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  1. Andrew Bailey on 03/01/2017 at 2:11 PM

    Finally, UFC 209.

    The return of Nick Diaz as he and his brother Nate co-headline this historic Stockton, California card.

    Can you imagine if we were a week away from that?

    Alas, the UFC could not secure every fan’s dream card, but what we have to work with is exceedingly promising. A welterweight championship rematch, a perplexing stylistic match-up between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, and the opportunity for Mark Hunt to cut one of the most powerful anti-UFC promos in the organization’s history. Other notable storylines include Rashad Evans’ middleweight debut and rising star Lando Vannata back in action fresh off his highlight reel knockout of John Makdessi at UFC 206.

    With all of these storylines in place, I can imagine the UFC’s response to my Diaz lamenting is a direct quote from Maximus Decimus Meridius, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”

    I can’t argue there.

    UFC 209 is one of those rare cards where no outcome (regarding wins and losses respectively because if Mark Hunt submits someone I’ll tattoo his face on my chest with “Ultimate Fighting Corruption” beneath it in his honor) will surprise you. Yes, as with any card there are favorites and underdogs, but there are no overwhelming favorites. From the various betting lines circling the internet, Lando Vannata is the heaviest favorite, but that is largely due to his post UFC 206 popularity and his lesser known opponent.

    Each fight has several potential outcomes and every exchange will be vital for either fighter to gain the upper hand. Can Nurmagomedov take Ferguson down? Will Wonderboy be able to keep Woodley at distance with kicks? Will the Hunt/ Overeem fight last three minutes?

    #3 Alistair Overeem (41-15-0) vs. #8 Mark Hunt (12-11-1)

    Overeem wins IF he manages the distance with his diverse striking capabilities. Finishing Hunt is difficult, especially for a fighter such as Overeem whose chin is always a concern when closing distance; however, Overeem has the tools to do so. Overeem must dictate the exchanges and distance similar to how he did against Roy Nelson at UFC 185. ‘Reem’ will have an eight inch reach advantage and a far more diverse striking skill set. If he utilizes his reach and variety of strikes properly, his technicality will keep Hunt swinging for air.

    Hunt wins IF he lands one (semi) clean shot. This may not be the most eloquent answer, but Hunt has a track record of being one of (if not THE) hardest puncher in the UFC. Walk-off KO’s and the brutal uppercut that nearly decapitated Roy Nelson are more than enough evidence to suggest this. Overeem has been in several wars inside the octagon and has a historically deteriorated chin. If Hunt lands one decent shot, it’s over.

    Prediction: Hunt wins via first round KO. Similar to his defeat against Stipe Miocic or Ben Rothwell, Overeem will effectively move around and out-strike Hunt in the first minute or two. After that, he gets too close in the pocket or makes a fatal mistake due to a faint or telegraphed strike. Hunt walks off, as always.

    Lando Vannata (9-1-0) vs. David Teymur (5-1-0)

    Vannata wins IF his striking continues to be creative and unpredictable. Ask Tony Ferguson how difficult it is to strike with this kid. Lando Vannata is one of the most unpredictable strikers in all of the UFC because of his diverse skill set and angles he creates from his continuous movement. His attack is confusing and if he can keep Teymur on his heels and guessing, watch out for another electric finish.

    Teymur wins IF he cuts off the octagon. The Ultimate Fighter 22 alum has never been finished and is a dangerous striker in his own right (former Swedish Muay Thai national champion). Against Vannata, he will need to minimize Vannata’s movement and “fight in a phone booth” per say. If Teymur can keep the fight against the cage and in the Thai clinch, Vannata becomes far less dangerous and must adapt to Teymur’s strengths.

    Prediction: Vannata wins via unanimous decision. This is a great striking match up between two of the most promising prospects at 155. However, I believe Vannata’s movement will be too much for Teymur. I anticipate Teymur clinching up and “making the fight ugly”when he can, but when they are not clinched, Vannata will have a decisive advantage in strikes and damage.

