That's four days until UFC 189: "Mendes vs. McGregor," which takes place inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 11, 2015. If I were to put a soundtrack to my excitement it would be "The Power" by Snap.
Yes, I'm old.
Who has the experience, determination, intelligence and the talent to prevail in "Sin City" this weekend? Good question, which is the reason I'm going to break it all down for you into five "factors" that describe the strength and weaknesses of the gladiators on this card.
Yesterday I broke down the first three fights on the "Prelims" undercard matches featuring a Lightweight, a Flyweight and a Bantamweight fight. Today we're up in that 170-pound weight class for three fights leading into the pay-per-view (PPV) main card.
Let's get started, shall we?
Welterweight (170 lbs.): Cathal Pendred (17-2-1, 4-0 UFC) vs. John Howard (22-11, 6-6 UFC)
Pendred: Irish, 27, turned pro in 2009, blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, fighting out of SBG Ireland in Dublin
Howard: American, 32, turned pro in 2004, purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, fighting out of Wai Kru MMA in Boston, Massachusetts
Chill Factor: The ball is definitely in the American-Irishman's court in this one. Despite some fairly underwhelming performances, including a fight there's almost no chance he actually won against Sean Spencer, the fact is that Pendred is on a four-fight win streak in UFC. Howard, meanwhile, is on his last leg in his second stint in UFC ... and it's been a putrid one. In his last six fights inside the Octagon he is 2-6, defeating Siyar Bahadurzada with his considerable size advantage and Uriah Hall. If he loses he's definitely done in UFC for good. It's do or die. Advantage: Pendred
Fear Factor: Sorry, I just laughed out loud. Neither guy would throw fear into a squirrel. Pendred is a decent grinder, but this is a man for whom the occupation "judge" is required. As for Howard, he's got some power, but nothing that should overly concern Pendred. Indeed, with Howard we've pretty much seen everything he'll ever bring to the table at this point. He possesses a well-rounded game of grappling and boxing but there's nothing flashy or dynamic that would worry anybody about getting him on the highlight reels. Advantage: None
IQ Factor: I don't have a lot of praise to give Pendred, but the man has shown he knows how to win on a mediocre skillset. For his success I have to give credit to the virtue he knows how to fight intelligently, which means taking the fight down when his opponent is weak there (Augusto Montano) or keeping it standing when the guy is slow on the feet (Gasan Umalatov). Howard is a natural Middleweight and cuts to make 170 pounds, so he's never really figured out how to pace himself in fights. He also seems to lack an instinct or strategy inside the cage, relying on his God-given strength and toughness to win fights. Advantage: Pendred
Muscle Factor: I would usually give this to Pendred, but I don't think he'll be able to take down Howard, who is a pretty massive Welterweight. Pendred will definitely control the tempo in the fight with relentless pressure, but this could be an unstoppable force meets unmovable object scenario like Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Gleison Tibau. I think where Pendred wins is in tuckering out Howard with that pressure and grinding him down in the third round. Advantage: None
X-Factor: Pendred is likely to be fired up by the Conor McGregor hype and drawn into the Irish pride bandwagon. He knows millions of Irish eyes will be smiling Saturday night, and although they're tuning in to see "Notorious," Pendred's going to want to put on a good performance as well. There's nothing like nationalist pride to get the juices flowing. Advantage: Pendred
All Factored In: Pendred def. Howard via unanimous decision
Welterweight (170 lbs.): Mike Swick (15-5, 10-4 UFC) vs. Alex Garcia (12-2, 2-1 UFC)
Swick: American, 36, turned pro in 1998, TUF1 veteran, fighting out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California
Garcia: Dominican-Canadian, 27, turned pro in 2009, mainly a striker, fighting out of Tristar in Montreal, Canada
Chill Factor: Neither fighter is very relaxed in their styles. I mean, Mike Swick is nicknamed "Quick" for his early attacks and finishes. Granted, that was eons ago now. Alex Garcia, meanwhile, is very much a Hector Lombard hybrid, who uses sudden power attacks with devastating power to finish his opponents. If anything, Swick will likely be highly energized and hyper to make a statement early after being away from the cage for so many years. Advantage: None
Fear Factor: If this were 2009 I would have said Garcia should be very afraid. Six years ago, Swick was devastating fools with vicious knockouts, including Ben "Killa B" Saunders. But, that Swick is long gone. It feels like Swick had just returned from a three-year layoff when he defeated DaMarques Johnson at UFC on FOX: "Shogun vs. Vera" in 2012. And here we are three years later. At 36, on a three-year layoff, and judging from his poor performances when he last competed in 2012, there's little to fear except the unknown. Swick could have improved in the last three years. And then again, monkeys could fly out of my butt. As for Garcia, he's young, strong and incredibly powerful. Lots to fear there. Advantage: Garcia
