It’s been 42 days since UFC 200, which was originally supposed to feature this epic rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor. However, after McGregor refused to do some promotional press a few months out to instead train for the upcoming fight, the UFC pulled him off the card. Obviously a bummer, but a fight of this magnitude can carry it’s own card and sometimes the longer the wait – the more anticipated the fight.
Co-headlining the card is an all important fight at light heavyweight, as contenders Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Glover Teixeira lock horns in what is most likely a title eliminator fight. Rumble, is on the heels of a two fight win streak, knocking out both Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader. A win over Teixeira would most certainly warrant a title shot, one in which would be a rematch with Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier. As for Glover Teixeira, age has not slowed him down, as he’s rattled off three consecutive wins in a row – All via finish. A victory over Anthony Johnson is not only huge name to have on the resume, but it’s one that would promise Teixeira’s second chance at UFC gold.
Also on the card is a barnburner in the Welterweight division, as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone squares off against Rick Story. Since moving up to 170 lbs., Cerrone has won two fights in a row, earning performances bonuses in both. And most recently, he defeated Patrick Cote, who in 33 professional fights had never been finished due to strikes up until then. Meanwhile, Story made a triumphant return to the Octagon after an injury plagued year and a half layoff, defeating Tarec Saffiedine. Story looked good, showing little rust if any, so I expect this to be a front runner for “Fight of the Night” honors.
A few other fights on this card to look out for include a bout at 135 lbs. between rising contender Cody Garbrandt and veteran Takeya Mizugaki. Garbrandt is on the fast track for a title shot, as a feud between Champion Dominick Cruz is generating buzz. Another bout that should be fun is in the Welterweight division, as the dynamic Lorenz Larkin takes on contender Neil Magny. I say contender because despite being in a stacked Welterweight division, it can’t be overlooked that Magny is 10-1 in his last eleven fights. Anyways, enough of this, let’s just get to the predictions!
UFC 202 Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor – I don’t think I’ve anticipated a fight like this since Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor, which is a tip of the hat to McGregor. He just knows how to make people want to watch him either win or lose. Take for example his comments against the WWE calling them p*ssies, which rightfully riled up the athletes and fans. Those same athletes and fans now want to see him lose and buy the PPV, in which further fills up his pockets. It’s genius! Anyways if this fight is anything like the first one, this should be an instant classic. Nate Diaz is a boxer, who will attack you from a distance with his lengthy reach. He doesn’t have one-punch knockout abilities, but his volume striking and precision eventually will get to you like it did to McGregor in the first fight. And if this fight hits the mat, we all know that Diaz one of the best jui-jitsu practitioners and if you aren’t smothering wrestler – then you are in a world of trouble. As for McGregor, he’s primarily a striker who has devastating power. He’s got some flashy kicks, but oddly never peppers the legs. And Diaz has shown to be susceptible to leg kicks, so a gameplan implementing leg kicks would be smart. As for a prediction, Diaz is just too big and if this fight ever hits the ground, McGregor is going to get eaten up again. Now, I don’t think this fight ends quick, as McGregor is going to be technical this time around and not expend all his energy trying to knock Diaz out. However like I said I have Diaz winning this fight, which in the last go around I had McGregor. Diaz via TKO in the fourth round, as his durability withstand punishment and keep coming once again earns him the nod!
205 lbs.: Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira – Gosh this card is awesome! Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira are two of the very best Light Heavyweights and the implications of this fight should definitely have title shot written all over it. Johnson has won his last two fights, finishing both opponents with his signature heavy hands. I still can’t wrap my head over how he used to fight at 170 lbs. back in the day – as he will probably come in around 225 lbs. for this fight. His combatant Glover Teixeira has won three consecutive fights and at 36 years old, has show no signs of slowing down. This fight however will test his age, as Anthony Johnson’s athleticism and pure explosion abilities presents issues for Teixeira. But, Teixeira’s durability could be the difference in this fight, as Johnson has shown to fade the later a fight goes. Mix that in with Teixeira’s timely takedowns and smothering top control and we got ourselves a tough fight to call. One in which I have to make obviously, so I’m going to side with…Glover Teixeira. His overall skillset, durability and cardio will be the difference here, as I have Teixeira via late submission.
170 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story – This one should be fireworks, as both Cerrone and Story come to scrap. Cerrone enters this fight on a two fight win streak and has made this move to Welterweight look genius. One can argue that Cerrone looks better than ever and is due time, could eventually challenge for the title. His combatant Rick Story is on a three fight win streak, defeating the likes of Leonardo Mafra, Gunnar Nelson and Tarec Saffiedine. And one can argue her too, that Story has never looked better either. As for a prediction, this is a toss up. You have a pressure fighter like Story, who primarily strikes, but is a strong grappling. His style could present problems for Cerrone, who is also primarily a striker that uses his range to stifle opponents. Cerrone is also a problem on the ground, especially when fighters are in his guard – which is pretty crazy. And if I have to be honest here, I’m going to side with Cerrone on the sheer fact of that. Even if Story gets this one to ground, Cerrone is going to make him very uncomfortable and threaten with submission attempt after submission attempt. So with that, I have Cerrone edging out Story everywhere in route to a decision victory.
