UFC 196 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights for you below.
Conor McGregor Vs Nate Diaz
This might not be the fight we were expecting, but no-one can deny it has the potential to be a tremendously entertaining match-up.
Moving up two weight classes in a single bound is potentially a risky move for McGregor, but truth be told his weight cut down to featherweight is so tough that this might actually be a blessing in disguise.
Taking the fight on less than two weeks notice is also a big gamble for Diaz, but he’s rarely out of shape even in his off-periods and he does hold the advantage of having fought at welterweight in the past.
The striking battle will be intriguing between these two. Diaz works extremely well from range, will enjoy a few inches of height and reach in this battle and has excellent accuracy in his strikes which land frequently enough to throw his opponents off their game, though he lacks one-punch KO power.
McGregor is the faster, more agile and creative of the two, yet he also wields considerably more power than Diaz and it’ll be interesting to see how that translates to his new 170lb frame. McGregor’s shot selection and timing is impressive and he’s an offensive threat with both punches and kicks, though if there is a knock on his striking it’s that he is hittable.
While we don’t see it too often these days Diaz can be lethal with his submission work on the mat and is happy working from his back, though he’s not much of a takedown specialist and generally prefers to just stand and trade with his opponents.
McGregor’s ground game isn’t too bad, especially if he’s on top, but he can struggle against high-level wrestlers – which Diaz isn’t. The submission threat could be an issue for ‘The Notorious’ though, so he’d need to proceed with extreme caution if the fight does hit the floor.
Overall I think this is a winnable fight for McGregor – certainly more so than it would have been against Rafael dos Anjos. It’s possible Diaz could throw him off his game with his accuracy from range, but I think McGregor’s movement and power will win out in the end.
Conor McGregor to win by TKO in Rd3
Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate
This is an interesting first title defense for Holm as Tate has long been considered the No.1 contender in the division, but was never able to dislodge Rousey from the top of the mountain as ‘The Preachers Daughter’ did so impressively late last year.
There’s no question that on the feet Holm holds a major striking advantage here. She’s a great athlete who’s light on her feet, puts together slick combinations of kicks and punches with aplom and can fight five full rounds at a high-tempo.
Tate’s a decent striker, but she’s just not on Holm’s level. She has reasonable power, a great chin and tremendous heart, but she’s relatively predictable and lacks her opponent’s athleticism, movement and overall fluidity.
Don’t count Tate out of this match-up though as she’s a tenacious competitor who seems to get better as the fight goes on and is a very good grappler. On the mat she can be stifling, can work some ground and pound and is a live threat with submissions as well.
So, if Tate can get the champion to the mat and keep her there she has a solid route to the title. However, while Tate does have takedowns she’s not particularly explosive in her entries and I think she might struggle to get inside on the fast, constantly moving Holm who is at her best when fighting from range.
I definitely don’t discount the possibility that Tate could win here, but I think that like Rousey, Holm may also be a bad match-up for her – though for different reasons. I think Holm will just prove to be too fast, accurate and evasive to deal with, more than likely leading to a decision victory.
Holly Holm to win by decision.
Ilir Latifi vs. Gian Villante
Two fighters who can throw heavy leather here, though Latifi also offers a threat on the mat too.
Latifi’s last three wins in the UFC have all come by way of first round KO which gives a good idea of the kind of destructive power he delivers from his compact, stocky frame. Villante is the more technical of the two though, putting together nice combinations and he packs a punch too.
Villante’s not much of a threat on the mat, so he’ll look to keep this fight standing, but if Latifi doesn’t have success on the feet he’s also a powerful wrestler too and can be destructive with ground and pound.
I like Latifi here. He’s not the most refined striker, but all it takes is one punch and the fact that he also has the wrestling advantage on his side should enable him to carve out a win one way or another here. Both men’s willingness to exchange makes me think this will end early though.
Ilir Latifi to win by KO in Rd1
Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor
One of the light-heavyweight division’s up and coming talents, former TUF winner Anderson, goes up against a seasoned veteran in Lawlor here.
Lawlor is never going to be a serious contender, but he’s got enough skills in enough areas to keep plugging away in the lower reaches of the division. On the feet he’s got solid power and is durable, but there’s not a whole lot of depth to his offensive output and can run out of steam.
Anderson on the other hand has developed nicely in the striking department and should have the opportunity to piece together solid combinations against Lawlor’s underwhelming defense.
Lawlor is an effective grinder, but I think a good wrestler like Anderson will be more than a match for him in the clinch and on the mat, and will emerge with a decision victory here.
Corey Anderson to win by decision.
Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
This is a meaningful female bantamweight match-up between two talented fighters on the rise.
Nunes is a predator who’s always on the lookout for a finish, whether it’s by strike or submission which means she’s always entertaining to watch. At the same time, like all fighters of this style there’s a degree of recklessness that goes with it that can make her vulnerable.
Shevchenko is a talented and decorated kickboxer who should have a technical edge over her opponent, though perhaps not operating with the same explosive ferocity. She’s capable on the mat as well, but would have to be very wary about Nunes relentless pursuit of submissions from there.
A lot of this fight will depend on how Shevchenko copes with the early onslaught from Nunes. If she can stick to her more methodical approach into the second half of the fight then she may well come out on top. Nunes submissions are a real threat, but I will take Shevchenko to weather the storm and emerge victorious.
Valentina Shevchenko to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Brandon Thatch
Erick Silva vs. Nordine Taleb
Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Vitor Miranda
Darren Elkins vs. Chas Skelly
Jim Miller vs. Diego Sanchez
Jason Saggo vs. Justin Salas
Julian Erosa vs. Teruto Ishihara