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UFC 189 'Fight Factor:' Final preview for all five 'Mendes vs McGregor' PPV matches tonight

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Coming! Up! Next!

UFC 189: "Mendes vs. McGregor," which takes place inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, has -- at long last -- finally arrived. And it promises to be the biggest gate of all-time.

We've already powered through the first six fights on the UFC 189 "Prelims" undercard matches here and here.

Now it's time to dive into what you'll actually be shelling out for come tonight (Sat., July 11, 2015). There are some fantastic match ups leading up to the pay-per-view (PPV) main event, including some big names you may have forgotten are even fighting because of the hype surrounding Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes.

Let's! Get! Things! Started!

Bantamweight (135 lbs.): Brad Pickett (24-10, 4-5 UFC) vs. Thomas Almeida (19-0, 2-0 UFC)

Vital Statistics

Pickett: English, 36, turned pro in 2004, Cage Rage British Featherweight Champion (2009), fighting out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida
Almeida: Brazilian, 23, turned pro in 2011, Brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Black belt in Muay Thai, fighting out of Chute Boxe Academy

Chill Factor: Like Neil Seery, Pickett has a tendency to bite down on his mouthpiece and let the chips fall where they may. That doesn't make for a very relaxed or controlled fight style and has actually backfired on numerous occasions, hence his 1-3 record in his last four UFC bouts. Wunderkind Almeida, meanwhile, has demonstrated a level of calm that is surprising for his age. Against Tim Gorman in his Octagon debut he was relaxed in escaping back mount and precise when working on the feet. Expect Almeida to pick Pickett apart and defend takedowns by countering with high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu training. Advantage: Almeida

Fear Factor: It's unlikely that Pickett is going to be afraid of anybody on the planet, but it's hard not to be intimidated fighting a guy who has never been solved. In 19 professional fights, Almeida is perfect with 19 wins, 14 by knockout. He's only needed the judges once, and that was to Gorman who nevertheless suffered a beating. Almeida landed 122 of 217 strikes on Gorman, according to Fightmetric, demonstrating his highly offensive output. For reference, Pickett has never come close to that output, landing 68 strikes as a career high against Mike Easton in Fight Metric records spanning 13 fights over the past six years. Advantage: Almeida

IQ Factor: Pickett isn't a stupid fighter, but he's not particularly good at identifying a strategy to defeat guys who are better than he is. If that sounds silly, let me explain. A highly intelligent fighter will find ways to beat better fighters by testing weaknesses until they find one and then exploiting it wholeheartedly. The obvious example is George St-Pierre, who showed that a perfect left jab can completely nullify the offense of Josh Koscheck. Pickett did pick up on the fact that Seery was the better striker and managed to take him down to win that fight, but he's still prone to wild punches. That kind of Fight IQ will get him knocked out against Almeida, who has demonstrated excellent and innate spacial awareness inside the Octagon. Advantage: Almeida

Muscle Factor: I'm not trying to pick on Pickett, but I'm not sure how much muscle advantage he'll have after returning to Bantamweight. This is a fighter who can't seem to decide where he belongs. A Featherweight for most of his career (except one Lightweight fight), he dropped to 135 pounds when he joined the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) in 2009. That was successful until it wasn't and he dropped to Flyweight last March. After a 1-2 record at 125 pounds, he's back up to 135 and facing a fighter who was nonplussed by the wrestling of one-dimensional Gorman. I suspect Pickett can and will get Almeida down, but the damage he will sustain attempting it will likely outweigh the brief benefits he may enjoy from it. Advantage: None

X-Factor: Pickett has the "puncher's chance," but the smart money is all on Almeida. He's 13 years younger, undefeated, extremely talented and presumably improving every day. Like all undefeated fighters, until somebody exposes his weakness you've got to respect the legacy. Advantage: Almeida

All Factored In: Almeida def. Pickett via knockout in round two

Welterweight (170 lbs.): Gunnar Nelson (13-1-1, 4-1 UFC) vs. Brandon Thatch (11-2, 2-1 UFC)

Vital Statistics

Nelson: Icelandic, 26, turned pro in 2007, Black belt in Goju-ryu Karate and Black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie, fighting out of SBG Ireland with Conor McGregor
Thatch: American, 29, turned pro in 2008, primarily a striker, fighting out of Elevation Fight Team in Denver, Colorado

Chill Factor: If Nelson was any calmer in the cage you'd need a mortician to perform an autopsy. He is beyond relaxed as a fighter, showing a level of unconcern comparable to Fedor Emelianenko and Gegard Mousasi. His opponent, meanwhile, has the opposite sort of style, and will pressure and attack with manic intensity. Despite Nelson's apparent prozac personality, he can be deadly when provoked. Advantage: Nelson

Fear Factor: This fight is going to be about whose strength is more fearsome, Nelson's world champion levels of Brazilian jiu-jitsu or Thatch's insane number of first round knockouts. And here's the thing: Although Nelson is comfortable finishing guys on the mat -- nine of his wins have come by way of submission -- he just happens to hold a black belt in Karate as well. Given the formidable talents of both guys I don't think any one has a clear advantage here. Advantage: None