    Rashad Evans (24-5-1) vs. Daniel Kelly (12-1-0)

    Evans wins IF he stops looking for that ONE, big shot. In his last two fights, Evans has failed when looking for his signature overhand right and become too narrow-minded in his striking. To regain form, Evans needs better setups, faints, and diversions in order for his power to be effective. This drop to middleweight could rejuvenate Evans especially given the natural power he already strikes with. If Evans can lure and bait the natural grappler Kelly to engage, he can feel free to let his right hand fly and easily counter his way to victory.

    Kelly wins IF he can get Evans to clinch. Daniel Kelly is a four-time Olympic competitor in Judo and in no universe wants to engage in a striking match with Rashad Evans (unless his coach is Edmond Tarverdyan). This will be the most talented striker Kelly has faced and will have to leave zero room for error when closing in on Evans. If Kelly can utilize his Judo in the clinch and work Rashad to the ground, he will be in optimum position for a submission or a grind-it-out style victory.

    Prediction: Evans wins via second round TKO. Rashad Evans is by far the most talented striker Daniel Kelly has ever faced. Evans has slowed down over the years, but it still seems unlikely a 39-year-old Judo fighter will be able to handle his power and precision. This will be an interesting game of each fighter baiting the other and inviting them into their own world. In the end, I see Kelly getting baited into striking and subsequently getting caught in the second round.

    #1 Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0-0) vs. #2 Tony Ferguson (23-3-0)

    Nurmagomedov wins IF he can keep Tony Ferguson on the ground. Ferguson is one of the hardest people to take down in the UFC, successfully defending 81% of all attempts. Nurmagomedov is arguably the best pound-for pound wrestler in the UFC so this sets up a grappling fight within the fight between an immovable object and unstoppable force. If Khabib can work well in the Thai clinch with strikes, then his takedowns will come more easily. Once on the ground, Nurmagomedov will have difficulty with Ferguson (who trains Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Eddie Bravo), but in my opinion, no one can survive five rounds on the ground with world Sambo master Khabib Nurmagomedov.

    Ferguson wins IF he establishes his jab early and keeps Nurmagomedov at the end of his strikes. In his last fight against Raphael dos Anjos (RDA), Ferguson did an excellent job of utilizing his jab to control distance and keep RDA on the outside. Ferguson has a six inch reach advantage and will look to control every centimeter of space on the feet to keep Nurmagodmedov from clinching. Once the jab is established, Ferguson will look to strike creatively and initiate exchanges favoring the awkward angles he creates. Tony Ferguson lands 90% of his significant strikes thrown when on the feet. Beware El Cucuy.

    Prediction: Ferguson wins via fourth round submission. Many back and forth rounds, advantages swaying from exchange to exchange, but by the fourth round, Ferguson’s jab and striking will have proven lethal in his strategy. Nurmgomedov was slightly exposed by Michael Johnson on the feet and Ferguson will be able to confuse him with various stances, techniques, and movement. Eventually Nurmagomedov will be worn down and get caught in a submission .
    Champion Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) vs. #1 Stephen Thompson (13-1-1)

    Woodley wins IF he capitalizes on Thompson’s kicks and secures takedowns. Woodley EASILY took Thompson to the ground in the first round of their previous fight, but then completely abandoned the strategy. If he takes Thompson down several times, he will dominate this fight and end it in anti-climactic fashion. The formula is simple and it is more than enough to win this fight.

    Thompson wins IF his kicks are utilized effectively. Thompson is a highly decorated kickboxer with many different karate-style strikes that can attack opponents from virtually anywhere. In their last fight, Thompson almost completely abandoned kicks after being taken down in the first from throwing a lazy side kick. Thompson must mix it up with his kicks and throw them often at different levels to keep Woodley from taking him down so easily. His spinning side kick could be the difference in this fight for him.

    Prediction: Woodley wins via third round TKO. Woodley has no fear of Thompson’s style and is the adequate kryptonite to neutralize his strengths. Besides being an outstanding wrestler, Woodley’s power is a big concern for Thompson. Once Woodley secures a takedown, he dictates the outcome.

  2. Morgan Mcleary on 02/18/2017 at 10:52 PM

    Hello Kevin,

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