What Featherweight title?
Conor McGregor continues his merry Welterweight adventures this Saturday evening (Aug. 20, 2016), rematching Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC 202 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The T-Mobile Arena will also host a terrific Light Heavyweight clash between Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira, plus guaranteed Welterweight fireworks as Donald Cerrone faces Rick Story.
That's not all.
This time around, the "Prelims" undercard is split 4:3 between FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass. Let’s get rolling on the latter:
170 lbs.: Neil Magny vs. Lorenz Larkin
Despite just reaching the semifinals in one of the worst The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) seasons, Neil Magny (18-4) has emerged as one of the Welterweight division’s best. He’s won 10 of his last 11 fights, including a comeback knockout of Hector Lombard in his most recent bout.
He stands four inches taller than Lorenz Larkin (17-5) at 6’3."
Larkin -- who opened his Strikeforce career at Light Heavyweight -- has found a real home for himself in UFC’s 170-pound division. He’s gone 3-1 since making the drop, the sole loss a close decision against Albert Tumenov and one of the victories a knockout of Santiago Ponzinibbio.
He’s knocked out 10 opponents overall.
This is a really, really good fight, far more intriguing than the planned match up between Magny and Dong Hyun Kim. I expect the same result, a Magny decision, but he’s going to have a much tougher time pulling it off.
While Larkin has the speed and power advantage, Magny is incredibly composed under fire and has bounced back from early trouble against big hitters like Hyun Gyu Lim and the aforementioned Lombard. I simply don’t believe Larkin can put him out before Magny settles in and ruthlessly exploits his length advantage.
There’s also Magny’s ever-evolving wrestling to consider.
Event though Larkin is a great talent whom I expect will push Magny hard, Magny’s length and grappling edge should carry him to a competitive decision.
Prediction: Magny via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Colby Covington vs. Max Griffin
Colby Covington (9-1) opened his UFC career with three straight wins, but was eighty-sixed in 86 seconds by Warlley Alves’ guillotine his next time out. He’s since rebounded with a dominant submission win over late replacement Johnathan Meunier in Ottawa.
He has tapped six of his 10 professional opponents.
Max Griffin (12-2) enters UFC having won eight of his last nine fights, losing only to prospect Chidi Njokuani in a five-round split decision. His last two fights have seen him knockout Randall Wallace in four and starch former UFC competitor David Mitchell in under a minute.
The WFC champ has knocked out six opponents overall.
Covington, simply put, is a horrific match up for UFC newcomers. The American Top Team (ATT) product has terrific wrestling and the sort of patient, grinding style that leaves few openings for those without a killer guillotine. He also has the cardio to maintain his takedown onslaught for all three rounds, eating away at his opponent’s cardio and confidence all the while.
Any debutant will have issues with Covington, but Griffin will have even more than usual.
Griffin struggled badly with Randall Wallace’s wrestling two fights ago, repeatedly giving up his back. He hits hard, sure, but doesn’t have the takedown defense or technique to bring that power to bear before Covington bulldozes him to the mat. "Chaos" overwhelms him before locking up the rear-naked choke partway through the second.
Prediction: Covington via second-round submission.
185 lbs.: Alberto Pereira vs. Marvin Vettori
Brazil’s Alberto Pereira (10-1) brought a four-fight knockout streak into his Octagon debut, capped off by a first-round knockout of inaugural TUF: "Brazil" competitor Thiago Perpetuo. "Uda" managed to break Jake Collier’s nose early on, but succumbed to a hard knee and spinning back kick sixty-six seconds into the second round.
He will have a three-inch height advantage over the 6’0" Marvin Vettori (10-2).
Italy’s Vettori became the Venator Welterweight Champion in the promotion’s inaugural show and scored a successful defense in its second one. This past May, he earned the biggest win of his career with a guillotine submission of Igor Araujo on the infamous Palhares vs. Meek card. He’s submitted seven opponents and knocked out another two.
"Uda" looked as good as advertised in the clinch against Jake Collier, but seemed profoundly uncomfortable outside of it, wading in with lunging punches and showing little nuance to his clinch entries. He also ate far more punches than is reasonable from a below-average striker. While the drop to welterweight may improve his already-fearsome clinch, it’s not going to fix his technical flaws.
Vettori has the edge in wrestling and overall grappling, which ought to synergize nicely with Pereira’s love of working inside. So long as the Italian steers clear of Uda’s knees, I expect him to lock up something in transition.
Prediction: Vettori via first-round submission
Four more UFC 202 "Prelims" fights remain to preview and predict, capped off by what ought to be a great scrap between Cody Garbrandt and Takeya Mizugaki.
Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 202 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 under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.