After taking a break last weekend, the UFC is back for its lone pay-per-view event in October. With two title fights and several other intriguing bouts on tap, Saturday’s card has quite a bit to offer.
Can Evan Dunham keep his winning streak going after a 13-month absence? Will Derrick Lewis take out a former UFC heavyweight champion? Does Ray Borg have anything to offer Demetrious Johnson? Will Kevin Lee shine under the bright lights of his first pay-per-view main event?
We try to answer these questions in our latest set of predictions for UFC 216.
- Matt Schnell def. Marco Beltran via submission
- Brad Tavares def. Thales Leites via TKO
- Magomed Bibulatov def. John Moraga via decision
- Walt Harris def. Mark Godbeer via KO
- Pearl Gonzalez def. Poliana Botelho via decision
- Lando Vannata def. Bobby Green via TKO
- Will Brooks def. Nik Lentz via TKO
- Tom Duquesnoy def. Cody Stamann via TKO
Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham
It feels like it’s been ages since Evan Dunham stepped into the cage… maybe because it has. Now more than three years removed from the end of a troubling run inside the cage — going 1-4 against the who’s who of the division — Dunham has since rebounded with surprisingly dominant wins over Rick Glenn and UFC vet Joe Lauzon. However, his last victory came in September of 2016, with his win over Lauzon dating all the way back to December of 2015. As stellar as Dunham’s hands looked in his last few fights, he’s still a 35-year-old fighter coming off a yearlong absence, taking on a dangerous opponent.
It’s difficult to have a world of faith in Beneil Dariush given his two most recent losses (a nasty KO against Edson Barboza and stunning submission against Michael Chiesa). It is worth noting, however, that Dariush was winning those fights up until the moment he had a lapse in concentration. Solid enough on the feet and dangerous on the ground, I’ll take Dariush here.
Prediction: Dariush def. Dunham via decision
Mara Romero Borella vs. Kalindra Faria
You really have to wonder how this fight managed to latch onto the main card. It’s fairly clear the UFC was hoping to promote a rising talent, Andrea Lee, who was originally booked to face Kalindra Faria, but she was forced to withdraw after failing to meet the USADA requirements for debuting fighters.
In the wake of that compelling fight is Mara Romero Borella versus Kalindra Faria — a bout of two fighters making their promotional debuts.
No need for deception here: Your author has never seen either woman fight. Faria, hailing from Sao Paulo, Brazil, has the edge in experience — both in quantity and quality. Four of her five career losses have come against Karolina Kowalkiewicz (former UFC title challenger), Jessica Aguilar (former WSOF champion), Vanessa Porto (ex-Invicta title challenger), and Claudia Gadelha (former UFC title challenger). Riding a three-fight winning streak, we can only assume those losses helped shape the fighter she is today.
Prediction: Karia def. Borella via decision
Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
Derrick Lewis may well be the most powerful striker in this division, but he’s far from the most effective. We saw that in his last bout against Mark Hunt, and in prior comeback wins against Travis Browne and Shamil Abdurakhimov. He only succeeds when the knockout is there waiting to happen.
There’s good reason to believe Fabricio Werdum won’t be standing in front of Lewis awaiting the haymaker blow.
Having a clear advantage on the ground against Lewis, look for Werdum to try his best at taking this fight to the ground early. Even if he’s not successful in keeping Lewis on his back, he’ll at least be able to exhaust “The Black Beast” enough to take the nod in a three-round affair.
Prediction: Werdum def. Lewis via decision
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg
Let’s try this again.
We can’t pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, but at some point predicting Johnson’s contests became one of the biggest formalities in mixed martial arts. The flyweight champion has time and time again proven himself to be without peer at 125 pounds, cruising past all oncoming title challengers with relative ease.
Whether he was facing a powerful striker, a crafty grappler, a dominant wrestler or something in between, Johnson has found a way to excel in ways unseen by any other fighter in mixed martial arts history. He is the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet today, and has a remarkably strong case for GOAT status 29 fights into his pro career.
While Borg has lost only twice in his pro career (arguably only once since he may have actually deserved a decision win over Dustin Ortiz), he has yet to provide the world much evidence, if any at all, that he’s capable of dethroning the best fighter on the planet.
Through 11 victories, Borg has stopped only one opponent with strikes, indicating that he doesn’t have the one-punch ability to stun Johnson. Nor has he proven to be as talented a wrestler as some of the elite contenders Johnson has already dispatched.
What’s more, Borg hasn’t yet had the ability to share the cage with any of the UFC’s top contenders. He may be ranked third in the class, but his biggest win has come against Jussier Formiga, a fighter listed at No. 6 who hasn’t consistently done well against the cream of the crop.
Things happen, and MMA is as unpredictable as any sport on the planet, but you get an extra sense of certainty whenever Johnson steps into the cage.
Prediction: Johnson def. Borg via TKO
Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
Riding a nine-fight winning streak with an overall UFC record that sits at 12-1, Tony Ferguson may be the best lightweight on the planet. He cruised past elite strikers in Edson Barboza and Lando Vannata, as well as top-level grapplers such as former champion Rafael dos Anjos. Entirely unorthodox but undoubtedly effective, Ferguson shines in just about every facet of the game. He has crisp boxing to pepper opponents on the feet, and a sneaky-dangerous ground game to impose a sense of fear on anybody looking to take him down. He’s a durable, intelligent fighter.
That’s a problem for Kevin Lee, who steps into the UFC top five for the first time in his professional career. A standout wrestler with exceptional athleticism and explosive power in his hands, Lee has yet to take down a top-level opponent (sorry, Michael Chiesa). He has done a tremendous job of staying busy and using the microphone to his advantage in reaching this point, but it’s not entirely clear if he’s ready for an opportunity of this magnitude at just 25 years old.
Expect Ferguson to impose his will on the feet early before Lee takes this to the ground where things get messier.
Prediction: Ferguson def. Lee via submission