Biggest UFC event of the year? Sure, I'll play along.
While promotion president Dana White is busy telling the mixed martial arts (MMA) media what a smashing success the "Mendes vs. McGregor" pay-per-view (PPV) event will be before anyone even laces up a single glove, combat sports fans are left to choose sides.
Are you picking Chad Mendes, or Conor McGregor?
What's great about this interim featherweight title fight is how most of us have a pretty good idea of how this thing is going to play out. I have yet to hear anyone say, "Gee, I'm just hoping for a good fight." It's usually more along the lines of, "FUCK YOU! (insert pick) IS GOING TO WIN!"
Fortunately for the honest fans, who will shell out upward of $60 for Saturday night's (July 11, 2015) fight card inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, UFC 189 is also offering a compelling welterweight title fight in the co-main event, featuring Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald.
So ... who wins and who loses? Probably not as cut and dry as most of us would like it to be, but that's one of many things that makes UFC 189 so much fun. That said, I'm going to plant my flag in Sacramento (not a euphemism for sex) and try not to piss you off in the process.
Nah, I'm just fucking with you. I want you to be mad.
145 lbs.: Chad "Money" Mendes (17-2) vs. "The Notorious" Conor McGregor (17-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: While I -- and most everyone else -- wanted to see a featherweight bangfest between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, the new main event featuring Chad Mendes is equally compelling, giving us the answer to whether or not "Notorious" can survive against a high-level wrestler.
We don't know just yet, so I won't make an argument based on ignorance.
Meaning, I can't say I don't know if McGregor can stop the takedown, therefore, he can't stop the takedown. There was once a big question mark surrounding Jon Jones and his ability to stay upright, and we all saw how that played out in the second half of "Bones'" career.
But even if McGregor has good takedown defense, it's safe to say that at some point during this interim featherweight title fight, he's going to end up on his back. Mendes -- a two-time All American out of Cal Poly -- is simply that good and when technique fails, strength prevails.
We haven't even gotten to the striking.
Under coach Duane Ludwig, "Money" has evolved into an incredible banger, evidenced by his performance against Aldo at UFC 179 last fall. Let's also not pretend McGregor doesn't get hit, as everyone from Marcus Brimage to Dustin Poirier was able to make significant contact.
Simply put, this is going to be a competitive fight.
Mendes has a slight disadvantage coming in on "short" notice, but he's a full-time athlete; meaning, he doesn't eat like he's going to the electric chair and pack on 50 pounds in between fight camps. He also doesn't need to worry about training his wrestling.
He's been doing it all his life. It's there when he needs it.
While I think McGregor puts on a show early in the fight, Mendes is going to shut him down as time goes on. There is more to MMA wrestling than just takedowns. It also closes distance, disrupts timing, and drives guys into the fence, wearing them down as they push back against the weight of another fighter.
Take away McGregor's space, you take away his biggest weapon.
I'm also not convinced "Notorious" can go full blast for all five rounds. I don't buy into that crap about him dropping 30 pounds in a week, but he still makes a brutal cut to hit the 145-pound mark. That may not matter in rounds one and two, but by the time he gets to the championship frames, he's going to be sucking wind as Mendes grinds him into the mat.
How loud can Irish boo birds sing? We'll find out tomorrow night.
Final prediction: Mendes def. McGregor via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler (25-10) vs. Rory "Red King" MacDonald (18-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's a shame this fight isn't getting more attention because it has a great backstory. I think tomorrow night's result will be telling about the future of Rory MacDonald, who was expected to be the heir to Georges St. Pierre, but lost some of his luster along the way.
It's hard to critique a fighter who is 7-1 over his last eight fights, but going to a decision in five straight fights is hard to stomach when you know what an athlete like MacDonald is capable of. By his own admission, he mailed it in from time-to-time, including his first go-round with Lawler.
Time to put up or shut up.
Weighing in his favor is the fact that he's already gone 15 minutes with the hard-hitting champion and has a chance to fix what initially went wrong. To that end, he knows what to expect from Lawler, as there are no surprises. The champ is good at stuffing takedowns and cracking crowns.
Heck, every "Ruthless" opponent knows what's coming, but very few can stop it.
