Originally, UFC 196 featured the Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor moving up in weight, to take on the Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos. McGregor was looking to make UFC history by becoming the first person to ever simultaneously hold two UFC belts. However, with eleven days until fight night, Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of the bout due to a broken foot. It’s unfortunate, but this isn’t the first time this happened to McGregor. At UFC 189, Jose Aldo pulled out ten days before fight night and Conor McGregor took on Chad Mendes instead. McGregor would TKO Mendes and capture the Interim Featherweight belt, only to unify it at UFC 194 by knocking out Jose Aldo in thirteen seconds. Now, with the Lightweight Championship off the table, it’s easy to assume that McGregor would rather just reschedule the bout. Well, you’d be wrong, as McGregor has reiterated that he’ll fight anyone, anywhere and at anytime. It’s a mindset that you can appreciate and only so few fighters possess. I mean, we’ve seen events literally get cancelled due to an injury and the opponent’s refusal to fight anyone on short notice. Fortunately for us, that’s not the case.
After Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of the fight with a broken foot, the search for a replacement was underway. Fighters like former Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis, Urijah Faber, Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone all expressed their willingness to fight. The craziest thing is that two days prior to the news about Dos Anjos, Cerrone had fought and beaten Alex Oliveira. When I mentioned before about the few fighters that have a mentality like Conor McGregor, well one of them is by far Donald Cerrone. It’s no secret he’s the most active UFC fighter and that’s because his willingness to like McGregor, fight anyone, anywhere and at anytime. Cerrone however, would not be the selected replacement to fight Mr. McGregor. Instead, the UFC announced that Nate Diaz would be McGregor’s huckleberry. In all honesty, I was more interested in this fight than the previous. I was already thinking of the verbal warfare that would ensue at press conferences leading up to the fight and just the sheer fact that Nate Diaz is a badass. Anyways, enough build up talk…To The Predictions!
Main Card (10 PM ET/7 PM PT, PPV)
170 lbs: Nate Diaz vs. UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor – If you though all the talk was done, then you obviously don’t know Nate Diaz. He not only stalks you down in the Octagon, but he’ll verbally assault you while fighting. Most succumb to Diaz’s antics, but I can’t see Conor McGregor becoming one his victims. Diaz relies on his volume striking and pressure to pick his opponent apart and if the fight hits the ground, the jui-jitsu black belt has shown comfort on both his back and on top. Diaz however lacks the occasional takedown or an abilty to check kicks and the only time we’ve seen McGregor in trouble, was when Chad Mendes repeatedly took him down. That’s something that I can’t see Diaz implementing, just because he prefers to go toe to toe with his opponent. I honestly think that McGregor is going to throw a lot of leg kicks in this fight, as he’s going to avoid Diaz’s jabs and looping hooks. He’s going to find his distance and pick apart Diaz’s legs and body, before going high to finish him off. I got McGregor via TKO in the second round.
135 lbs: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate – This is a great fight, as Holly Holm will look to prove she’s not one hit wonder and Miesha Tate will try to capture gold on her second attempt for the belt. Holm, has the best striking in the division, but it’s unknown of good she is in the grappling department. It’s important to note that, she did take Ronda Rousey down at one point and that’s no easy task. Miesha Tate however is a grappler first, with ever improving striking. I personally think that Tate could be Holm’s toughest matchup in the division, just because of her grappling and ability to grind out her opponents. As for a prediction, I’m really torn. For one, I think that if Holm has really good takedown defense, then she would have the advantage of picking Tate apart on the feet. If she doesn’t, Tate would rinse and repeat taking her down and hold position on top. I’m going to side with that last notion and pick Miesha Tate to upset Holly Holm by split decision.
205 lbs: Ilir Latifi vs. Gian Villante – A very solid fight in the light heavyweight division, that could very well end early. Latifi AKA the Sledgehammer, certainly packs that power in the punch. He’s also a good wrestler with solid ground and pound. Villante is striker, that’s just been hampered by poor cardio and an inability to put everything together during a fight. With all that said and this might be a dumb pick, but I think Villante with his height and reach advantage will jab away at Latifi ala Gegard Mousasi. This is just too important of a fight to not be smart…something I hoped Villante has learned.