170 lbs.: Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Mike Perry – Another welcome back, as Korean knockout artist Hyun Gyu Lim makes his return to the octagon. Lim had been out of action since May of 2015, so ring rust could be a factor here. His combatant is promotional newcomer Mike Perry, who is an undefeated knockout artist. In other words, this one should be a slugfest. As for a prediction, I’m siding with the UFC veteran Hyun Gyu Lim, as this just seems like too much of a step up for Mike Perry. So with that, I have Lim via KO!
170 lbs.: Tim Means vs. Sabah Homasi – The “Dirty Bird” Tim Means is back, as he takes on promotional newcomer Sabah Homasi. I have no idea who Homasi is, but I do know that Tim Means is one of the baddest men to walk the planet. He’s as aggressive as they come and his precise volume striking, especially those timely standing elbows. Kudos to Homasi for taking this fight, but it’s going to be a short night. Means via TKO!
UFC 202 “Prelims” on FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Cody Garbrandt vs. Takeya Mizugaki – The rise of Cody Garbrandt continues, as he takes on longtime UFC/WEC veteran Takeya Mizugaki. In a fight in which probably everyone predicts Garbrandt to destroy Mizugaki, I’m not so sure that he does. Now, Garbrandt is 4-0 in the UFC and is coming off a huge win over fellow bantamweight contender Thomas Almeida. The momentum is in his favor to keep climbing the bantamweight ladder, but he first must get past the cerebral Takeya Mizugaki. I say cerebral because Mizugaki is very smart and technical in his approach. He’s got good boxing and a smothering-like grappling. As for a prediction, I have to side with Cody Garbrandt. He’s the complete package and I expect a combination of his footwork, speed and power to give Mizugaki some issues. However, I don’t expect a beatdown, but I do expect a Garbrandt TKo in the third round.
135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington vs. Elizabeth Phillips – “Rocky” Raquel Pennington all day here. She’s a more complete fighter and has been active, as opposed to Elizabeth Phillips. And no offense to Phillips, but she holds a 1-2 record in the UFC, with her only win coming against Jessamyn Duke. The same Duke that has lost five consecutive bouts and hasn’t won since 2013. As for Pennington, she’s won two consecutive fights, most recently defeating former Bantamweight title challenger Bethe Correia. And I don’t expect that winning streak to end here, as I have Pennington winning via submission.
145 lbs.: Chris Avila vs. Artem Lobov – Man this is a tough fight to call, as on one end you have a promising newcomer in Chris Avila and on the other, you have a guy who carved through the TUF house, but has a sub .500 record in Artem Lobov. I’ve seen some footage of Avila and he couldn’t be more similar to his training partners, the Diaz brothers. And Lobov I’ve seen several times and besides his TUF run, he’s really flaked out. He’s a striker with legit power and that’s absolutely all. But, Avila’s style plays right into Lobov’s, which makes this tough to call. Ughh – I’m going to side with Avila, as he’s actually tasted victory lately. Poor prediction method, but what the hell, Avila via decision.
135 lbs.: Randa Markos vs. Cortney Casey – In my last predictions of Randa Markos, I said that she has all the tools to be a contender in the Strawweight division. And in her last fight, she displayed improved striking abilities, which with already solid grappling – could mean that she’s ready to make the leap. Her opponent Cortney Casey is one of the more fierce Strawweights, as her aggressiveness and striking presents problems. As for the fight, I have Randa Markos here. She seems more cerebral in her attacks then Casey and more tools to win this fight. Her athleticism alone will present issues for Casey, so with that, I have Randa Markos winning this fight via submission!
UFC 202 “Prelims” on UFC Fight Pass (6 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Lorenz Larkin – What an awesome fight in the Welterweight division and a huge opportunity for Lorenz Larkin. Since moving down to 170 lbs., Larkin has won three of four fights, including most recently defeating Jorge Masvidal. His combatant Neil Magny has like I mentioned before, won ten of his last eleven fights. His lone defeat came against Demain Maia, who has been dominating everyone of late. Anyways, this is a tough fight Magny, as he has more to lose than gain. A victory is always beneficial, but Larkin isn’t ranked and going to push Magny into the title picture. As for the fight, Larkin is one of the best strikers in the division, which is crazy given that in his earlier days, he relied heavily on wrestling. Magny is a complete package, as he will attack you with a high volume of strikes and will also occasionally take you down and apply some serious ground and pound. His cardio is unmatched and has aided him in keeping a pace that most opponents couldn’t handle. In a tough fight to call, I’ll take pace, volume and cardio all day. Magny via decision.
170 lbs.: Colby Covington vs. Max Griffin – Convington has serious potential, especially with his wrestling pedigree. His ability to grind down opponents has aided him in his four UFC victories. His opponent is promotional newcomer Max Griffin, who is coming off a KO victory over former UFC fighter David Mitchell. I don’t know much about him, but I hope he’s a wrestler – if not it’s going to be a long night. Either way though, Covington should control this bout en route to a decision victory.
185 lbs.: Alberto Uda vs. Marvin Vettori – I remember hearing good things about Alberto Uda when he made his UFC debut. I remember picking him to beat Jake Collier and getting starched. I won’t make that mistake again (the picking of Uda part), so I’m going with Marvin Vettori via TKO!