I realize this is the same fighter who lost decisions to Lorenz Larkin and Tim Kennedy, among others, but we need to wipe the slate clean at 170 pounds, based on what we've seen since his trip south in early 2013. Lawler is going to come out and fight.
It just won't be enough.
Assuming MacDonald has taken his training camp seriously, he should be a much better version than the one who competed at UFC 167. And for all his talent, Lawler has a bad habit of giving away rounds, bobbing and weaving and not throwing any punches, sometimes for minutes at a time (see UFC 171).
Putting all that aside, I can't shake the feeling that "Ruthless" gets caught with a sneaky submission during an early scramble.
Final prediction: MacDonald def. Lawler via submission
145 lbs.: Dennis "The Menace" Bermudez (14-4) vs. Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens (23-11)
Nostradumbass predicts: Jeremy Stephens has been fighting for more than a decade and still hasn't reached his thirtieth birthday. What he has reached, is him limit as an MMA fighter, failing to evolve as the sport transformed itself over the last few years.
Sure, he dropped a weight class and joined a new gym, but that was fine tuning, not an overhaul.
"Lil' Heathen" is an above average striker with sneaky power (just ask Rafael dos Anjos), is tough to get to the floor and owns serviceable submission skills. The issue for Stephens is his output, or lack thereof. He was unable to out-strike Cub Swanson, and couldn't out-grapple Charles Oliveira.
He's good, but not great.
Stephens faces a stiff test in Dennis Bermudez, who saw his seven-fight win streak go up in smoke at the hands of former title contender Ricardo Lamas. "The Menace" is an action fighter and keeps a ridiculous pace, punching and smashing his way into the clinch, then topping it off with some wrestling.
I'm sure Stephens will be game.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure he's going to be doing enough to win the fight. I think after a few spirited exchanges, "Lil' Heathen" will start to rely on the counter-punch, which isn't a bad thing, unless you only throw with the intent of scoring the knockout.
While he's looking for the money shot, Bermudez will be dazzling the judges with his busywork.
Final prediction: Bermudez def. Stephens via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Gunnar "Gunni" Nelson (13-1-1) vs. Brandon "Ruckus"Thatch (11-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: When Gunnar Nelson openly admits he's too lazy to drop a weight class, it's kind of hard to pick him against a monster like Brandon Thatch. While "Ruckus" was recently defeated by a natural 155-pounder, we should recognize that Ben Henderson is not your average lightweight.
And the Coloradan was coming off a 15-month layoff.
"Gunni" has a legitimate karate background and knows how to hit without being hit. In addition, his ground game is probably the best the division has to offer. But setting up submissions and working a stick-and-move offense requires the ability to operate uninterrupted.
That's not happening tomorrow night.
Thatch is going to close the distance and make this a bar fight. While the Icelander will drop down and try to work the ground game, perhaps latching onto a limb, "Ruckus" will be too strong to lock down and Nelson will endure a tremendous amount of punishment in the process.
Think of what Rick Story was able to do, only bloodier.
Final prediction: Thatch def. Nelson via technical knockout
135 lbs.: Thomas "Thominhas" Almeida (18-0) vs. Brad "One Punch" Pickett (24-10)
Nostradumbass predicts: The fact that Thomas Almeida has ballooned up to a -1045 favorite is a bit surprising to me, even taking into account that Brad Pickett turns 37 in two months and hasn't been relevant since 2012. "One Punch" is just 1-3 over his last four, but it's not like he's been getting KTFO in every loss.
One judge had him winning the Chico Camus fight.
He's going to need that chin against the Brazilian, who already laid waste to one grizzled veteran in Yves Jabouin and has yet to lose a professional MMA fight. The question for me, is how much stock we put into his collection of cans from the regional circuit.
Considering he's compiled said collection by age 23, I'm thinking this kid is legit.
The sheer volume of strikes Almeida will unload in this PPV curtain jerker will no doubt force Pickett to utilize wrestling, something he happens to be very good at. I just have a hard time imagining a fighter as young and athletic as "Thominhas" being unable to play keep away and firing off counters.
I expect Pickett to survive, but this won't be a close fight by any stretch of the imagination.
Final prediction: Almeida def. Pickett via unanimous decision
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 189 fight card below, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions of the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 189 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Mendes vs. McGregor."
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.