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UFC 209 Reasons to Watch

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Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson has every element of a developing rivalry. Two fighters in their prime who have established dominance at 170 pounds, back at it again.

The first fight was legendary – an instant classic.

Now strategy comes into play more than ever for rounds six through 10 Saturday night at UFC 209 in Las Vegas on Pay-Per-View.

In the fifth round of the last go-round, “Wonderboy” started to figure out Woodley, who dominated the fourth and almost finished the fight.

Thompson landed 21 significant strikes in that fifth round after just 22 total in the first four rounds combined. Woodley neutralized Thompson’s awkward karate striking style for most of the fight and battered “Wonderboy,” getting the better of most of the exchanges.

Woodley has the highest striking defense rate among active welterweights and was even better than his 68.8 percent clip against Thompson, who landed just 26 percent of his significant strikes in the fight. But after Woodley drained his tank going for the finish, Thompson owned the final five minutes.

Both men have had three months to study the film and now try to adjust in the sequel.

Woodley vs. Wonderboy is the No. 1 reason to watch UFC 209.

2 – Greatest lightweight fight in history?

After Khabib Nurmagomedov finished telling Dana White about his plans to win the lightweight title mid-fight againstMichael Johnson at UFC 209, the Russian quickly turned his sights to Tony Ferguson.

“El Cucuy” is riding a nine-fight win streak and Nurmagomedov has won eight in a row in the Octagon. Dagestan’s Nurmagomedov has never tasted defeat in his professional mixed martial arts career.

The cardio these two men possess is legendary.

Nurmagomedov relentlessly pursues opponents until he can drag them down to the ground. Once there, “The Eagle” has accumulated 364 significant strikes for 64.3 percent of his total strike output inside the Octagon. That’s the highest percentage of ground strikes by any fighter in the UFC.

Ferguson is coming off a hallmark victory over former champion Rafael Dos Anjos. In a five-round war, Cucuy landed 199 significant strikes (5th highest mark in UFC history) at altitude in Mexico City.

The winner will be crowned the interim lightweight champion and will be next in line for superstar Conor McGregor.

3 – New start for Evans at 185

Former light heavyweight king Rashad Evans makes his middleweight debut after two previous dates were scratched.

Evans takes on Daniel Kelly, who is 5-1 in the UFC and on a three-fight win streak. “Suga” is looking for his first win in more than three years and hoping to establish himself as a player at 185.

MORE FROM UFC 209: UFC 205 Fight Flashback | Get to know Tyron Woodley | UFC 209 Top 8 Finishes | GSP says Wonderboy is best striker he’s seen | Woodley vows a beatdown

4 – Groovy Lando gets PPV slot

After engaging Ferguson in a war on short notice in his debut, Lando Vannata followed that up with a sensational headkick knockout at UFC 206.

Vannata sits at 9-1 and his explosive style makes him one of the most fun fighters to watch at 155 pounds. He takes on fellow striking phenom David Teymur in this Fight of the Night contender.

5 – Heavyweight title hopefuls battle to stay in contention

Alistair Overeem just fought Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight championship and is looking to get back to the title by any means necessary. He faces Mark Hunt in a classic strikers’ showdown.

Hunt has won two in a row and looks to hand Overeem his second straight loss in a fight that may not last long.

Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC



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