More trash than Oscar the Grouch's spring cleaning.
Two of the most vociferous punchers in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) do battle this Saturday evening (March 5, 2016) as Featherweight champion Conor McGregor steps up in weight to face late replacement Nate Diaz in the Welterweight pay-per-view (PPV) main event of UFC 196, which goes down live from inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In addition, women's Bantamweight champion Holly Holm makes her first title defense against Miesha Tate, while Gian Villante takes on Ilir Latifi in a clash of Light Heavyweight punchers.
The seven "Prelims" undercard bouts include three on Fight Pass and the rest on FOX Sports 1. Let's dig into those first three below.
155 lbs.: Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller
Once one of the Lightweight division’s toughest outs, Diego Sanchez (25-8) is just 2-4 in his last six appearances, both victories blatant robberies. His last fight saw him test the waters at 145 pounds, only to lose a decision to perennial contender Ricardo Lamas.
Sanchez stands two inches taller than Jim Miller (25-7) at 5’11."
Last July, Miller snapped a career-first two-fight losing streak with a hard-fought unanimous decision over Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo. In Dec. 2015, he put on an entertaining scrap with Michael Chiesa before ultimately tapping to a rear-naked choke in the second round.
He has submitted 14 professional opponents.
Sanchez, at this point, is almost painfully bad. He no longer has any notion of set ups, range or fluidity in his striking, instead just throwing powerless arm punches from way too far out. His fight with Gilbert Melendez is chock-full of ludicrous moments wherein Melendez simply ducks back, slams home a right hand, then ducks back again as Sanchez flings out punches without moving.
Miller’s going to earn a win, is what I’m saying.
Shopworn though he may be, Miller is the better striker by a fair margin at this point and Sanchez no longer has the wrestling prowess to grind him down. The only question is whether the judges will see fit to score the fight by lost brain cells again.
Prediction: Miller via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jason Saggo vs. Justin Salas
Jason Saggo (10-2) opened his UFC career with a first-round technical knockout of Josh Shockley, his fifth-straight stoppage victory. A split decision loss to Paul Felder followed, after which a torn ACL kept the Canadian out of action for all of 2015.
He has never gone the distance in victory, submitting eight opponents.
Justin Salas (12-6) captured the Victory Fighting Championships Lightweight title with a decision over Joe Ellenberger, then out-dueled Anton Kuivanen in his Octagon debut to extend his win streak to six. He has since alternated losses and wins, starting with a knockout loss to Tim Means and currently ending with a technical knockout loss to Justin Edwards.
Like Saggo, he missed all of 2015.
The outlook is not great for Salas, who has struggled to find his footing in UFC. His wrestling has proven rather ineffective and his movement-heavy striking style lacks defense. The style match up seems to heavily favor Saggo, who ragdolled Shockley and seriously hassled the hulking Felder with relentless takedowns.
To win this fight, Salas will have to keep Saggo at range for all 15 minutes, a difficult proposition considering the Canadian’s grappling prowess. More likely, Saggo wrangles him to the mat and chokes him out within the first five minutes.
Prediction: Saggo def. Salas via first-round submission
145 lbs.: Julian Erosa vs. Teruto Ishihara
Julian Erosa (15-2) became the sole member of Team Urijah Faber to reach the semifinals, only to fall to Artem Lobov once there. "Juicy J" squared off with Marcin Wrzosek at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 Finale, ultimately taking home a split decision over "The Polish Zombie."
He is five inches taller than Teruto Ishihara (7-2-2) at 6’0."
Ishihara fought his way through Road to UFC: "Japan" to earn a spot on UFC Fight Night 75 opposite Strikeforce and UFC veteran Mizuto Hirota. Despite a strong start, the young power-puncher could not keep up with "Pugnus’" pace, ultimately escaping with a split draw.
"Yashabo" has knocked out six opponents, five of them in the first round.
I’m not sure what it is about "Juicy J" that makes him so unimpressive to me, but I’ve got Ishihara for the upset. I felt Erosa deserved a loss in his fight with Wrzosek and he shows a worrying lack of defensive acumen.
Considering Ishihara’s history of knockouts and the fact that he managed to drop the iron-tough Hirota, that’s trouble.
Erosa desperately needs to learn to better utilize his height. Hopefully, getting his block knocked off by Ishihara will be the impetus he needs to tighten up his game.
Prediction: Ishihara via first-round knockout
Four more UFC 196 "Prelims" fights to preview and predict tomorrow, headlined by a fun scrap between @elterweight knockout artists.
Same Mania time, same Mania place.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 196 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.