By: Logan Helfferich
Welterweight: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
Finally, the wait is over, but we’ll have to wait a little longer to see if McGregor can be the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold two championship belts at the same time. Instead, Nate Diaz stepped in for the former opponent, UFC Lightweight Champion, Rafael Dos Anjos. The fight has been moved up to 170 pounds, making it a welterweight fight now. The trash talk was pretty one-sided in favor of McGregor, but as for the fight itself, it should be a pretty even matchup. Both are pretty even when it comes to their striking with a slight speed and quickness advantage going to McGregor, but Diaz has the reach advantage. This is significant because McGregor likes to use his range and reach advantage against his usually shorter opponents, but won’t have that at his disposal in this fight. Diaz holds the slight advantage on the ground with his Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt, but McGregor is incredibly tough to get down and even more difficult to keep down. McGregor needs to use constant movement to avoid takedown attempts by Diaz. If Diaz can get the fight to the ground, it’s his best chance to win, but it seems like Diaz is only interested in collecting his “f***load of money”, as he so eloquently put it at the press conference. McGregor should watch throwing too many kicks, especially body-kicks because Diaz will eventually start catching them and getting takedowns, but don’t be surprised to see Diaz content to just have a stand-up war with McGregor…which he will likely lose.
Prediction: McGregor defeats Diaz via KO/TKO
Women’s Bantamweight Championship: Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate
Following her earth-shaking upset win over the superstar, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm will be looking to defend her belt for the first time against Miesha Tate. While a lot of fans are looking forward to the Holm/Rousey rematch, don’t be surprised to see Tate spoil that plan. Miesha Tate was the closest to beating Rousey before Holm finally accomplished the feat, but Holm’s style was just a way better matchup against Rousey than Tate’s. Tate has a very similar fighting style to Rousey, with more of a brawler mentality and less expertise when it comes to grappling, especially arm-bars and other submissions. For that reason, I like Tate’s style to matchup a lot better with Holm’s than Rousey did. Tate has the clear advantage on the ground against Holm like Rousey did, but she also has a way better chin than Rousey and can take a punch, or 50. Tate should look to close the distance against Holm and look for the takedown, but she can’t be careless like Rousey and get caught with shots on her way inside. Tate has a tendency to get into brawls like in the Cat Zingano fight, which ended with Tate getting TKO’d by a series of knees and elbows from Zingano. As long as she keeps up the pressure and gets Holm to the ground, Tate could very easily take the belt home with her. Holm’s length gives her an advantage on the feet, but makes her an easier target for submissions on the ground. Look for Tate to sink in a choke or win via arm-bar, which would be the ultimate slap in the face to Ronda Rousey. Holm and Rousey can still have their rematch, but instead of a title-fight, it’ll be for the opportunity to face the new champion, Miesha Tate.
Prediction: Tate defeats Holm via Submission
Light Heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Ilir Latifi
This fight was likely scheduled because the result will likely be a knockout or TKO. Latifi will likely look to use his strength and power and go for a knockout punch. Villante needs to stay patient and use technical striking. If he gets sucked into a brawl, he could easily get caught with a big shot from Latifi and go to sleep. Villante should keep moving and wait for Latifi to gas out before looking for a third round knockout or TKO. He could also grind out a decision by utilizing his movement and out-striking Latifi. Latifi may even want to look for a takedown because he’s going to get frustrated in this fight. However, if he’s able to get on top of Villante, his size will make it very tough for Villante to get back up.
Prediction: Villante defeats Latifi via KO/TKO
Light Heavyweight: Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor
Anderson got a pretty favorable matchup in this fight. Lawlor is a tough fighter, but he’s not the guy to beat Corey Anderson. Anderson should look to use his size and reach advantage when the fight is standing, while looking for the takedown often. Anderson’s only worries should be avoiding a knockout or submission. Once he gets Lawlor to the ground, the fight will likely stay there until the end of the round. Lawlor’s only chance is to go for a knockout or push Anderson up against the cage and try to get his own takedown. Regardless of the outcome, this fight will likely end in a decision.
Prediction: Anderson defeats Lawlor via Decision
Women’s Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
This should be a compelling matchup between two top contenders in the women’s bantamweight division. Nunes and Shevchenko are ranked 5th and 7th respectively in our rankings. Nunes is an exceptional striker and should look to use her reach advantage, footwork and angles against Shevchenko. Shevchenko needs to keep Nunes guessing in this fight. Nunes is a great counter-striker, so Shevchenko should use a lot of feints to try and keep Nunes off-balance. She can’t let Nunes depict the pace or it’s over. Nunes has to remember to defend any takedowns that Shevchenko tries, but both fighters like to keep it standing. Shevchenko needs to change levels a lot and constantly move because if she stands still, Nunes will run circles around her and simply pick her apart. Expect a very close fight.
Prediction: Shevchenko defeats Nunes via Decision