UFC 189 is finally upon us and we’ve got our predictions for all tomorrow night’s fights for you below.
Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes
What a fascinating match-up we have here, just as intriguing in it’s own way as McGregor Vs Aldo would have been. In some respects Mendes actually looks to be a tougher stylistic match-up for McGregor due to his excellent wrestling which is sure to have set a few alarm bells ringing in the Irishman’s camp even if they are trying to play it cool.
McGregor’s opponents have been carefully cherry-picked to date, largely focusing on fighters who’ll engage him in the striking department, so we haven’t seen a great deal of his defensive grappling capabilities. In general ‘The Notorious’ appears to have decent takedown defense and is no slouch on the mat, but staying upright against a powerful, explosive wrestler like Mendes is going to be a big challenge and at the very least should mean that he’ll be on the defensive more than he’d like.
On the feet McGregor is a pleasure to watch. He’s got excellent footwork, mixes up his strikes well, has a hood sense of distance and timing and lands with speed and power. Offensively he’s very much on point which helps disguise the fact that despite being relatively slick he has a few holes in his defense at times and he’ll have to be careful about that as Mendes may not be the technician that Aldo is in the striking realm, he is a threat and packs concussive power in his punches.
Cardio wise, both men potentially have a little cause for concern. For McGregor the fact that his weight cuts tend to be difficult could cause him problems if this turns into a grinding fight that lasts the distance, while Mendes took this fight on short notice which isn’t ideal for a contest of this magnitude, though he’s the type of fighter that is in shape all year round and has recent experience of going five rounds.
There’s no doubt that McGregor has the midas touch and it would be no big surprise to see him somehow produce a TKO finish here with his striking combinations, but I’m leaning towards Mendes here as his wrestling could shut down a lot of what makes McGregor special. McGregor has appeared to be working his kicks a lot in training which opens up more potential avenues for Mendes to get him to the mat, and I think he’ll go on to make it a long and uncomfortable night for him as he beats out the Dublin native on the scorecards.
Chad Mendes to win by decision.
Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald
The first fight between these two was close and there’s no reason to think that the rematch is going to be any different.
Lawler is one of the hardest hitters around, but in his run to the championship he’s been pacing himself better than in the past, putting together nice combinations rather than just hunting for the chance to land one fight-ender. He does still like to battle at close range though, and he’s very assured from that position both offensively and defensively.
MacDonald doesn’t have Lawler’s raw power, but he’s technically very sound shows good versatility in his offense. He’s at his best from range though, mixing in kicks with his punches and so he’d be wise not to get sucked into battling Lawler in the pocket too often. Key for him will be to stillremain active when striking on the outside though.
MacDonald is a very good wrestler and I expect him to take advantage of that more this time around, though he might find it difficult to keep Lawler down for extended periods as he’s good at finding his way back upright.
This one will probably go right down to the wire again. Watching MacDonald develop in the UFC there’s always been a sense that one day he could become the champion and I think this is his moment to do it, edging out the action in the judges eyes by working from range on the feet while also mixing in frequent takedowns.
Rory MacDonald to win by decision.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Jeremy Stephens
Two very capable featherweights on show here. Stephens is best known for being a big hitter and definitely likes to trade on the feet where possible, though he can wrestle too when required.
Bermudez is definitely a better wrestler overall though and is physically stronger, and while he can’t match Stephens power on the feet he makes up for that by being quick and possessing very good cardio which allows him to push a relentless pace.
Bermudez has a weakness in his submission defense, but Stephens isn’t the man to test that and if he avoids those power punches I see him scooping up a decision victory here.
Dennis Bermudez to win by decision.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Brandon Thatch
Both of these two promising fighters stumbled last time out in the Octagon so it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top here and gets back to winning ways.
Nelson got forced into a striking battle last time out against Story which he came out second best in and that doesn’t bode well for this fight as Thatch is a much more dangerous prospect on the feet. He’s got very good muay thai, is a natural predator, has a distinct size advantage and will look to press the action – all of which sounds like a mismatch for the significantly smaller Nelson’s more cautious, karate based style.
If Nelson can get the fight to the mat then everything changes though as he’s a terrific grappler with high level BJJ skills and Thatch is vulnerable on his back. That being said I think Thatch will manage to keep this one upright and make nelson pay on the feet for a stoppage victory.
Brandon Thatch to win by TKO in Rd2.
Thomas Almeida vs. Brad Pickett
A fun bantamweight scrap kicks off the main card. Pickett is the veteran of the two here and is showing signs of wear and tear at this stage, though he’s wisely moved back to 135lbs after a disappointing stint at 125lbs which he’ll be hoping gives him a new lease of life.
That might prove to be challenging though as he’s up against a 23 year-old live-wire in Almeida who’s proven to be deadly on the feet so far in his career. Pickett is generally happy to mix things up and keep it exciting on the feet, but his tendency to take shots to give some of his own will almost certainly spell trouble against the rapid-fire offense of the Brazilian.
Despite his ‘One Punch’ nickname, Pickett is actually more than capable of putting in a workmanlike shift on the mat and that would be a better strategy here. He wants to entertain though and I think that’ll be his downfall as Almeida puts him to the sword with strikes in the first half of this encounter.
Thomas Almeida to win by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Matt Brown vs. Tim Means
John Howard vs. Cathal Pendred
Alex Garcia vs. Mike Swick
Henry Briones vs. Cody Garbrandt
Neil Seery vs. Louis Smolka
Yosdenis Cedeno vs. Cody Pfister