Main Event: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz

Last week, UFC featherweight contender Frankie Edgar said the “C” in UFC should stand for “Conor,” as in featherweight champion Conor McGregor. He’s right.

McGregor was expected to be the first man to attempt to hold a title in two weight classes, but lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos was forced out of the main event of UFC 196 with a broken foot. McGregor will now face UFC veteran Nate Diaz in a welterweight bout.

It’s incredibly rare to see a fighter, let alone a champion, fighting two weight classes above his or her normal division. McGregor can break any and all of the rules and the UFC will still ride the wave. And rightfully so; McGregor is currently the company’s biggest needle-mover when it comes to event attendance and pay-per-view numbers. When he fights the entire country of Ireland is tuned in, and even casual sports fans will find their way to a TV to see if “Mystic Mac” will strike again.

Throughout his UFC career, “The Notorious” has never shied away from calling his shot, correctly predicting the round and method in which he’ll finish the fight. He says these outlandish things and people roll their eyes, but they still tune in to see if he’ll be proven wrong. For the record, he predicted a first-round knockout of Diaz.

That may be a tall task, as Diaz is one of the most durable fighters in the UFC today. Not only can he take a punch, he’ll take it and then give you the middle finger before firing off a mean combination. The Stockton, Calif.-native also has a dangerous ground game, finishing 11 of his 18 wins by submission. The question about Diaz has never been about his skill, but rather his desire. Diaz is famous for having an “IDGAF” attitude, constantly defying authority, sticking his middle finger at cameras and dropping f-bombs in post-fight interviews, like this one where he called out McGregor:

Diaz seems to be coming in with a true desire to want to beat McGregor, but with less than two weeks to train and come up with a gameplan, it might just not be possible for him to really put forth his best effort. McGregor has been in the gym training for the past two months; a change in opponents, especially one with a less-diverse skill-set than what dos Anjos would’ve presented, likely won’t affect him. Diaz will be McGregor’s first opponent to hold a height and reach advantage over him. But Diaz likes to plod forward and throw punches, and that has left him susceptible to kicks throughout his career. McGregor has a diverse kicking arsenal and isn’t afraid to throw unorthodox techniques.

Prediction: McGregor KO via Hook Kick to the head, 2nd Round.

Co-Main Event: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship- Holly Holm (c) vs. Miesha Tate

In the co-main event, Holm will look to make her first title defense after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history by knocking out Ronda Rousey. The magnitude of the upset was amplified by the fact that Rousey was unbeaten and no one really thought Holm had a chance of beating her. In reality, Holm was always the more skilled fighter and she showed it in how easily she dominated Rousey. Tate presents a different challenge.

Don’t let the “Cupcake” nickname fool you; Tate is as tough as they come. She is a high-level grappler with a background in wrestling and can submit opponents when she gets them on the ground. The biggest thing Tate has going for is her heart; in multiple fights she has been down on the scorecards only to storm back and earn victories. Tate gets stronger as the fight goes on and can push a high pace as her opponent tires out.

Before claiming the UFC belt, Holm had fought with a more reserved approach. Her first two wins in the promotion were underwhelming decisions as she employed a smart gameplan to strike her opponents from the outside with a heavy reliance on kicks to the body in order to control the distance. A former 19-time boxing champion, “The Preacher’s Daughter” finally opened up her striking because Rousey brought it out of her.

Rousey’s aggression allowed Holm to repeatedly catch her with straight-lefts that landed flush and rocked her each time. But Rousey had delusions that she was a skilled boxer as well, so she ran at Holm looking to throw hands and set up her judo throw. Don’t expect the same from Tate, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Holm reverted back to her gameplan of controlling distance.

Tate won’t be storming at Holm with her chin in the air, but she will be looking to get inside and initiate a clinch to force Holm to grapple with her. If Tate can close the distance she’ll force Holm out of her comfort zone and turn it into an ugly fight, which Tate excels at. Holm has said before that she doesn’t want to be in a grueling fight, she wants to make the fight as easy as possible. She’s not concerned with “Fight of the Night” bonuses or recklessly looking for a knockout. Holm will look to use her reach advantage to keep Tate on the outside, stick and move and pick her apart.

Prediction: Holm via Unanimous Decision.

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