Man, am I stoked for UFC 209.
Sometimes when you cover the sport, you get a little jaded. UFC 208 was underwhelming, we're in the middle of WrestleMania season on the WWE side of things, in the midst of a 12-day in a row podcasting schedule -- things have aligned for me to not really want to cover or talk about anything and just relax. Yet here I am, on the edge of my seat, anxious for UFC 209.
By Friday, I know what I'll see on Twitter and our comment sections.
"I didn't even know there was a UFC this weekend!"
It's a shame.
No shame on the person saying it, it's not their fault. There's no Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey. No Jon Jones or Brock Lesnar. Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva aren't fighting. No real big, marquee names. But damn, what a show.
Tyron Woodley and Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson will compete in a rematch that had to happen. A goofy scorecard/announcement error had the champion Tyron Woodley convinced he emerged victorious following their fantastic UFC 205 fight. Bruce Buffer soon corrected himself and said that the fight was actually a majority draw. No, we can't have a Dusty finish here. We need resolution! We have to run this back.
Even the weeks after weren't without controversy, though. It seemed as if Woodley, who non-MMA fans may recognize for his Straight Outta Compton appearance. It seemed like Woodley wanted to fight anyone but Thompson or another top contender in Demian Maia, instead clamoring for super-fights with Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping, Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor, PPV juggernaut Georges St-Pierre, Nick Diaz (who hasn't won a fight in years), among others. Woodley would level claims of racism towards the UFC, prompting UFC President Dana White to call him a "drama queen." It got real.
The wholesome Thompson got his re-match after Diaz outright rejected an offered fight against the outspoken Woodley. The two now headline UFC 209, following a bout that would have been a five-star performance if such a thing existed in the the MMA realm. But hardly anyone seems to be talking about it outside of MMA circles.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Woodley and Thompson got the "Conor McGregor rub" from that huge UFC 205 card and this show will explode. It worked short-term for others, but they're not doing it alone.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson may be the most compelling MMA fight of the year. Nurmagomedov is 24-0, which just doesn't happen in MMA at this level. He's not lost in his five years in the UFC, partially because he missed a solid two years due to injuries. Either way, he's 8-0 in the UFC, while Ferguson is 12-1, riding a nine fight winning streak. In the "old days," four or five wins in a row would get you a title shot. In a Conor McGregor world, it took hiatus', superfights, impending child births and trash talk to finally make this happen.
Even then, it almost didn't happen. Nurmagomedov was offered a huge fight with UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and flat out turned it down, telling the UFC to make the Ferguson fight happen because he was sick of the run around. Tony Ferguson demanded more money from the UFC to make the bout go down, something that Khabib Nurmagomedov offered to make happen on his own. There's no way this fight couldn't happen. It is, and it'll be for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship as Conor McGregor plays footsie with Floyd Mayweather. Speaking of McGregor, while Nurmagomedov crushed Michael Johnson, he trash talked Johnson, McGregor AND Dana White in the middle of the fight.
Oh yeah, Khabib wrestled bears as a kid. So that's something.
It doesn't end there.
Lando Vannata has been Ferguson's biggest challenge in recent years, showing up on short notice and knocking Ferguson silly in a star-making performance. Vannata was toppled, but made a name for himself, something he built upon with a highlight reel wheel kick knockout at UFC 206 -- which was a big hit on FOX last Christmas eve. Yeah, he's fighting on UFC 209, too.
Hey, casual UFC fans, remember Rashad Evans? After some of his recent performances I've done my best to forget about him, to be honest. But he's attempting to revive his career by dropping to 185 pounds after being a 205 pound champion and winning The Ultimate Fighter at Heavyweight. After a series of hiccups and nearly a year out of the cage, he'll take on Dan Kelly. Kelly is a 39-year old Australian sensation who seems to be the exception to every rule in the sport. He's also a judo specialist who has won six fights since Rashad was last victorious, including five in the UFC.
I almost forgot to mention, Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem are fighting, and someone is going to sleep.
It's going to be a good time. Come watch, enjoy, hang out in our live coverage and discussion area Saturday, and watch our live post-show podcast. Tell your friends, tell your mom, tell everyone, because it doesn't seem like anyone knows that this card is actually going down.