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While it might not do blockbuster business, next weekend’s UFC 209 is a massive card for hardcore MMA fans. Headlined by a set of quite intriguing title fights, the card also includes plenty of fan favorites, plus a number of the highly regarded prospects on the roster at the moment. The most important event is going to be the welterweight title rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson. Their struggle on the huge UFC 205 card proven to be a much better competition than most anticipated, ending in a majority draw. Woodley had the a lot more demonstrative moments in the fight during the first and fourth rounds. But, Thompson was able to back him against the cage for long stretches of the rounds, and even though he didn’t accomplish much once there that he took those rounds. The fifth saw Thompson open up on a weary Woodley and finish the fight on a strong note, but it had been only enough to get him back level on two scorecards. Just as Woodley and Thompson did at UFC 205, the co-main event could steal the show here as well. The interim lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson features two of the fighters in the division who have taken the long road to their name shots. Nurmagomedov is now 8-0 inside the Octagon and 24-0 overall in his career. He’s been tapped for big things since entering the UFC, and after overcoming a rash of serious harms, eventually seems consistently fit and is favored to win the belt on March 4th. Ferguson has witnessed his own bumps in the road on the road to this particular shot. After winning the 13th year of’The Ultimate Fighter’ back in 2011, he scored three consecutive wins. He dropped a choice to Michael Johnson in 2012 that just halted his momentum for a moment. Since then, he’s reeled off nine consecutive wins against the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, and Josh Thomson, consistently putting on must-see fights. The combination of Nurmagomedov’s dominance and Ferguson’s high-paced, all-action approach creates their bout of the best bookings in the UFC in a while, and almost makes you forget that there is a man out there holding the UFC lightweight title who appears to have no desire to defend it. The main card of UFC 209 also offers a heavyweight rematch between Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt. Both fought in DREAM back in 2008 under far different conditions. Overeem was only beginning his transformation into Ubereem, while Hunt’s commitment to the sport was about based on Mario Yamasaki’s desire to stop fights punctually. Both men are much different fighters at this time, as Overeem has embraced a much more conservative style and Hunt has rounded out his game significantly. In their first fight, Overeem immediately took Hunt down and submitted himbut we haven’t seen a lot of his offensive grappling game recently. Will this battle mark its return, or will the K-1 Grand Prix champions engage on the feet? Rounding out the main card, former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans makes his long-awaited middleweight debut against the constantly surprising Dan Kelly. The currently 37-year-old Evans is 2-4 in his last six, and hasn’t won a fight since 2013. Kelly, despite turning 40 later this year, has impressed in his UFC conduct — despite the amount of competition has been a far cry from what Evans could have provided in his prime — going 5-1 despite being the gambling underdog in each of his UFC outings. Finally, among the rising stars at lightweight gets the chance to show off his striking, although from a technical standpoint this may be his stiffest test yet on the feet. Lando Vannata stormed into the UFC, almost upsetting Tony Ferguson on brief notice in his introduction, and then scoring the popular pick for 2016’s knockout of this year against John Makdessi. He’ll be confronting an underrated opponent in David Teymur, who has a pair of TKO wins his UFC resume after breaking into the organization through TUF. The undercard also includes some struggles to keep your eyes on, as undefeated prospects Mirsad Bektic, Luke Sanders, Paul’The Bear Jew’ Craig, and Tyson Pedro create their yields. The latter two have been paired together in a light heavyweight division which desperately requires fighters to rise up the ranks. Meanwhile, Bektic and Sanders face their stiffest professional tests against Darren Elkins and Iuri Alcantara, respectively.

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