It’s time. Live from the T-mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday night, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will once again square off inside the octagon at UFC 202.
The missed press conference, the cancelled bout at UFC 200, the months of training and planning, insults, cans and bottles thrown, it’s all been for this.
For Diaz, it’s a chance to prove that his last victory over McGregor wasn’t a fluke, that he has the tools to beat the Irishman anytime, anywhere. For McGregor, it’s a chance to prove what he’s been saying, that he is the more skilled martial artist and that the weight class doesn’t matter.
With good fights throughout the entire card, UFC 202 is set to be the biggest event of the year.
Conor McGregor VS Nate Diaz
We’ve been here before. At UFC 196, Nate Diaz submitted Conor McGregor via rear naked choke in the second round. Diaz was a late replacement after Rafael dos Anjos withdrew from his scheduled title defence with an injury, as a result the bout was contested at 170 pounds.
This was McGregor’s first fight at welterweight, he had the early success, dominating the opening stanza and tagging Diaz repeatedly with hard left hands. Midway through the second round however, McGregor looked to tire, he continued to tag Diaz, but the Stockton native was still standing.
He caught McGregor’s chin with a crisp left right combination and was able to secure the rear naked choke in the scramble that followed. Nate Diaz wasn’t surprised.
Nate possesses high level technical boxing and an advanced, often underutilised jiu-jitsu game. He prefers judo takedowns from the clinch over the traditional wrestling approach but is usually content with a back and forth stand up war. He is tough, durable and always comes to fight, he’ll take 2 punches to land 1 and his relentless cardio is his greatest asset.
Nate isn’t going to revolutionise the MMA striking game, he stands tall, walks his opposition down and uses technically perfect boxing fundamentals to wear his opponents out.
Standing southpaw, he repeatedly throws a jab/straight-left combination from range that has deceiving power, he isn’t looking to knock you out, but they all count, and they all add up.
He likes to push opponents up against the cage and rip the body, here is where Diaz unleashes his full arsenal of combinations and looks to finish the fight. If he gets into a clinch, judo hip throws are his go to takedowns, when he hits the mat, his real abilities become apparent. Diaz has excellent control on the ground, fast arm bar transitions and a deadly triangle from the guard. The ground is his preferred domain, coming from a straight jiu-jitsu background.
Conor McGregor decimated the featherweight division with six knockouts in seven fights. His wide southpaw stance, coupled with unorthodox attacks from all angles and unmatched speed and precision have bested all comers at 145, and then there’s his Thor’s hammer of a left hand. McGregor’s fight IQ is also off the charts, he commands the octagon, his battlefield. He had the early success in their first fight, so how might things be different this time around?
Standing over six feet tall, Diaz presents a tall unorthodox target, it takes more energy to produce power whilst punching up. McGregor has trained for months specifically for this type of opponent, sparring tall and rangy boxers. He has also brought in straight jiu-jitsu grapplers to emulate Nate’s style and vastly improved his cardio throughout this camp. Conor was consistently loading up on big shots at UFC 196, if he can conserve his energy and fight a smarter fight, this one could go into the championship rounds.
Much was made of Nate’s superior jiu-jitsu after their first contest, but it can be argued that McGregor was already out of the fight by the time it hit the ground. In the first round he was able to utilise an x-guard sweep to wind up on top of Diaz, his jiu-jitsu is definitely underrated. Conor has looked to plug the holes in his game while devoting this entire camp specifically to beat Nate Diaz, the main question is just how much has he improved?
This is why we love mixed martial arts, make no mistake, this is an extremely even fight which could go either way. Expect a stand up war of words and limbs. Of the two fighters, McGregor has had the more room to evolve since UFC 196, which just might provide the edge needed to down Diaz.
Prediction: Conor McGregor by TKO in round 2.
Anthony Johnson VS Glover Teixeira
These two beasts can brawl. It’s hard to find anyone in the light heavyweight division who hits harder than these two men. Glover is the better wrestler but prefers to utilise it in reverse to keep his fights on the feet. Johnson wants to take your head off with every punch and is very capable of doing so.
If Glover tastes Rumble’s power early, he may look to clinch up against the fence and wear him out, but going for a decision against a supreme knock out artist is always a dangerous proposition. with Jon Jones currently out pending a PED investigation, the winner here is likely to get a title shot against Daniel Cormier. High stakes could lead both men to be tentative in the opening round, but big shots will almost certainly be landed at some point. Power for power, this is Johnson’s fight to lose.
Prediction: Anthony Johnson by KO inside 2 rounds.
Donald Cerrone VS Rick Story
Rick Story is the better wrestler, he has good top control but tends to dominate the position more often than finding the finish. Cerrone will have the advantage in the stand up department and also possesses the far superior ground game. ‘Cowboy’ has one of the best guards in the 155 pound division and will constantly look for the finish if Story can take the fight to the ground. Cerrone can at times be a slow starter, if he fails to find his rhythm early, he might end up losing a decision to Story.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone by submission in round 2.
Cody Garbrandt VS Takeya Mizugaki
Garbrandt is a future star at bantamweight. Mizugaki has over 30 fights and might be able to use his experience early to frustrate fast starter Cody. But this fight looks like a stepping stone for the undefeated Garbrandt, expect him to find the knock out within 1 round.
Prediction: Cody Garbrandt by KO in round 1.
Artem Lobov VS. Chris Avila
With both men being team mates of McGregor and Diaz respectively, this one has extra intrigue. The rivalry between the two camps has been clear since the first press conference for UFC 196, this is great match making by the UFC.
Avila is a relatively unknown prospect but he comes into this bout on a three fight win streak including two knock outs. Lobov will know that he needs a win here to remain in the UFC, this one is likely to be a stand up war for team pride and future career prospects. If Lobov can avoid the takedown, he should be able to find a KO reminiscent of his time on The Ultimate Fighter.
Prediction: Artem Lobov via KO in round 3.
Hyun Gyu Lim VS. Mike Perry: Lim.
Tim Means VS. Sabah Homasi: Means.
Raquel Pennington VS. Elizabeth Phillips: Pennington.
Randa Markos VS. Cortney Casey: Markos.
Neil Magny VS Lorenz Larkin: Magny.
Colby Covington VS Max Griffin: Covington.
Alberto Uda VS Marvin Vettori: Vettori.
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