UFC 202 is here, the most anticipated rematch in recent history is finally upon us and we will soon find out if Conor McGregor has the ability to bounce back from such a high profile loss or will the pride of Stockton, Nate Diaz, reign once again. It’s hard to believe it’s just been five months since Diaz brought the McGregor hype train to a stuttering halt when he stepped into the octagon on 11 days’ notice and made the featherweight champion tap out. For anyone attached to the hype train, Diaz was expected to be a pushover for McGregor but in typically Diaz fashion he came to upset the party. MMA is an unpredictable sport, there are too many variables to be a “sure” thing, Conor’s camp has stated he is better prepared this time around but until fight night the question still remains the same, what does Conor do differently this time? Although the main event is what attracts most fans in Ireland, take this opportunity to feast on some of the finest fighters the UFC has to offer. The co-main event, Glover Teixeira and “Rumble” Johnson, two of the hardest hitters in the light-heavyweight division, is guaranteed to be a slugfest that should end with someone going to sleep; a win for either man could put them next in line for a title shot now that Jon Jones is out of the picture. Elsewhere at UFC 202, “Cowboy” Cerrone takes his third fight at welterweight as he takes on Rick “The Horror” Story, bantamweight standout Cody Garbrandt will be looking to go 10-0 at the expense of Japans Takeya Mizugaki, Neil Magny battles Lorenz Larkin in a potential Fight of the Night clash and as if there wasn’t enough already at stake in the McGregor/Diaz rivalry; Conor’s training partner Artem Lobov faces off against Nate’s training partner Chris Avila. UFC 202 is sure to be another great night of fights not to be missed so be sure to be tuned in from the start…not just for the main event.
As always, I will now break down all the main card fights, give my predictions and of course put my own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
CONOR McGREGOR vs. NATE DIAZ
After all the controversy surrounding the rematch; with Conor’s “retirement” and then the fight being pulled from UFC 200, the night is finally here. The first time they met, McGregor threw everything but the kitchen sink at Diaz, hook after hook and Diaz continued to pace forward and land shots of his own. By the time the second round wore on McGregor looked like he was running out of steam and made the rash decision to take Diaz down, a mistake that resulted in his first loss with the UFC. This time around, McGregor has promised he will be more patient as he aims to stop Diaz, a statement that is easier said than done, the Diaz brothers are well known for having some of the best gas tanks in the sport, they are cardio machines, remember Nate only had 11 days to prepare for the last fight and he never really looked like he was fading, this time around he has a full training camp behind him so for Conor to win he will need to match Nate breath for breath. “Notorious” needs to be prepared for a five round war, he needs to be aware of being trapped on the mat again and accept that one big punch may not end this fight, put simply; Conor needs to box smartly while not leaving any openings to be taking down. He needs to either outpoint Diaz or land so many shots on him that the opportunity to finish Nate presents itself; getting dragged into a brawl or a wrestling match won’t benefit McGregor. For Diaz, the game plan is simple, use his stiff jab to keep McGregor at distance and pick him off with timely combos, push the pace and test his cardio by taking him down and when the times right look for a submission again. If Conor stays patient, like he says he will, he can win this fight but if his cardio starts to fade in the later rounds we could be looking at deja vu and Diaz snatching a submission in the fourth or fifth round. Two losses in a row to the same man could seriously damage McGregor’s pulling power and he more than anyone will know that. I think McGregor wins this by decision and sets up what will surely be a trilogy sometime in the near future.
McGregor by decision.
ANTHONY JOHNSON vs. GLOVER TEIXEIRA
This is a match-up made in heaven. Between them, they have a combined total of 30 knockout victories so it’s fair to say don’t blink during this fight. Before facing Jon Jones for the light-heavyweight title, Glover Teixeira had been on an amazing 20 fight winning streak with only two of those fights going the distance, destroying a who’s who of light-heavyweight challengers in the process. After losing a hard fought battle with Jones, he again tasted defeat this time to Phil Davis before resurrecting his career with three consecutive stoppage wins, most recently knocking out Rashad Evans. Teixeira has lightning quick hands but is just as dangerous on the mat; he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has demonstrated his talents by submitting 7 of his previous opponents. As much as we all hope both men stand and trade, I think Glover will opt to try taking Johnson down and testing his submission defence but Johnson’s hands are so feared that people under estimate his wrestling game, he has perfectly timed takedowns and his takedown defence is excellent. The power “Rumble” possess in his fists is truly frightening, as he has demonstrated on countless occasions, his go to move is his one punch knockout, he became the first man to ever knock Daniel Cormier to the ground when they faced each other at UFC 187, leave one opening and Johnson will be sure to land a big shot. The one fear for “Rumble” in this contest is his vulnerability if he does eventually get taken to the canvas, from his 5 career losses 4 of them have been by submission and this may be Teixeira’s best option at getting the victory. If Johnson gas’s himself out like he did in the Cormier fight, Teixeira could capitalise and sink in a choke but “Rumble” should be aware of the danger and be well prepared for a three round war. Teixeira’s punches are lethal but I don’t think they contain the same amount of dynamite that Johnson’s does and that should be enough to see Rumble over the line.
