Ray Borg pulled out of UFC 215 just days before the event citing illness, scrapping Demetrious Johnson’s history making title defense. However UFC 215’s loss is UFC 216’s gain. Now not only do we get a mouth-watering interim lightweight title fight, but Johnson will again attempt to break Anderson Silva’s title defense record when his flyweight title goes on the line. Read on for our preview of the two title fights.
Due to Conor McGregors’ extended absence and question marks over his fighting future, the UFC has decided to install and interim champion and Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee have both been granted their first shots at UFC gold. While the fight may lack big name value, this is an excellent match up. Tony Ferguson is a violent, violent fighter and he may very well by the best lightweight on the UFC’s roster. Everything he does has the sole purpose of hurting his opponent and he has one of the highest finishing rates in the division (spread equally between submissions and KOs). On the feet he is very much in the same vein as the Diaz brothers; solid boxing with ridiculous output. While he lacks one punch KO power, he makes up for it with vicious technique. He loves unorthodox strikes and combinations, but always has his exceptional boxing fundamentals to fall back on. He grapples in a similar manner; always chasing the submission and putting very little stock in body control. However he is excellent at escaping bad positions and very rarely gives up his back. Undoubtedly his greatest weapon is cardio; he is able to maintain incredibly high output. He was able to prove this over 5 rounds against Rafael Dos Anjos at high altitude in Mexico City. He also has a solid chin and good fight IQ. Now riding a 9 fight win streak, Ferguson finally gets a shot at the lightweight belt.
Kevin Lee has a much more questionable claim to the lightweight throne. Currently ranked seventh, with his biggest win coming over borderline top teners Michael Chiesa and Fransico Trinaldo, Lee gets this fight off some flashy performances and public interest. In much the same way Conor Mcgregor was able to skip the line over more credential contenders. He has won 9 of his last 10 fights and the last three have all come via choke induced submission. He is a big, physically imposing lightweight who will be the first of Ferguson’s opponents to enjoy a reach advantage. He is powerful on the ground and chases submissions willingly in transitions and has a suffocating strong back mount. Lee’s takedowns rely on his athleticism more heavily than his technical ability, but he is an effective wrestler, particularly in the clinch. On the feet is where there’ll be the biggest discrepancy. He is still very much a work in progress striking. While he has clean, hard strikes which he throws well in combination, he has an open defense and is very susceptible to getting hit. His go to punch is a straight right and he likes to throw high kicks. Like Ferguson, Lee has shown off impressive cardio, but he has never gone 5 rounds and certainly never at the pace Ferguson sets.
Prediction: Tony Ferguson is undoubtedly the more dangerous and complete mixed martial artist. On top of that I think this is a bad stylistic match up for Lee. Lee is a pressure fighter and Ferguson showed against Dos Anjos that he is very comfortable when the opponent is pressing forward. That’s not to say Lee doesn’t have any paths to victory. Ferguson is rash and often overextends himself and Lee can definitely catch him in a wild exchange or transition. I think he needs an early finish, once this fight hits round 3 and 4 and Ferguson’s pace doesn’t relent, it will be all one way traffic. That’s the most likely scenario here; Ferguson will have success on the feet and have the presence of mind not to get himself into trouble on the mat. This one is coming a little too soon for Lee and while the first round or so will be close, eventually Ferguson’s strikes will add up and I think he will earn himself a late stoppage. Tony Ferguson by 4th round submission.
The first and only flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson gets to etch his name amongst the all-time greats with a victory over Ray Borg. Johnson will by vying to break Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defences, a mark that will surely last for many years to come. The key to Johnson’s sustained dominance has been his perfectly well rounded game. At 5’3 he is one of the shortest fighters to ever compete in the UFC, but he has blinding speed, ridiculous defensive striking, strong wrestling and an incredibly active ground game. The majority of his victories have come by decision or submission, but he beat his two strongest competitors, Olympic Gold medallist Henry Cejudo and team alpha standout Joseph Benavidez by first round KO. At this point Johnson has cleaned out the entire division multiple times over; but his opponent in this fight represents the new breed of flyweight fighters.
Ray Borg isn’t the big name that Johnson may have hoped for in his record breaking fight, but he is certainly game. Following a disappointing loss to Justin Scroggins, Borg moved to New Mexico to train at the famed Jackon-Wink academy and has since bounced back with two strong wins. Most notably his striking looks improved under the tutelage Brandon Gibson. He has begun incorporating deft movement and feints, but still looks stiff at times and is nowhere near the level of Johnson on the feet. Borg’s bread and butter is his grappling. He is an athletic wrestler with excellent timing on his takedowns. He is a control heavy grappler who is particularly adept at getting back mount. He has shown great cardio and has never been finished. The step up in competition for Borg is going to astronomical; the biggest wins in his career to date are against bona-fide flyweight journeymen; Gene Herrera and Jussier Formiga.
Prediction: This is rare for an MMA; but I see almost no path to victory for Ray Borg in this fight. He is completely outclassed in every aspect and is up against a guy who doesn’t have ‘off’ nights. I really don’t foresee him being able to take Johnson down and he simply doesn’t have the variety of attack and defence to win rounds on the feet. His best moments will be in the scrambles, but I’d be shocked if he could force a tap. So how will Johnson get it done? His usual MO is; wear opponents down early and force a late stoppage. However Borg is young, tough and has good cardio so I think he will take Johnson all 5 rounds. Demetrious Johnson by 50-45 decision.
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