Top o' the mornin' to ya!
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is poised to deliver the most famous Irish skirmish since The Little Brawl at Allen, as hometown hero Conor McGregor returns from the injured reserves to do battle against brassy Brazilian import Diego Brandao.
Time to put up or shut up.
In the UFC Fight Night 46 co-main event, which takes place tomorrow night (Sat., July 19, 2014) inside O2 Arena in Dublin, Ireland, two masters of the ground game will test their might when Zak Cummings collides with Abu Dhabi expert Gunnar Nelson.
Don't be surprised to see one of these two welterweights in the "mix" sooner, rather than later.
Rounding out the Fight Pass main card will be the shamrocks and shenanigans between "shady" Ian McCall and Brad Pickett, while late-blooming Naoyuki Kotani makes his Octagon return against British lightweight ground ace Norman Parke.
Put on your shit kickers and let's kick this shit.
145 lbs.: "Notorious" Conor McGregor (14-2) vs. Diego "Ceara" Brandao (18-9)
Nostradumbass predicts: I don't believe in hype -- unless it's my own -- so you'll excuse me if I'm not kissing any pinky rings this weekend in Dublin. Conor McGregor has proved to be a formidable prospect, disposing of Marcus Brimage before outpointing Max Hollaway.
So far, so good, but the guy isn't Superman.
Not like it was yesterday, but we can't overlook the fact that "Notorious" has two submission losses on his record, nor would it be fair to pretend he hasn't been on the shelf for almost a year, coming off major knee surgery. Timing is everything when you're a precision striker and had this been a three-round fight, I'd probably take the upset.
But it's not, and Brandao has his own set of issues.
Aside from the fact that "Ceara" has been knocked out five times in nine losses, the Brazilian is also coming off an injury and has been dormant for nearly seven months. But his offensive style is less affected by inactivity and the Brandao bumrush -- followed by sub attempts -- are legitimate threats.
If C-Mac has a ground game, we have yet to see it.
I just have this sinking feeling that Brandao is going to empty his tank in the opening minutes, allowing McGregor to find his range. Once that happens, "Notorious" is going to play pinball with his opponent's head, bouncing him off the cage walls until he disappears between the flippers.
Final prediction: McGregor def. Brandao via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Gunnar "Gunni" Nelson (12-0-1) vs. Zak Cummings (17-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: The hype train for Gunnar Nelson lost a bit of steam over the last year thanks to an extended layoff, which came on the heels of a ho-hum unanimous decision win over Jorge Santiago. He quickly returned to form earlier this year against Omari Akhmedov, but nobody cared, because it was against Omari Akhmedov.
And Zak Cummings is a fill-in for Ryan LaFlare.
Both fighters are known for their ground game, but that's not to suggest they're competing on an even playing field. Nelson has proven his chops on the Abu Dhabi grappling circuit and considering he's only 25, has performed admirably. Cummings, by trade, is a wrestler.
And a damn good one at that.
This is one of those bouts that scares me, because we could have an exciting chess match on the ground, which means they'll likely turn this into a sloppy kickboxing match and get booed out of the building. Hopefully I'm wrong (I usually am), and if so, I would expect Cummings to hang tough on the mat.
In the beginning.
I've been hearing his pre-fight banter, which has consisted of "I'm not afraid to make this a ground fight" and other worrisome remarks, which means survival -- even in the opening minutes --will lead to confidence. And confidence, as it does all too often, will become cockiness.
That's when the mistakes happen, and you only get one against Nelson, the kind where you don't even realize it was made until the ref is waking you up.
Final prediction: Nelson def. Cummings via submission
125 lbs.: Ian "Uncle Creepy" McCall (12-4-1) vs. Brad "One Punch" Pickett (24-8)
Nostradumbass predicts: The fact that Ian McCall has just one win over the last three years is a bit misleading. Two losses (and one draw) have come against Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. The former is the champion of the division, and the latter is ranked No. 2 in the world.
Not exactly bad company.
In addition, he's only been finished once in his professional career and is five years younger than Brad Pickett. "One Punch" can make the 125-pound limit, as we saw against Neil Seery, but by his own admission it's a process that nearly kills him.
He can get away with that against a guy like "2 Tap," who was making his Octagon debut, but not against "Uncle Creepy."
Flyweight is his home and he's been competing against the upper echelon since the day the division was created. Pickett, on the other hand, only dieted his way down a class to chase the title shot he couldn't secure as a bantamweight.
Not because he had a run of bad luck, but rather because he wasn't good enough.
That's the cold, hard reality of the fight game. You can be "good" and still not be "good enough," which is a pretty accurate way to describe the Brit's chances at flyweight. New division, same inconsistency. I would expect McCall to cruise to a sweep on the judges' scorecards.
Final prediction: McCall def. Pickett via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Naoyuki Kotani (33-10-7) vs. "Stormin'" Norman Parke (19-2-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Most folks won't remember the first time Naoyuki Kotani joined the ranks of ZUFFA, probably because he was in and out in less than six months, taking two losses to Thiago Tavares and Dennis Siver with him back to "The Land of the Rising Sun."
Thanks for nothing.
Based on the strength of his 13-fight winning streak, which dates back to 2010, Kotani is back inside the Octagon, but you'll excuse me if I'm not exactly jumping for joy. Not when a majority of his wins during that span came against Japanese sardine cans with losing records.
But hey, the promotion needs to fill up those international fight cards, so whatever.
Opposing him is the dangerous Norman Parke, who isn't getting much love following his winning run on TUF: "Smashes," because he's yet to secure a finish in four trips to the Octagon. The good news is, he hasn't lost, either, and like his "Fight Night" foe, boasts a formidable ground game.
What troubles me heading into this main card curtain-jerker is Parke's two losses have come by way of submission, and Kotani has 25 taps in 33 wins. In addition, "Stormin'" has also fought his share of nobodies, so it's not like this is a lock by any stretch of the imagination.
That said, I favor the Brit because he's younger, has a height and reach advantage, and more importantly, a comfort level competing inside the Octagon. Now, about those finishes...
Final prediction: Parke def. Kotani via unanimous decision
That's a wrap, jack.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 46 fight card on fight day (Sat., July 19, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at noon ET, right on through the Fight Pass main card at 3 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC Fight Night 46 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "McGregor vs. Brandao."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.