UFC 216 Cheat Sheet: Tony Ferguson Vs. Kevin Lee

The UFC will try to help the city of Las Vegas turn the page on last weekend's horrific tragedy -- and resume some sense of normalcy -- with a planned event on Saturday inside T-Mobile Arena.

An interim lightweight champion will be crowned in either Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee

And in the co-main event, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will attempt to break former middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva's prestigious mark of 10 consecutive title defenses.

Here's everything you need to know about UFC 216.


Tony Ferguson (22-3) vs. Kevin Lee (16-2)

Interim Lightweight Championship

Odds: Ferguson -220; Lee +180

Times have changed in the UFC in 2017, and Saturday's main event is a perfect example of how.

For the first time in lightweight history, an interim UFC champion will be crowned. The undisputed titleholder, Conor McGregor, isn't injured or expected to miss significant time -- which is, historically speaking, the most common reason interim titles are created.

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The UFC hasn't promoted this weekend as a showdown to find out who faces McGregor next. UFC president Dana White has not beaten that drum. At all.

From a marketing standpoint, it would certainly make sense to do so -- as McGregor is the sport's biggest star -- but the truth is, the UFC can't guarantee who McGregor will fight next.

As of today, it seems just as (if not more) likely McGregor will fight Nate Diaz a third time than face the owner of an interim title.

In a sport where UFC titles have long stood for high prestige and financial gain, this takes some getting used to. For the actual fighters involved, it's a potential distraction they've each handled in their own way.

"The UFC knows where I stand as far as the Nate and Conor thing," said Ferguson, who has won nine in a row. "I don't have to talk about it much, honestly. We have rankings for a reason. If that happens, all the s--- they stand for goes out the f------ window."

Lee, who is eight years younger than Ferguson, said, "From a sporting standpoint, we all know the truth. Conor has only one fight in this division. In no way do I consider him the champion.

"This fight, hands down, is for the real lightweight championship. You can call it whatever you want, but we all know it, and Conor knows it too. As far as I'm concerned, after I win this belt, he needs to prove to me why he's a worthy challenger."

For the record, in a recent public appearance in Europe, McGregor did say that defending the title "means something" to him, and he did not rule out facing Saturday's winner.

Even so, it's surreal to see the UFC crown an interim champion under such circumstances. Ferguson (22-3), especially, would seem to warrant more promotion at this point in his career. He hasn't lost in more than five years and, similar to what made McGregor famous, he has welcomed late opponent changes in key spots.

Just seven months ago, he was willing to take on a different opponent with 24 hours' notice in an interim title fight, when his original opponent was hospitalized during a weight cut. Whereas McGregor's willingness to do the same thing in 2015 earned him wide praise, Ferguson's has gone relatively forgotten.

When asked if that eats at him, Ferguson says, "Absolutely not." He says he's not interested in fame and actually avoids it. Part of the reason he trained in the seclusion of Big Bear for this fight was to be away from prying camera crews.

But what might eat at Ferguson is if he is denied future opportunities -- even with an interim belt around his waist. An interim belt used to, if nothing else, guarantee a unification fight with the division's best. And that's what Ferguson cares about most.

"You've got an amazing, marketable fighter, but if you never give him a chance because you don't think he's important, that's fine," Ferguson said. "I could give two f---s about that. But don't rob a man of his ability to compete. If there's an interim belt out there, the champion needs to unify that m-----f-----. If not, he needs to vacate."


Fight Breakdown

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Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson are a combined 19-1 over their last 20 fights. Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Nine consecutive times now, Ferguson has walked out of the Octagon with his hand raised. That's what matters, but it's worth saying he hasn't been walking out unscathed.

Rafael dos Anjos landed 121 strikes over five rounds against Ferguson last year. Lando Vannata rocked him with a head kick that nearly knocked him out. Edson Barboza blooded him up, inside two rounds.

Again, Ferguson went on to win all of those, but it illustrates something about him: He takes risks. He invites a fight and usually wears the results of one.

There are good reasons for him to do so, by the way. Chin. Heart. Cardio. The ability to mentally break an opponent. Those are great qualities to have in a relentlessly paced fight, and Ferguson has all of them.

Is Lee the lightweight to make him pay for his approach? On the feet, perhaps not. Lee's striking is ever-improving, but the nuts and bolts of his game remain wrestling. Is he capable of knocking out a super-aggressive Ferguson? Sure. But the more likely route for Lee is to take Ferguson down.

And on the ground, Lee is a real problem. He's basically finished his last four opponents in the exact same way. Slamming them to the mat, taking their back and choking them out. One of the four was actually a TKO (the only knockout of Lee's career), but it was a TKO on the floor. He took Jake Matthews' back, flattened him and rained down strikes.

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