or a TKO.
With Werdum coming off a loss, I also expect him to be very focused and careful in order to pull off a win. In fact, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Werdum be very cautious and just point fight his way to a decision in this tilt.
Werdum is definitely overrated, but this is a good fight for him and I expect him to really try to make sure he gets the win. Werdum is also a guy who really tries to pick fights that he thinks he will win if they aren’t a title or top contender fight, so I’m confident that Werdum fully believes he should easily be able to get a win over Lewis.
Play: Werdum -240
Evan Dunham vs Beneil Dariush
I really like Beneil Dariush. He’s a very smart fighter who always comes out with a strong game plan for his opponent. In his recent fight with Barboza he was pushing the pace and not allowing Barboza to get off his kicks, but Barboza was able to adjust and hit him with a flying knee while he closed the distance. That said, Dariush was still winning that fight to that point and the fact he has wins over Rashid Magomedov and James Vick of late shows that Dariush is the real deal.
Dunham has strung together four decision wins, and although these are nice wins the fact that he doesn’t really have weapons to finish fights I believe gives him very few paths to victory against Dariush, who I think should be able to push the pace and win a decision if this does go the three rounds. That said, I expect Dariush to push the pace and eventually catch Dunham with something to end this fight.
Dunham is the type of fighter who can win against lower level opponents, but once he gets upper echelon fighters he loses convincingly (Dos Anjos, Cerrone, Barboza). I believe that Dariush falls into this category of the top end fighters and he will show it with a finish of Dunham at UFC 216.
Play: Dariush -225
I don’t love taking all of the favourites, but sometimes that’s just how the card breaks down.