With the chance to make UFC history this weekend at UFC 216 and as the UFC’s only ever flyweight champion you wouldn’t be wrong for expecting Demetrious Johnson to be taking centre stage come Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. This however is not the case with the card being headlined by a grudge match between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee, a bout which will crown the next interim UFC lightweight champion.
Ferguson has beaten the elite at 155lb to cement himself as one of the best in the division, his current nine-fight win streak is the longest in divisional history, a streak which includes victories over ex-champion Rafael Dos Anjos, Edson Barboza and Lando Vannata.
Lee has created some hype of his own as he continues to climb the 155lb division, managing to put together a five fight win streak with four coming by way of knockout or submission including a second round submission victory over former TUF winner Michael Cheisa in his most recent outing. It is also his skills on the mic which has led to the increased hype around the 25-year old.
This has continued to show with the two exchanging words many times leading up to the bout, no more so than during fight week where bad blood continued to boil over during an interview with both fighters on UFC Tonight. In a division that has been left at a standstill by absent champion Conor McGregor, Ferguson and Lee will both look to make movements to cement themselves as the best in the division come Saturday night.
Johnson ready to take place in history with record breaking defence
Despite having to settle for the co-main event Demetrious Johnson will have his eyes set firmly on defeating flyweight challenger Ray Borg this weekend, as one month later than expected, he gets his shot at making UFC history. A win for the one and only UFC flyweight champion would see him break the all time record for consecutive title defenses at eleven, a milestone he has visualised reaching for some time.
“Mighty Mouse” has been dominant since capturing the inaugural title in 2012 defeating the likes of Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, Henry Cejudo and TUF winner Tim Elliot during his reign as champion.
One of Johnson’s greatest assets in his claim as one of the greatest ever is the fact he is skilled in every aspect of the fighting game. This was on display in his most recent bout against Wilson Reis. The champ showed dominance on the feet before taking his opponent to the mat landing some heavy ground and pound before switching to an arm bar to secure his tenth consecutive title defence.
“The Taz-mexican Devil” Borg is the man who stands in the way of Johnson making history and will hope he can capture UFC gold and begin his own reign at the top. The challenger has won five of his last six and enters the bout on the back of a two-fight win streak securing victories over Louis Smolka and Jussier Formiga. Despite being the heavy underdog however, Borg is full of confidence and not only believes he is going to dethrone the 125lb kingpin but spoke at the UFC 216 open workouts where he even predicted the round and the method of his victory.
Elsewhere on the card sees Derrick Lewis return to the ring after announcing his retirement shortly after re-aggravating a back injury during his fourth round TKO loss to Mark Hunt at UFC Fight Night 110. The man to welcome Lewis back to the ring is former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. The Brazilian will look to bounce back from his decision loss to Alistair Overeem and make one last run for the belt since after being dethroned by current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Kadyrov’s prize-fighter makes second Octagon appearance
Earlier on in the card sees undefeated and somewhat controversial Russian prospect Magomed Bibulatov face John Moraga in a 125lb matchup. All eyes have been on Bibulatov since joining the UFC after his association and support for Chechnya dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. Not only do Bibulatov and Kadyrov have an affiliation but the UFC flyweight is seen as the dictator’s prized fighter.
Back when Kadyrov first took an interest in mixed martial arts, Bibulatov was one of the first fighters he took under his wing.
Those who become a part of Kadyrov’s roster fall under his immediate patronage. Food, training and medical expenses are all covered by his promotion.
Back in 2016, Bibulatov told Bloody Elbow how he ‘has a great relationship with the leader of his country’ however after his debut victory at UFC 210, the Chechen fighter refused to answer claims of his ties to the dictator. Although his lips may stay sealed on the matter, the flyweight may have to deal with a lot more intrusive questions during his time the promotion if his success in the Octagon continues.
Full UFC 216 Fight Card:
Interim Lightweight Title Bout: Tony Ferguson (22-3) vs. Kevin Lee (16-2)
Flyweight Title Bout: Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1) vs. Ray Borg (11-2)
Heavyweight Bout: Derrick Lewis (21-7-1) vs. Fabricio Werdum (18-5)
Womens Flyweight Bout: Mara Romero Borella vs. Kalindra Faria
Lightweight Bout: Evan Dunham (18-6) vs. Beneil Dariush (14-3)
Bantamweight Bout: Tom Duquesnoy vs. Cody Stamann
Lightweight Bout: Lando Vannata (9-2) vs. Bobby Green (23-8)
Womens Strawweight Bout: Pearl Gonzalez (6-2) vs. Poliana Botelho (5-1)
Flyweight Bout: Matt Schnell (10-4) vs. Marco Antonio Beltran (8-5)
Heavyweight Bout: Walt Harris (10-5) vs. Mark Godbeer (12-3)
Flyweight Bout: Magomed Bibulatov (14-0) vs. John Moraga (17-6)
Middleweight Bout: Brad Tavares (15-4) vs. Thales Leites (27-7)