UFC 196 is set to rock the desert in Las Vegas, Nevada, TONIGHT (Sat., March 5, 2016) with a Welterweight main event that pits current Featherweight champion Conor McGregor against former Lightweight title challenger Nate Diaz.
Both McGregor and Diaz are coming off highly impressive victories over Jose Aldo and Michael Johnson, respectively, and are two of the most fiery trash talkers in the game. They've already gotten acquainted with each other.
Next up in the co-main event is a women's Bantamweight title collision between champion Holly Holm and two-time title challenger Miesha Tate. Unlike the show's headliner, Holm and Tate are a lot more cordial, but that respect will likely be thrown out the window when these two impressive combatants resort to fisticuffs in the Octagon.
Elsewhere on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card are pivotal Light Heavyweight contests showcasing Top-15 contenders Gian Villante and Corey Anderson against Ilir Latifi and Tom Lawlor, respectively.
With a PPV card as impressive as this one, it surely won't be slacking in action. Here are the bonus predictions for this evening's explosive UFC 196 card.
Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller
Total career finishes: Nine technical (knockout), 22 submission
With the promotion placing an emphasis on building up their Fight Pass digital streaming service, it's easy to see the reason company brass decided to slot this volatile Lightweight contest as the main event. Sanchez and Miller are two of the most entertaining fighters in the 155-pound division. They routinely put forth intense displays of grappling and sheer aggression.
This bout also takes place at a distinct period in their respective careers. Each has lost three of their last four and, to put it bluntly, are likely on a downward trend.
With that being said, that gives both men something to fight for out in "Sin City."
Sanchez is back up at 155 pounds after a failed attempt at garnering steam in the featherweight division against ex-title challenger Ricardo Lamas. There's not much to it when breaking down the Jackson-Wink MMA representative.
He for all intents and purposes has no gameplan when he steps into the Octagon -- it will be his 23rd time. Sanchez is susceptible to the takedown and lacks any defensive skills.
Miller shines on the ground -- he's submitted six UFC foes. Though the New Jersey native can strike, it will be his mission to get this fight to the ground, which is where he'll be able to implement his ground and pound.
Sanchez is an extremely tough son of a bitch and the only time he was ever finished was when a doctor stopped his onesided title effort against B.J. Penn in Dec. 2009. I don't think this one will end in a finish, but it will sure be fun to watch.
Prediction: Jim Miller via unanimous decision
Gian Villante vs. Ilir Latifi
Total career finishes: 14 technical (knockout), six submission
Before I continue, I want to say I heavily considered listing the women's bantamweight tilt between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko here because both women are finishing machines. And I still think that there's a definite chance both of them pick up a bonus later tonight. However, when the big boys throw down it's hard to look away.
When Villante and Latifi lock horns, two of the hardest hitters that the 205-pound division has to offer will begin to connect. They live and die by the sword and have lost multiple professional outings via knockout.
Collectively, they have double-digit knockout wins between them. Villante and Latifi have also turned in knockout finishes in their last two Octagon wins, but they each have solid grappling experience.
I would suspect Villante to mix in a takedown attempt and some leg kicks to halt the pressure of his Swedish opponent. If the New Yorker can put together combinations and keep Latifi guessing, he won't have to meet "The Sledgehammer."
Villante has the tools and athleticism. I suspect the former collegiate football stud will find the finish here.
Prediction: Villante via first-round TKO (Performance of the Night)
Holly Holm (C) vs. Miesha Tate
Total career finishes: 10 technical (knockout), six submission
This is going to be a good fight. I don't care what anyone says, it's going to be a hell of a lot more competitive than Holm's title victory over Ronda Rousey.
Holm is as disciplined as they come and it shows in her three UFC victories. With one of the best coaching staffs in all of MMA behind her, "Preacher's Daughter" rarely breaks a sweat.
As a former boxer, Holm's sense of range and timing is quite the sight to to behold. Her victories, outside of her decimation of "Rowdy," aren't the most entertaining but they were cut and dry.
What I find most people forget about that November evening all the way in Australia, where Holm collapsed Rousey with a beautiful left high kick, is that the former was able to take her down. Rousey, an expert in Judo, came prepared to plow through her opponent, but instead was outstruck and outgrappled.
We shall see what Tate is able to accomplish, but so far, Holm has shown -- at least in my eyes -- she's more than just a striker.
When it comes to Tate, the first thing that springs into my mind is her toughness. "Cupcake" has been in some hard-fought battles with Rousey, Cat Zingano and Marloes Coenen. The Washington native is a high-level grappler with excellent takedowns and smothering top control.
Tate will usually make the fight dirty. In plain terms, she wants to clinch, take the fight to the ground and find a finish. The 29-year-old rarely makes mistakes and is also good at escaping submissions as we saw in her second encounter with Rousey.
The question for Tate will be whether she can find her way into striking range? It will be easier said than done.
Holm's kicks are lethal and her spinning attacks are even more deadly. She may even look to utilize the oblique kick to halt Tate's momentum.
Tate likely isn't going to disappear if she loses. She's one of the best bantamweights across the MMA landscape so she will come in prepared and motivated.
I either see this one going the distance, or Tate succumbing to strikes in a war, perhaps in round four.
Prediction: Holm via fourth-round TKO (Fight of the Night)
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
Total career finishes: 21 technical (knockout), 12 submission
Most people -- including the oddsmakers in Las Vegas -- are doubting Diaz heading into his contest with "Notorious" and it's easy to see why. McGregor has clobbered nearly every fighter that his stood opposite him.
It's not even his skills in the stand-up department that set him apart from everyone else; it's his personality, charisma and dedication to his craft that make the difference. McGregor is continuing to make history and money every time he sets foot in the Octagon.
It's incredible to think of what he's done in a little over two years competing for UFC. But McGregor will be making the trip up two entire weight divisions to contend with the Stockton slugger.
McGregor is a big man, but he won't be the taller person in the cage once the doors lock behind him. Sure, Diaz has endured quite the turbulent stay in UFC, but when given the right matchup, he can shine.
The Californian outboxed "The Menace" over three rounds back in December. Diaz might not have the power, but he can make your night a living hell when he's in the right mindset.
His boxing compliments his renowned jiu-jitsu pedigree, which hasn't been seen from the younger Diaz brother of late. Diaz is high-level grappler and someone you don't want to mess with when the fight touches the mat. However, I would be extremely surprised if this encounter went to the ground. When it comes down to it, both McGregor and Diaz will come out looking to trade blows at range.
Diaz has taken a beating before and his chin is durable, but we're talking about McGregor here. Moving up in weight will likely influence his power, but will he move as fast as he did at featherweight?
I don't think that will matter much. McGregor connects with a left haymaker late in round one.
Prediction: McGregor via first-round TKO (Performance of the Night)
That is all I've got for you fine folks! Hope you enjoyed the read. Thanks and enjoy the fights!
For complete coverage of the entire UFC 196 card, including live updates and play-by-play, click here.