205 lbs: Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor – Lawlor stole the show at the weigh-ins, as he braided his hair and wore a sticker of McGregor’s chest tattoo’s on his chest. It’s just one of the many gimmicks Lawlor has done over his seven plus years in the UFC. However, this fight is Anderson’s to lose in my opinion. He’s just too well rounded and athletic and I think if he shored up his striking defense, that this should be a breeze. I got Anderson via decision.
135 lbs: Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko – This is going to be an amazing fight in the Women’s bantamweight division. Nunes is one of the most ferocious strikers in the division and actually reminds me of Vitor Belfort. She’s very similar in that the first round is going to be trouble for any fighter, but after that cardio begins to be an issue. One in which I think Shevchenko will take advantage and use her technical striking to pick apart Nunes en route to a decision victory.
Preliminary Card (8 PM ET/5 PM PT, FS1)
170 lbs: Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Brandon Thatch – This seems like a loser gets cut match, which sucks because I like both guys. Bahaduraza has been out for over two years, which unless your Dominick Cruz, I just can’t see how you won’t be rusty. I mean, he hits hard and this could be super violent fight…but Thatch needs to turn into a grinder here. He’s got to stop standing in front of opponents and swinging for the fences and use all his tools. I think with his back up against wall, he gets over the hump and drags this fight into deep waters before submitting Bahadurzada.
170 lbs: Erick Silva vs. Nordine Taleb – What happened to the old Erick Silva, the guy who used to starched his opponents in the first round? Could it be the UFC’s new drug testing? I hope not, I hope it was just a bad day or something because against Neil Magny he looked like a shell of himself. Taleb is big for the weight class and tries to implement his strength on you and grind you out. It’s the perfect style to beat Silva, but I’m going to hope that he’s reinvigorated and he’s going to return to form this fight. I got Silva and his immaculate hair by TKO.
185 lbs: Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Vitor Miranda – When I examine this middleweight clash, I can help but to just side with Vitor Miranda. He just KO’d Clint Hester, who I think highly off. You got to be extremely gritty to even last against Hester, let alone knock him out… I’m sorry Guimaraes, but I got Miranda shutting the light out in this one.
145 lbs: Darren Elkins vs. Chas Skelly – If you want to see two superior grapplers face each other, well you got it. Both these guys have very similar styles and routes to win, by grinding out their opponents. I personally think that Skelly is the better striker and if he can use his grappling to keep this one on the feet, he will have that advantage. I also think he’s the better fighter off his back, which is why I’m going to side with Skelly to win by decision in possibly a “boring fight”.
Preliminary Card (6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT, Fight Pass)
155 lbs: Jim Miller vs. Diego Sanchez – O how the mighty have fallen…all the way to Fight Pass. I’m only joking, as I think this is just a strategic move to get people to buy fight pass. This is a throwback fight though and I can’t say I’m not excited. It has no implications and features two men who are the definition of gritty veterans. Obviously both are no longer in their prime, but I like what I’ve seen more from Diego Sanchez of late than Jim Miller. Sanchez has been fighting stiff competition and while he may not be winning, he’s not entirely getting dominated like Miller has been. With that said, I’m going with Diego Sanchez to win by decision in a rather violent fight.
155 lbs: Jason Saggo vs. Justin Salas – All I know is that Salas has been in the UFC for four years now, has what he likes to refer to as the J-Bomb and has alternated wins and losses throughout his UFC tenure. Saggo is talented prospect that nearly defeated Paul Felder, so huge props there. Enough actually for me to think that he breaks the alternating of wins and losses by Salas. I got Saggo via decision.
145 lbs: Julian Erosa vs. Teruto Ishihara – What a fun fight to open the card, as Julian Erosa aka Juicy J looks looks go 2-0 in the Octagon. However, he has to fight the scrappy Teruto Ishihara who I’ve become a fan of his fighting style. He’s a little reckless, but he’s got a chin on him and he’s just wings punches in bunches at you. He’s a savage and I think we are in for fireworks to open the night. AND on that note, I’m going to side with Ishihara just for the sheer no quit attitude and always coming forward style.