This Saturday, two of the longest winning streaks in the UFC today are on the line as Tony Ferguson takes on Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight title whilst Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson looks to defend his belt for an eleventh time against challenger Ray Borg.
A win in Saturday’s main event for Ferguson or Lee could lead to a lucrative unification bout against undisputed lightweight champion Conor McGregor- a prospect which is perhaps a bigger prize than the belt on offer.
If Johnson is victorious against Borg in the co-main event, he will overtake Anderson Silva’s all-time UFC record for consecutive title defenses. This bout was scheduled to take place last month at UFC 215 until Borg’s last-minute withdrawal delayed proceedings.
An interim championship fight appearing higher on a card than an undisputed championship fight is far from unprecedented- it happened at UFC 51, UFC 53, UFC 189 and UFC 197, though those last three examples, much like UFC 216, were affected by fight cancellations.
Let’s take a look at the recent results of the two men in Saturday night’s main event:
Ferguson followed submission wins over Edson Barboza and Landon Vannata with a unanimous decision victory against former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Both submission victories came via the rarely-seen D’Arce choke and all 3 of these wins earned the Fight of the Night award. In fact, Ferguson has earned 6 fight night bonuses in his last 5 bouts.
These wins are just part of a 9-fight winning streak that stretches over 4 years. Ferguson holds the UFC record for most consecutive wins at lightweight and only Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, Georges St-Pierre, Max Holloway and Royce Gracie boast longer winning streaks in UFC history.
Kevin Lee is currently enjoying a 5-fight winning streak of his own, submitting Magomed Mustafaev, Francisco Trinaldo and Michael Chiesa all via rear-naked choke in his last 3 fights. Lee has fought and won on 3 occasions since Ferguson last stepped in the cage.
Despite competing a combined 24 times in the UFC’s lightweight division, Ferguson and Lee share no common opponents.
Let’s take a look at the recent results of the two men in Saturday night’s co-main event:
Johnson followed an emphatic first-round TKO of Henry Cejudo with a decision victory over Tim Elliott that, whilst conclusive, came a lot tougher than many had anticipated. Just when it looked like Johnson had shown a weakness, he put on arguably the most dominant performance of his career with a third-round submission of BJJ black-belt Wilson Reis in a fight where Johnson landed 135 strikes to Reis’ 18.
It’s also worth noting that, by defeating Reis, Johnson reached 10 successful title defenses in 1,666 days- over 2 years faster than the 2,457 days it took Anderson Silva to reach the same milestone.
Borg rebounded from a decision loss to the extremely talented, yet frustratingly inconsistent Justin Scoggins with a dominant win over Louis Smolka, who was ranked 6th in the world last year. He followed that impressive performance with a win over perennial top-5 flyweight Jussier Formiga in March.
Borg, whose issues making weight mean that he has only recorded one victory at flyweight in the last 3 and a half years, pulled out of the scheduled bout at UFC 215 last month with under 48 hours to go after an illness left him unable to compete. Here’s hoping things go a little smoother this week.
The Dwyer Score
Each event I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It essentially gives a numeric value to the momentum of fighters competing at any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak; a fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score, whilst a fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. A fighter coming off a No Contest, a draw, or a bout with another promotion has a streak of 0, and only UFC results are considered. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card, you get a total for the event- the ‘Dwyer Score.’ This score does not claim to predict or measure the quality or excitement of any one card, but it does give you an idea of the general momentum of fighters heading into a specific event. The graphic to the right displays some of the highest-scoring events of all time, to help give some context to this score.
As you may expect from a card containing two fighters on such impressive winning streaks, UFC 216 has a large Dwyer Score of +27.
This ranks joint-fourth of 28 events in 2017 and third of the 8 Pay-Per-View cards this year. Only 19 of the UFC’s 412 events since 1993 score higher than this.
Here’s a look at how this score compares to other events’ scores over the past year:
This score far surpasses the average for all events of +12.2, as well as the +21.6 average for strictly PPV events.
Let’s take a look at exactly how this score breaks down:
The highest individual contributor to the score is Demetrious Johnson (+12), followed by Tony Ferguson (+9), Kevin Lee (+5) and Evan Dunham (+4).
The lowest scorer at UFC 216 is Bobby Green (-3), followed by Matt Schnell, Marco Beltrán and Will Brooks (all -2).
It’s a fantastic score for what’s sure to be a fantastic night of MMA.