Rumble by decision.
RICK STORY vs. DONALD CERRONE
Rick “The Horror” Story seems to have got his career back on track after spending three years following each win with a loss; he has now won his last three contests including impressive victories over Gunnar Nelson and Tarec Saffiedine. A dominant wrestler who also has a keen eye for a submission, Story knows a big win here could launch him into the money fights in the stacked welterweight division but the man standing across from him will have the exact same ambition. “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere” Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone just loves to fight so much so he has taken his third fight at his new weight class. Since losing in devastating fashion to Rafael Dos Anjos, Cerrone jumped at the opportunity to get back to winning ways by taking a short notice fight at welterweight against Alex Oliveria, after submitting him early in the first he followed that victory up by stopping UFC veteran Patrick Cote, he now aims to make a whole new division stand up and take notice. Story will surely come out looking to take “Cowboy” down and grind him out but Cerrone is just as dangerous of his back as he is on his feet, “Cowboy” holds a two inch reach advantage and he will make it count by landing his excruciating leg kicks with pin point accuracy and keeping Story at bay. Unless Story can pin Cerrone to the mat for three rounds I don’t think he wins, Cerrone is too well rounded and has too many weapons to stop him. I think Cerrone finds a way of putting Story away early.
Cowboy by knockout.
HYUN GYU LIM vs. MIKE PERRY
Mike Perry makes his UFC debut against an experienced fighter in Hyun Gyu Lim, the 24 year old comes here having never lost in six professional fights and none of those contests have ever gone the distance, his last opponent was only the second to make it into the second round. Perry is the owner of some slick combinations and heavy hands but coming in against a vastly more experienced opponent than he has ever faced before and he will need to have a Plan B in case he can’t connect flush with Gyu Lim’s chin. “The Ace” comes into this bout on the back of a bad loss to Neil Magny, his second defeat in his last three, and in need of a quick turnaround. Having joined the UFC in 2013, after making his name on local shows, he began his UFC journey in style with back to back KO victories. Known for his eagerness to end a fight early, Gyu Lim will be looking to add to his 10 knockout victories at the expense of Perry. Both men will be looking for the perfect punch and Perry will certainly be willing to make his stamp on the division but his is a big step up in calibre for Perry and this could boil down to youth versus experience. I think Gyu Lim brings too much to the table and he will be too much for the newcomer.
Gyu Lim by decision.
TIM MEANS vs. SABAH HOMASI
Sabah Homasi steps up as a late replacement for the injured Sean Strickland, taking this fight on just three weeks’ notice having only fought last on the 5th of August. Homasi come into this contest in fine form having stopped all of his last three opponents and only tasting defeat once in his last seven, the hard hitting American Top Team alumni will be making his UFC debut against another knockout artist in the shape of Tim Means. Means comes into this bout on the back of a stylish second round knockout of John Howard, the 17th knockout victory of his career, only losing once in his last six. “The Dirty Bird” has spent the majority of his training camp preparing for different contest but will now have to adjust to a fighter just as capable as himself at turning the lights off. This contest has all the ingredients to turn into an all-out brawl, something neither man would shy away from but I think Means knows his best option is to implement his crisp boxing and keep Homasi out of range. Patience is the key here, whoever buys their time and waits for the perfect opening will come out the winner.
Means by knockout.
Best of the Rest.
Cody Garbrandt vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Garbrandt to win.
Raquel Pennington vs. Elizabeth Philips
Pennington to win.
Artem Lobov vs. Chris Avila
Avila to win.
Randa Markos vs. Cortney Casey
Markos to win.
Neil Magny vs. Lorenz Larkin
Magny to win.
Colby Covington vs. Max Griffin
Covington to win.
Alberto Uda vs. Marvin Vettori
Vettori to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 12 predictions in an accumulator is about 167/1
The conservative bet: McGregor and Diaz to go the distance is 9/4 or the fight to end in round 4,5 or by decision is 6/4.
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