IQ Factor: Swick is a veteran who has been fighting for so long professionally that he had already competed for the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) title before The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 1. He's been around so long that when he made his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut Frank Shamrock was the UFC Light Heavyweight champion and Chuck Liddell had one fight under his belt on the dark "Prelims" at UFC 17. If anybody should be able to draw upon a wealth of professional experience, it's Mike Swick. Yeah, except the only problem is that Swick's style largely relies upon wild brawling until somebody's lights goes out. So unless that changes for this fight, I can't give him the wizened vet nod. Advantage: None
Muscle Factor: Garcia is a hulking muscular 170-pound fighter with knockout power in both hands. I would be very surprised to see Swick demonstrate any sort of advantage in wrestling or punching in this fight, short of catching a lucky one on his chin. Advantage: Garcia
X-Factor: Swick has had a long and successful career in UFC, but his best days are behind him. Unless he pulls out something completely unexpected I don't see how he's going to survive the power punches of Garcia. But, if there's anybody on this entire fight card who deserves an X-Factor vote, it's Swick. He's defeated some very tough opponents in the past and perhaps with the right mix of training and proper eating in recent years he's going to show a new side we've never seen before. I doubt it, but there you go. Advantage: Swick
All Factored In: Garcia def. Swick via knockout in round two
Welterweight (170 lbs.): Matt Brown (19-13, 12-7 UFC) vs. Tim Means (24-6-1, 8-3 UFC)
Brown: American, 34, turned pro in 2005, brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, fighting out of JG MMA Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio
Means: American, 31, turned pro in 2004, two-division KOTC champion, fighting out of Fit NHB in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Chill Factor: Neither guy is what you'd call patient, relying on high volume striking and pressure to get the job done. Both are extremely experienced fighters, but will attack like a shark on chum when any weakness is perceived, amplifying pressure commensurately to the amount of life being drained from their victims. This is not likely to be your patty-cake shadow-boxing match, which is the reason I think it's one of the most anticipated fights of UFC 189. Advantage: None
Fear Factor: Props go to Means and his four-fight win streak, but unless you're insane you're going to be worried about the savagery of Brown. Not only was he the first to dismantle Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, he followed up that fight with five vicious knockouts. And to be clear, he didn't just finish one trick ponies. He destroyed Jordan Mein, Erick Silva, Mike Pyle and Mike Swick. His two recent losses were to the top Welterweights in the world at the moment. Brown is still a very dangerous opponent, especially since Means is unlikely to have the wrestling to take this fight anywhere else. Advantage: Brown
IQ Factor: Brown is a smart fighter who has great instincts in the cage. His transitions on the ground are top notch. And although everybody thinks of him as a "technical brawler," he's been able to put guys in all sorts of trouble with his ground game. Tim means is similarly intelligent in the cage, able to discern and pinpoint weaknesses and attack as needed. Just because he was outwrestled Jorge Masvidal and Danny Castillo doesn't mean that Means doesn't know where his weaknesses are. Advantage: None
Muscle Factor: Brown is a tremendously underrated wrestler, able to control Thompson on the ground, fight off Silva's takedowns, and he even went 15 minutes to a split decision loss with grappling blanket Dong Hyun Kim a gazillion years ago. Yes, he did get handled by Johnny Hendricks, but whose wrestling is arguably better than Georges St-Pierre. If Brown feels the need to manhandle Means on the ground, I have zero doubt that's going to happen. Advantage: Brown
X-Factor: Look, Means is a good fighter and credit for stringing together four wins, but they're against guys who aren't even in the radar of the rankings. Hernani Perpetuo, Marcio Alexandre ... Dhiego Lima? Brown not only brings a better resume to the table, he's got that intangible to him that makes it hard to pick against him. You can teach striking, but you can't teach heart and toughness, and Brown is almost impossible to break. Advantage: Brown
All Factored In: Brown def. Means via technical knockout in round three
That's a wrap!
Stay tuned for the last "Fight Factor" preview of the exciting main card in an upcoming article. And as always, keep your dials on MMAmania.com for breaking news and updates about UFC 189.