IQ Factor: Nelson's deliberate pace and measured approach not only gives him a physical advantage, it gives him a mental one as well. Wasting no energy on anger or frustration opens up Nelson to the cold and analytical thinking required to measure his opponents weaknesses and drag the fight where it needs to go. It's interesting because both fighters are coming off fights where their advantages did not help them. Nelson was shut down by the strength of Rick Story, while Thatch was exposed on the ground by Benson Henderson. Nelson has got to realize that his best chance of winning this fight is to capitalize on the weakness Henderson exposed. Granted, Thatch is a gigantic welterweight, but if a 155er can take it south, Nelson should have little problem figuring it out, too. Advantage: Nelson

Muscle Factor: Thatch is going to likely control the pace in this one, attacking with head kicks and vicious elbows early and often. Nelson is going to have to counter that attack by keeping at range from the 6'2" striker or finding his way inside to the takedown. If he does get inside it won't necessarily be a guaranteed takedown given Thatch's massive size, especially early in the fight. But, as the minutes tick away and more opportunities present themselves, I'm guessing Nelson is going to impose his will. Advantage: Nelson

X-Factor: We know what Nelson is capable of and what he can do. The fact this is the Conor McGregor show and he's his training partner will be unlikely to have much of a booster effect given Nelson's Icelandic personality. In that case we have to look to Thatch. Yes, he's coming off a disappointing loss to a Lightweight fighter, but Thatch does have a track record of finishing opponents via brutal flurries. The unknown element here is whether Thatch can find that magic finishing touch once again that had put away 10 fighters in consecutive first round finishes prior to his "Bendo" blunder. Advantage: Thatch

All Factored In: Nelson def. Thatch via submission (rear-naked choke) in round two

Featherweight (145 lbs.): Dennis Bermudez (14-4, 7-2 UFC) vs. Jeremy Stephens (23-11, 10-10 UFC)

Vital Statistics

Bermudez: American, 28, turned pro in 2009, NCAA Division I wrestler, fighting out of Long Island MMA
Stephens: American, 29, turned pro in 2005, primarily a striker, fighting out of Alliance MMA in California

Chill Factor: I wouldn't say either guy is particularly relaxed inside the cage, but they're not really reckless either. it's amazing to think that Stephens -- who fought at UFC 71 against Din Thomas -- is still in his 20s. Stephens has that veteran experience, while still having the benefit of having a working body. For his part, Bermudez is a good fighter with good instincts, but has been caught fighting recklessly in the past, including the submission he fell into against Diego Brandao during TUF 14 Finale in 2011. Advantage: None

Fear Factor: Nobody is carrying a fearsome reputation into this fight, particularly given both are on losing streaks. Granted, Bermudez is actually 7-1 in his last eight. But Stephens, who staved off a potential UFC career-ending three-fight losing streak by dropping to Featherweight, has now lost two fights after winning his first three at the lower weight class. Advantage: None

IQ Factor: I don't think anyone could argue that Stephens is a particularly gifted fighter upstairs. What he possesses is a quality striking game with power in his right hand. Bermudez isn't a brain surgeon either, but he has managed to demonstrate an ability to take the fight where he needs it to go to win. And that's on the mat. While he's not going to win any grappling contests, Bermudez has a fairly stifling wrestling game as demonstrated against some elite of the elite grapplers in the division: Jimy Hettes and Clay Guida. Advantage: Bermudez

Muscle Factor: This is all Bermudez. Stephens is no weakling in the wrestling department, but I can't imagine this fight happening without Bermudez testing the takedown defense of Stephens over and over again. If he can't take him down this could be a dangerous outing, given the fact Bermudez is still a work in progress on the feet. Advantage: Bermudez

X-Factor: I don't think there are really any intangible to discuss here. Either Bermudez gets in some ground-and-pound or he probably loses a close fight on the feet. Given his impressive wins over Guida and Max Holloway, things look good for Bermudez, though. Advantage: None

All Factored In: Bermudez def. Stephens via unanimous decision

Welterweight Championship (170 lbs.): Robbie Lawler (25-10, 10-4 UFC) vs. Rory MacDonald (18-2, 9-2 UFC)

Vital Statistics

Lawler: American, 33, turned pro in 2001, primarily a striker, fighting out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida
MacDonald: Canadian, 25, turned pro in 2005, Black belt in no gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu under David Lea, fighting out of Tristar in Montreal, Canada

Chill Factor: It's a shame Rory MacDonald changed his nickname a third time to the "Red King" when the "Canadian Psycho" works so much better. His style of fighting is very similar to his style of interviewing. Cold and emotionless. MacDonald is a precision robot who analyzes openings and systematically breaks down his opponents. Although Lawler is as comfortable in the cage as an old pair of slippers, the absolute state of calm in the Canadian is at once amazing and terrifying. Advantage: MacDonald

