A look into some of the fights that have gone under the radar from the main card of UFC 209:
With the main event of UFC 209 stealing the spotlight, one would be forgiven for forgetting some of the talented fighters that also feature on the main card. Former champions, up and coming prospects and a fighter locked into a legal dispute with the company all populate UFC 209.
The main card kicks off in the Heavyweight division, and is a rematch from Dream 5 in 2008, as Alistair “The Reem” Overeem takes on Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt. In their last meeting together, Overeem came out on top securing a submission victory in just over a minute into the first round. Both of these fighters are well experienced, hard hitting, veterans of the sport looking to put recent losses behind them. Overeem last fought Heavyweight champ, Stipe Miocic, back at UFC 203. After early success, Overeem was unable to put Miocic away and was eventually KO’d after some devastating ground and pound, late in round one. Hunt’s last outing was a highly publicized bout with Brock Lesnar on the record breaking UFC 200 card. On the night Hunt was unable to stop the takedown attempt and eventually lost a Unanimous Decision to Lesnar. However, this was later declared a No Contest after Lesnar failed a post-fight drugs test. This in turn upset Mark Hunt as it was the third time he had faced an opponent who tested positive for banned substances and he has since been locked in a legal dispute with the UFC.
UFC 209 also sees the return of former Light Heavyweight champ, Rashad Evans, who will make his long awaited Middleweight debut against Australian Dan Kelly. It’s fair to say Rashad Evans has had a tumultuous time the past couple of years. Since his impressive first round stoppage against Chael Sonnen back at UFC 167 in November 2013, the experienced veteran has yet to win a fight. After sitting on the sidelines nursing multiple injuries, Evans made his return against Ryan Bader at UFC 192, in October of 2015. With nearly two years away from the octagon, Evans found it understandably difficult to deal with Bader (who at the time was riding a four fight win streak) and ultimately lost via a Unanimous Decision. This was followed by a brutal first round knockout loss to hard hitting Brazilian, Glover Teixiera, in the main event of UFC on Fox 19. This loss prompted Rashad to make the move down to Middleweight and he was first slated to face Tim Kennedy at the infamous UFC 205 card in New York. However, after an irregularity was found in his pre-fight medical examinations, Evans was not cleared to fight. This bout was rescheduled for UFC 206 but once again, Evan was not cleared to fight and the fight with Kennedy was scrapped altogether. Now, after being cleared by neurologists, Rashad is looking to getting back in the win column.
Rashad’s opponent, Dan Kelly has only lost once in his professional MMA career. This was at the hands of knockout artist, Sam Alvey, at UFC Fight Night 65 in May 2015. Since then the 39 year old has quietly gone about his business and won three fights straight in the Middleweight division. The Australian holds a black belt in both judo and jiu-jitsu and will be looking to make a big statement as he faces a massive step up in competition in the form of Rashad Evans. Kelly has represented his country in judo at the 2012 Summer Olympics and was selected as one of the fighters to appear on The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia, eventually losing to runner-up Sheldon Westcott via submission. This is unquestionably Kelly’s biggest fight in his career and if he can dispatch Evans this would certainly be one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history.
An exciting prospect meets a former TUF member in the Lightweight division as “Groovy” Lando Vannata meets David Teymur. Vannata burst onto the scene in July 2016 when he was brought in on short notice to face highly ranked Lightweight Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (who is now fighting for the Interim-Lightweight Championship on the same card) in his UFC debut. This was the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 91, and many thought it would be a walk in the park for “El Cucuy”. Somewhat surprisingly Vannata displayed outstanding and diverse striking, nearly finishing Ferguson in the very first round. However, after fatiguing in the second round, he went on to lose to the gritty Ferguson via D’Arce choke. Despite this defeat, Lando gained many fans. “Groovy” then faced John Makdessi at UFC 206 and once again displayed some fantastic striking, but this time finished Canadian in the first round via highlight reel wheel kick KO. This earned him a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus and he will hope for another one on Saturday night.
David Teymur holds a professional MMA record of five wins and one loss. He has won five fights straight, four of which by KO/TKO. The Swedish native was a participant on TUF 22 and made it to the quarter finals where has lost a Majority Decision to Marcin Wrzosek. He made his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 84 in February 2016, and defeated Martin Svensson by TKO in the second round. Teymur followed this with a second round KO win against Jason Novelli at UFC Fight Night 92 in August 2016. The Swede will be looking to extend his win streak in the octagon at UFC 209 in what I imagine will be a stand up fight with the aforementioned Lando Vannata.
UFC 209 goes down this Saturday, March 4 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
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