The first of a two-part preview of UFC 209.
After all the controversy and boredom of UFC 208, the company has had some big wins in the last few weeks.
The return of George St-Pierre had MMA fans match-making left, right and centre. All the fun and games took the attention away from the vindicated featherweight murderess, Chris Cyborg. We also had the “Black Beast” Derrick Lewis shaking Travis Browne’s brain casing, talk about potentially sh*tting himself and searching for “Ronda Rousey’s fine ass”. Entertainment, thy name is heavyweight.
And two more heavyweight clashes are where we begin this UFC 209 preview. Yes, it should be in Stockton, but we’re off to Las Vegas, where Marcin Tybura (14-2-0) and Luis Henrique (10-2-1) close the prelim card out in a ‘ones to watch’ battle.
The indomitable (unless you’re Brock Lesnar) Mark Hunt (12-10-1-1) returns against old enemy Alistair Overeem (41-15-1) to open the main card, lawsuit be damned! Slotting neatly into the middle of card, and fresh from the depths of the prelims, Ultimate Fighter finalist Amanda Cooper (2-2) takes on undefeated grappler Cynthia Calvillo (3-0). Let’s get this show on the road!
Marcin Tybura vs Luis Henrique (265lbs)
The 31-year-old Marcin Tybura is a former M-1 heavyweight champion. Tybura started his career in eastern Europe with a 12-fight unbeaten run. He’s lost two in his last four including his UFC debut to mustachioed Timothy Johnson.
That loss could be put down to octagon jitters from ‘Tybura’, as the hyped Pole was much improved against Viktor Pesta back in August. His developing kickboxing skills were on full display with a second round head kick knockout.
Luis Henrique Barbosa de Oliveira is thankfully also called ‘KLB’ and also lost his UFC debut. Storming heavyweight Frenchman Francis Ngannou put KLB’s lights out in round two. He’s since gone on to finish Dmitrii Smoliakov and Christian Colombo via submission. Six straight wins at light-heavyweight brought “KLB” to the big leagues and he’s coughing up a four-inch reach advantage to Tybura. The undersized Brazilian seems to have adapted to the weight class but it may be too little too late against Tybura.
Both men look matched on the ground with ten submission wins between them but Tybura has improved on the feet. Ngannou exposed KLB’s poor striking technique and Tybura is experienced and talented enough to do the exact same thing.
He will also have as size advantage should it come down to wrestling. Luis Henrique looks in trouble everywhere in what may be his last outing with the bigger men. Marcin Tybura will hope a win brings the ranked Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis back on his radar.
Prediction: Tybura via TKO, round two.
Alistair Overeem vs Mark Hunt (265lbs)
Alistair ‘The Demolition Man’ Overeem has a staggering 57 fights on his record. The former Strikeforce and Dream heavyweight champion has knocked out 18 opponents and submitted another 19. Three finishes against the big names of Andrei Arlovski, Junior Dos Santos and, gigantic in stature, Stefan Struve rounded out a four-fight winning streak and set Overeem against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
Overeem stung Miocic early but was brutally knocked out late in the first. To get back to the title Overeem must get through Mark ‘Super Samoan’ Hunt, a man he submitted way back in 2008.
Mark Hunt and his right hand have the capacity to ruin any heavyweight’s night. The unofficial champion of the walk-off knockout, Mark Hunt has put nine foes down via strikes and he’s a former K-1 Grand Prix champion.
Losses to former champion Fabrício Werdum and current champion Miocic preceded two devastating knockout wins against Bigfoot Silva and Frank Mir. He was then smothered by Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 before losing his mind for the last few months. He’s been the UFC’s biggest verbal critic but now it’s time for the 41-year-old Kiwi to get back to business. Consciousness stealing is Hunt’s favourite type of business and he should be extra motivated to exact revenge against previous foe Overeem.
With two former kickboxing champions going head to head you should count on reach being a factor.
Overeem has an eight-inch reach advantage and is six inches taller than Hunt. If he keeps Hunt on the outside with kicks he could beat the ‘Super Samoan’ up over three rounds.
Overeem will also have an edge on the ground with Mark Hunt losing six by submission. And while all of these things are possible you can be sure this vengeful, iron-fisted Samoan can land once and end it all.
Overeem has been put to sleep ten times and Hunt will be itching to make that 11. If he can close the distance and negate Overeem’s reach this fight could turn into his desired brawl.
Hunt’s plan is simple; hit him hard enough and he’ll go to sleep. Overeem has more options, namely keeping Hunt backed against the cage and landing combinations. Hunt has been knocked out before and is very hittable. You can ask Miocic and JDS to be sure. It could go either way but the potentially foul mouthed tirade of a Mark Hunt octagon victory speech is too fantastic to not hope for.
Prediction: Hunt via knockout, round 1.
Amanda Cooper vs Cynthia Calvillo (115lbs)
Amanda Cooper’s boxing got her all the way to the Ultimate Fighter 23 final before tapping out to Tatiana Suarez. Her return to the cage was more successful with a decision win against Anna Elmose. At 25, ‘ABC’ has plenty of time to improve her overall game in the still young strawweight division. She could be in trouble against fellow America, Cynthia Calvillo.
Calvillo is making her UFC debut on the back of a three-fight professional unbeaten streak. She’s stopped two of those fights via punches despite her overpowering wrestling game and much tonight depends on what way she wants to defeat Cooper. Does she over power Cooper’s weak defensive wrestling game or stand and bang with ‘ABC’?
Not giving Cooper a huge chance here. Her wrestling really is poor and Calvillo could maul her around the cage. And while Cooper has won via submission she has failed to impress with her striking game, not finishing anyone on the feet since 2013.
If Calvillo can take advantage of the bright lights and the main card stage then a debut win could launch her career. She may be able to out strike Cooper and she can always take her down if things get rough. And there she’ll stay while Cooper tries to avoid her ground and pound. How long can she last? If she’s made some adjustments, then the second round is just how long.
Prediction: Calvill via TKO, second round.