* Originally posted on March 4, 2016
The MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas hosts UFC 196 Saturday night as Nate Diaz steps in for the injured Rafael dos Anjos to take on Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor. The co-main event pits Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm against Meisha Tate in what will be Holm’s first title defense. The main card is rounded out with Light Heavyweights Gian Villante vs. Ilir Latifi, Light Heavyweights Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor and Bantamweights Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko.
Clearly Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos was Conor McGregor’s first choice to fight considering his goal of holding two UFC titles in separate weight classes at the same time. Once RDA withdrew from the fight McGregor wanted Nate Diaz whom he’s been interested in fighting since last July. Once the UFC learned both Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar couldn’t go, the decision to go to Diaz was easy. There were initial thoughts of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone but both Diaz and dos Anjos beat him.
As for Nate Diaz, he asked for a fight with McGregor after beating Michael Johnson at UFC on Fox 17. Agreeing to take this fight is a no-brainier for Diaz. Not only did he ask for the fight but his payday is going to be the largest of his career…by far.
McGregor has been making quick work in his fights as of late, and I don’t see this one going any differently. Granted he’s fighting in a weight class twenty five pounds heavier than his fight with Aldo, but I don’t see this as a negative. He’s also going up against a fighter who’s had ten days to prepare and is a high volume, wild puncher. McGregor will no doubt find plenty of openings and end the fight by TKO.
The women’s Bantamweight Championship is on the line as Champion Holly Holm takes on Challenger Meisha Tate in the co-main event. The championship fight almost seems like an after thought considering the hype surrounding the McGregor/Diaz fight. In fact this is the first time since UFC 51 back in 2005 a non-title fight headlines a card over a fight for a championship.
The game plan for each fighter is simple. Holm wants to stand and box, and Tate wants to use her superior wrestling skills and take the fight to the ground. The fighter that imposes her will more wins. If Tate tries to stand and turn the fight into a slugfest she won’t make it out of the first round. I don’t think that will be her plan though. Meisha Tate has to be able to get takedowns on Holm and keep the fight on the ground. IF, she is able to consistently accomplish that, I see her taking the Bantamweight title by getting a decision win over Holly Holm; setting up a third fight against Ronda Rousey.
There’s no way Holly Holm won’t be prepared to defend the takedown, which is clearly the challengers biggest weapon. Holm is great at avoiding takedowns – 100% takedown defense in the UFC – but will she be able to stuff the takedown attempts from a state champion wrestler? My answer is no, not entirely. I think Tate finds some success with the ground game, but not enough to win. I think Holm weathers Tate’s aggressive style and eventually connects and finishes her.
Conor McGregor (19-2) vs. Nate Diaz (19-10) Current Line: McGregor -485, Diaz +385 Pick: McGregor by TKO
Holly Holm (10-0) vs. Meisha Tate (17-5) Current Line: Holm -300, Tate ++250 Pick: Holm by TKO
Gian Villante (14-6) vs. Ilir Latifi (12-4) Current Line: Latifi -200, Villante +165 Pick: Villante by Decision
Corey Anderson (8-1) vs. Tom Lawlor (9-5) Current Line: Anderson -300, Lawlor +240 Pick: Anderson by Decision
Amanda Nunes (11-4) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (12-1) Current Line: Nunez -130, Shevchenko +110 Pick: Nunes by decision
Enjoy the fights!
The Fighting Champion
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