Fear Factor: Lawler has disgusting levels of power in his hands and it's natural to be afraid of getting too close to one. MacDonald has only been rocked a few times in his career, once being to Lawler in his split decision loss at UFC 167. Staying at range and picking apart Lawler with consistent striking is the only antidote to the "Ruthless" attack that's coming. Advantage: Lawler

IQ Factor: MacDonald has the advantage here. By far. Like, by far. I don't think there are very many fighters as intelligent as Rory, and it comes mainly from his cold and analytical approach. He analyzes his opponents and then preys on their weaknesses. It's not flashy by any means, but it's highly effective. Knockout artists like Tyron Woodley and Jake Ellenberger learned this the very hard way. Lawler is also capable of being intelligent (or not, against Nick Diaz when he was a pup), but relies more on wading in with his granite chin. Advantage: MacDonald

Muscle Factor: This is all Lawler. MacDonald is certainly capable of outwrestling Lawler, but the aggression and never-stop-walking-forward style of Robbie will be very hard to overcome. MacDonald is going to have to be on his bike in this fight, circling constantly and picking apart Lawler from range. And even then it might not be enough to keep away from five rounds of potentially fight-ending knockout power. Lawler is a brute and will literally laugh in the face of resistance. MacDonald is not going to knock Lawler out, so his best hope is surviving the pressure with smart tactics. Advantage: Lawler

X-Factor: Nobody can quite pinpoint what makes Lawler so good. I mean, he's clearly built like a brick shithouse and has power that could solve California's energy problems, but he doesn't have any one pedigree that stands out. He's just an all-around badass. He also finds ways to win ... even when it seems like he's losing. Consider his insane knockout of Melvin Manhoef, who had all but crippled "Ruthless" at Strikeforce: "Miami." Even if you ask Canadians, they'll tell you that they want MacDonald to win, but chances are Lawler is going to take it somehow. Advantage: Lawler

All Factored In: MacDonald def. Lawler via split decision

Interim Featherweight Title (145 lbs.): Chad Mendes (17-2, 8-2 UFC) vs. Conor McGregor (17-2, 5-0 UFC)

Vital Statistics

Mendes: American, 30, turned pro in 2008, NCAA Division I All-American, fighting out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California
McGregor: Irish, 26, turned pro in 2008, Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under John Kavanagh, fighting out of SBG Ireland in Dublin

Chill Factor: I don't know if I've ever seen anybody so calm while being so aggressive at the same time as McGregor. "Notorious" will stalk his opponent, arms outstretched to measure distance, before landing devastating combinations. While a ruthless trash talker, once the cage doors close he's a cold tactician, breaking down weaknesses like The Terminator and attacking with similar robotic precision. McGregor has such a supreme confidence in himself that I do not believe a single doubt exists in his head while he's fighting. This frees him to focus on doing what he does best: Dominating. Advantage: McGregor

Fear Factor: Mendes can say he's not afraid of McGregor, but there's almost no chance he's not a little fearful by the mystique. The Irishman has done everything he said he'd do since entering UFC and backed up every word. Although Mendes is a highly skilled mixed martial artist there is simply no way anybody could fight McGregor without butterflies in their stomach right now. It is rapidly becoming the same sort of feeling one would get when describing Anderson Silva and his innate ability to make the best of the best look absolutely terrible. Advantage: McGregor

IQ Factor: It's not just what McGregor does inside the cage that shows he's an intelligent fighter. He also gets inside the heads of opponents before every fight. His complete dismissal of Denis Siver, his mockery of Dustin Poirier, his disdain for Marcus Brimage, all worked in his favor on fight night. Mendes can make jokes about "McMuffin" all he wants, but McGregor is deep inside the head of "Money," and it could really backfire in a big way if he doesn't come into this fight as a complete professional. Advantage: McGregor

Muscle Factor: Finally, Mendes gets something to crow about. And this factor may very well outweigh all the other factors. As an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, there is nobody better to test the only potential weakness McGregor may possess in his fight game. Round one may tell us all we need to know about the fight. If Mendes can take down McGregor and nullify his offense it may be an elementary night for "Money." But, if he can't ... he could be in for a beating. Not that Mendes isn't skilled on the feet, as proven by his last outing against Jose Aldo. I don't think he can hang with McGregor solely in the boxing department, though. Advantage: Mendes

X-Factor: Nobody has an X-Factor like McGregor. His unpredictability is what makes him so exremely dangerous. His combinations are never the same, he comes from all sorts of angles, he's capable of work from range and in the clinch and he's crafty while doing it all. Many people are writing off McGregor's considerable talents by saying he'll be helpless once on his back, but I have a hard time believing we see a Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva I repeat. Instead, I think we'll see a Sonnen vs. Silva 2. Advantage: McGregor

All Factored In: McGregor def. Mendes via technical knockout in round four

That's a wrap!

We'll see you on fight night right here on for all breaking news and updates on fights happening during UFC 189.

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