After a thoroughly derailing submission loss, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) darling Conor McGregor returns to the cage this Saturday night (Aug. 20, 2016) with revenge on his mind. The main event of UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, will see "Notorious" take on personal boogeyman, Nate Diaz, in a must-win fight for the Irishman’s legendary ego.
In addition, Anthony Johnson takes on Glover Teixeira in a Light Heavyweight No. 1 title contender eliminator and Rick Story looks to end Donald Cerrone’s Welterweight resurgence.
Those are just the cherries on top of a delicious mixed martial arts (MMA) sundae.
Jesse Holland -- who normally pens this event-driven drivel -- left a note that he’d be in his basement all week and that we shouldn’t disturb him under pain of death; therefore, I left him some Beneful and a bowl of water by the door and decided I’d be your Nostradumbass for the week.
Let’s get to it:
170 lbs.: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor (19-3) has the tools to beat Nate Diaz (19-10). Hell, he had the tools before the first fight. He simply fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia," but only slightly less well-known is MMA's version: Never get caught up trying to knockout a Diaz with shots to the head.
Sure, Josh Thomson managed it, but he had to kick Diaz so hard it left a damn dent in his shin.
McGregor completely failed to target the body and slow the Diaz snowball. Now that he knows how important it is to do that, he should be able to win the rematch, right?
McGregor lost in about the most humiliating fashion possible. Diaz took his best shots, rocked him in return and left him scrambling for a desperation takedown after just 1.5 rounds. McGregor’s style requires an extreme amount of confidence and I’m not convinced he can muster it after a thrashing like that.
Without a powerful wrestling game or consistent leg/body attack to deter him, Diaz scores another submission before the championship rounds.
Prediction: Diaz via third-round submission
205 lbs.: Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira
The real question here is whether Glover Teixeira (25-4) will be afraid of Anthony Johnson (21-5) -- Ryan Bader lost his fight with "Rumble" well before he made the walk to the cage. Teixeira has the durability and craft to exploit Johnson’s lingering flaws, but he absolutely has to be confident in his own abilities.
Personally, I think he is. He steadily broke down the ever-dangerous Ovince St-Preux and has recently shown some new wrinkles to his striking beyond his favored overhand right-left hook combination. He also hasn’t been knocked out since his professional debut 14 years ago.
Johnson’s game is terrifying, but it’s also incredibly inefficient. His power sprawl and dedication to knockout punches have diminishing returns as the fight progresses. Though that’s fine when he can crush someone’s confidence as he did against Phil Davis, Teixeira’s power, aggression and world-class grappling present a hard counter. I expect Teixeira to follow Daniel Cormier’s blueprint to great effect, weathering the early onslaught to eventually wear down and finish Johnson with suffocating top control.
Prediction: Teixeira via third-round submission
170 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story
I respect Rick Story (19-8) immensely -- the man’s made an art of being absolutely miserable to fight. His pressuring style, wicked body attack and grinding clinch work ostensibly present a tough match up for Donald Cerrone (30-7), who has in the past wilted under that sort of onslaught.
That said, "Cowboy" has looked massively improved in recent years, primarily with the murderous intercepting knee he used to badly wind Eddie Alvarez. Story -- who still lacks some nuance in his clinch entrances -- is extremely vulnerable to that technique and doesn’t have any real answers for Cerrone’s kicking game besides bullying his way inside.
Worse, Cerrone has the killer instinct that Tarec Saffiedine doesn’t.
I expect Story to look good early, but Cerrone’s withering leg kicks and knees to the body will drag the momentum into his favor for a decision win.
Prediction: Cerrone via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Mike Perry
I was extremely curious as to why UFC elected to put this on the main card, but a quick look at their records explains things. Hyun Gyu Lim (13-5-1) has got a well-documented history of busing heads, while Mike Perry (7-0) has knocked out all of opponents inside of two rounds.
I feel like we here at Mania have a term for this kind of fight -- BoomCarnival or something like that.
"The Ace" had some hype when he came in, but it’s become clear that the big man can be outmaneuvered and worn down by patient opponents. Luckily for him, Griffin is both willing to trade and worse at it than Lim. Perry has a fraction of Lim’s experience, some serious defensive liabilities, and short notice all working against him.
Expect a few minutes of bonkers action before one of Lim’s killer knees turns off the lights.
Prediction: Lim via first-round knockout
170 lbs.: Tim Means vs. Sabah Homasi
You may only remember Sabah Homasi (11-5) from his one-and-done stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21, but he has been busy since. He’s on a three-fight knockout streak at the moment, including one just two weeks ago over Brazilian veteran Jorge "Macaco" Patino. Though he may not be as good as Tim Means' (25-7-1) original opponent, Sean Strickland, he’ll likely make for a much more entertaining fight.
Odds are good this winds up a pure striking match, Homasi’s heavy hands against Means’ Muay Thai. "Dirty Bird" -- whose nickname is much funnier since his recent run-in with USADA -- figures to be the cleaner striker and Homasi’s quick turnaround may work against him when dealing with his foe’s brutal clinch.
And that’s not even mentioning the two-inch height difference
The deciding factor may be that Homasi’s been knocked out twice as a pro, while Means’ only technical knockout loss came from an injury 12 years ago. Means’ superior durability and crisper, more varied arsenal ought to carry him to a decisive victory.
Prediction: Means via second-round technical knockout
Anyone disagree? If so, how does it feel to be wrong as hell? See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember, of course, 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 undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.