Talk sh*t, get hit!
Two men with a knack for breaking opponents physically and mentally do battle this Saturday evening (March 5, 2016) when Nate Diaz steps in to face Featherweight champion Conor McGregor in the Welterweight pay-per-view (PPV) main event of UFC 196, headlining a card full of finishers.
Women's Bantamweight champion Holly Holm defends her belt against Miesha Tate in the co-main, while two of the division's fastest risers -- Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko -- duke it out elsewhere on the PPV main card.
We've still four "Prelims" undercard matches to to break down (check out the first batch here), so let's leave the chatting to the professionals and get on with the FOX Sports 1-televised portion.
170 lbs.: Brandon Thatch vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
The towering Brandon Thatch (11-3) exploded onto the scene with brutal first-round knockouts of Justin Edwards and Paulo Thiago, extending his first-round stoppage streak to 10. His rise has recently slowed, however, thanks to submission losses to Benson Henderson and Gunnar Nelson.
He has stopped eight opponents by knockout and another three via submission.
Siyar Bahadurzada's (21-6-1) one-hitter quitter of Paulo Thiago in his UFC debut -- his sixth knockout in his previous seven fights -- left fight fans buzzing. Consecutive losses to Dong Hyun Kim and John Howard, compounded with injuries that have kept him out of action for two years, make Saturday’s effort a must-win for the former Shooto champion.
"The Great" will give up tree inches of height to the 6’2" "Rukus."
Though Bahadurzada packs blistering power in his right hand, he’s in for a seriously rough night against Thatch. "Rukus" is by far the better striking technician, especially in the clinch, and has a lovely array of Thai-style foot sweeps should he wish to exploit Bahadurzada’s lacking ground game.
Bahadurzada’s avenues of victory begin and end with the puncher’s chance. Thatch demolishes him on the inside for "The Great’s" first career knockout loss.
Prediction: Thatch by first-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Erick Silva vs. Nordine Taleb
It has been almost five years since Erick Silva's (18-6) triumphant Octagon debut and the one-time phenom continues to struggle with consistency. First-round finishes of Mike Rhodes and Josh Koscheck gave "Indio" consecutive UFC victories for the first time ever, but he came up short against Neil Magny in Aug. 2015 in his most recent bout.
He has submitted eleven opponents overall and knocked out another four.
Though Nordine Taleb (11-3) could not achieve his The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) dreams despite opportunities on two separate iterations of the show, he opened his UFC career with three straight victories. His first ZUFFA loss came last August against TUF: "Brazil 3" winner Warlley Alves, who coaxed a tap out of Taleb with his signature guillotine choke.
He stands two inches taller than Silva at 6’1."
Both of these men are case studies in unfulfilled potential. Silva is self-explanatory, and while Taleb has a very solid UFC record, someone with his physical gifts should be winning much more impressively against the likes of Vik Grujic and Chris Clements. Were he more confident in his striking, I might take him to win this one, but he doesn’t have the ground acumen to beat Silva with his customary grapple-heavy offense.
Though the possibility of a Silva meltdown is ever-present, he has the tools to win this. First-round submission for the Brazilian.
Prediction: Silva via first-round submission
185 lbs.: Vitor Miranda vs. Marcelo Guimaraes
As a Heavyweight, Vitor Miranda (11-4) battered his way to the Finale of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 before dropping a decision to Antonio "Cara de Sapato." He has continued to demonstrate his knockout prowess in the UFC with brutal finishes of Jake Collier and Clint Hester.
"Lex Luthor" has finished 10 opponents overall, eight via knockout.
Marcelo Guimaraes (9-1-1) entered UFC as the Jungle Fight Middleweight Champion, but didn’t win many fans in his split-decision win over Daniel Stittgen. A knockout loss to Hyun Gyu Lim followed, prompting a return to Middleweight and decision victory over Andy Enz.
This will be his first fight for "Magrao" in 1.5 years.
Guimaraes has the classic flaw of being a top-control specialist with no wrestling to speak of; worse, his striking could charitably be described as "horrific." That’s just not going to cut it against Miranda, who not only boasts fairly stout takedown defense, but has the power to lay out much larger men.
Unless Guimaraes can turn this into an ungodly mess of a clinch fight, Miranda ought to smash him up something awful. "Lex Luthor" lays him out with punches sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Miranda via first-round knockout
145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Chas Skelly
Since starting his UFC career with a 6-1 run, Darren Elkins (19-5) has alternated losses and wins, starting with a 2013 stoppage loss to Chad Mendes. Most recently, he rebounded from a loss to Hacran Dias by overwhelming Robert Whiteford in Dublin.
He has stopped 10 opponents overall, five each by knockout and submission.
Chas Skelly (15-1) had the unenviable task of facing top prospect Mirsad Bektic in his Octagon debut, but managed to take the American Top Team product the distance before dropping a majority decision. He has since won four straight, including stoppages of tough customers Jim Alers and Edimilson "Kevin" Souza.
Eight of his professional wins have come by submission.
All signs point to Elkins having a really, really bad time come Saturday. Skelly’s longer, stronger, and the superior grappler. By all rights, he should outclass Elkins, who has no perceptible advantages outside of cardio.
The real question here is not whether Skelly will win, it’s whether Elkins’ submission defense can keep him alive for the full 15 minutes. Skelly grinds him into the mat for either a rear-naked choke finish or dominant decision.
Prediction: Skelly via unanimous decision
There's a delightful amount of highlight potential to be found this Saturday evening.
See you there, Maniacs!
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.