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UFC 202 Predictions

UFC 202 Picks to Win
When: Saturday, August 20, 2016
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
by Scott of

Fight Analysis:

UFC 202 looks to be a historic event, with the rematch of one of 2016’s most-shocking results, when leading UFC superstar Conor McGregor was stopped in the second round by Nate Diaz. This will be either be the night where the lights get turned off for a fighter in McGregor who was on his way to becoming the top superstar in the sport of all-time or we see him get re-directed upon the path to greatness. The co-main features a real treat for the fans in a 205-pound barnburner between crippling striker Anthony Johnson and multi-faceted contender Glover Teixeira.

Nate Diaz, 20-10 (5 KOs, 13 Submissions), (+115) vs. Conor McGregor, 19-3 (17 KOs, 1 Submission), (-135)
The main event of UFC 202 features the rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor. In March, Diaz shocked McGregor and the MMA world with a stunning second-round submission win. It brought the meteoric rise of McGregor to a halt—at least for now. If McGregor wants to get back to the business of being an MMA powerhouse and mega-star, he will need to exorcise his Diaz demons. Can he do it or is Diaz all wrong for the Irish striker?

In their first fight in March, McGregor was doing well until it all collapsed. In the first round, he was strafing Diaz with punches and was looking pretty good. When Diaz got warmed-up, however, things started pointing downhill for McGregor rather quickly. Diaz stepped in with some punches that had a visibly-negative affect on McGregor. After getting dazed by a Diaz combination, McGregor tried to grope for something—taking the fight to the floor, where Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Diaz was able to secure an easy submission.

The first fight offers hope to those looking to back either Diaz or McGregor. For those looking to get behind Diaz, they can find solace in the fact that he’s simply a bigger man. In fighting, that can make all the difference when dealing with two really good fighters. The bigger guy will always have an advantage. It’s hard to not notice that in the first fight, when Diaz really started asserting himself, McGregor appeared to be out of his element. Diaz’ punches have far-greater impact and on the ground, it’s not even a contest. And this time, Diaz is not coming in on just over a week’s notice. He will have a full camp to prepare—a scary thought, considering how well he did in March without a ton of time to get ready.

For McGregor backers, there is also hope, despite the awful result of the first match. McGregor was moving up two weight classes to take on a man whose stature is so much bigger than the guys McGregor has been fighting. At 145 pounds, McGregor was the lanky one, able to use his reach to set up his slashing strikes. But against Diaz, he was dwarfed. Now, he knows the full-scope of what he is up against. Perhaps he can adjust.

With McGregor unwilling to fulfill certain obligations, the fight was scratched from the UFC 200 card. This may have been frustrating to some for that fight to have fallen out, but it probably helped McGregor. After all, the result of this fight hinges on McGregor’s ability to come up with something different. It gave him more time to prepare physically, while putting more time between that defeat.

One should expect a more cautious approach from McGregor this time around. As they say, fools rush in. McGregor was peppering Diaz with shots and mostly having his own way. Combine that with the ease in which McGregor had been beating his previous UFC opponents and it’s not hard to see why he would develop an unrealistic sense of invulnerability. And it really cost him. It’s not that difficult to conceive of a game-plan where McGregor employs more movement, stays out of Diaz’ range, and opens up his full arsenal of strikes. It could have a resounding affect this time around and throw a different complexion on this fight.

Alas, this is a 5-round fight. Twenty-five minutes is a long time. We saw in the first fight that Diaz has some margin for error. He was hit repeatedly and was still in good enough shape to end the fight with a submission win. He was marked up, but hardly incapacitated by McGregor’s shots. Conversely, McGregor was utterly unable to absorb the Diaz attack without adverse affects. Once Diaz committed himself to offense, it was a wrap. So potential McGregor backers have to face that reality—that no matter how well he does, he’s never too far from ruin.

To a large degree, McGregor’s hubris has manifested into a major career-changer and not in a good way. He won the featherweight title in quicker fashion than it takes for us to get out of bed. Then, he was given a shot to move up ten pounds to the next weight class to challenge then-champion Rafael dos Anjos, a fight that fell out with an injury to dos Anjos. A replacement was found, one that forced McGregor to move up yet another 15 pounds. McGregor’s “damn the torpedoes” machismo was commendable, but now the UFC Featherweight Champion is locked into a career-defining rivalry with a 170-pounder. It seems a bit bizarre. It didn’t have to be this way.

The stakes of this fight could have a positive affect on McGregor’s performance. It’s hard to identify a more-urgent moment in a fighter’s career, where so much is at stake. Even if McGregor lost, he would certainly still have a high-profile career on his hands, but it would be a far cry from where he would be if he could avenge this loss and get back to being the top dog in the organization. To some degree, it should be expected that this urgency will resonate with McGregor, who will prepare better, focus himself more, and just generally humble himself for what truly is a big task in UFC 202.

Not to be dismissive of McGregor, who is a unique talent, but it’s hard to shake the image of that first fight. We sometimes need to be reminded why there are weight classes in MMA and jumping up two divisions to face a top fighter like Diaz is just cuckoo on a lot of levels. This fight also reminds us of the power of name-value. We saw a much smaller McGregor get manhandled by Diaz, but the superstar Irishman remains a favorite for this fight! Granted, he should be better and knows what he is now facing, but Diaz having the chance to prepare accordingly with a proper camp could negate that. Considering what we all saw with our own eyes in March, it’s just hard to not take Diaz at an underdog price.

My Pick to Win: I’m betting on Nate Diaz at +115. He’s potentially all wrong for McGregor—too big, too dangerous, too multi-faceted, and too tough. McGregor winning would register as something far less than a shock and he reserves the right to improve, but so does Diaz and 5 rounds is a lot of time for Conor to avoid incurring the Diaz wrath. Bet the Diaz/McGregor fight using your credit card and get a huge 50% bonus at MyBookie Sportsbook!

Anthony Johnson, 21-5 (15 KOs), (-230) vs. Glover Teixeira, 25-4 (15 KOs, 7 Submissions), (+190)
In the co-main event, light heavyweights Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira will duke it out in a light heavyweight matchup. While Diaz-McGregor II will garner most of the pub, this could be the fight of the year—a massively-appealing matchup in what seems like a can’t-miss pairing of 205-pound contenders. The winner will become a leading contender for a title shot, so the stakes are high in this crossroads bout. It’s hard to not get excited for this one.

Both men are at the cusp and have come up short at the absolute top levels of the sport. Johnson, 32, is a monster who has wreaked havoc on the 205-pound class with graphic demolitions over the likes of Antonio Nogueira, Alexander Gustafsson, and Jimi Manuwa. He’s a violent and dangerous striker—absolutely terrifying. Only light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier was able to quell his fury with a submission win in May of 2015. Besides that, it’s been uphill for Johnson.

Teixeira is also facing a crossroads moment in his career at age 36. In 2014, his ascent to the top was interrupted—first in a decision loss to champion Jon Jones and then with another points loss to Phil Davis. Three wins have revived his career, with Teixeira stopping Ovince St. Preux, Patrick Cummins, and Rashad Evans all inside the distance in his last three fights. Teixeira is ungodly strong and is capable of boxing and the submission game, as his record attests. His ground-and-pound is ruthless and violent and he packs power in either hand. In a lot of ways, he has it all. He represents a nice combination of power and skill—a ton of strength with an abundance of finesse.

Teixeira hasn’t been KO’d since his pro debut back in 2002. Then again, he hasn’t faced a striker with the lethality of Johnson. Don’t get it wrong—Johnson is a realistic threat to derail any 205-pounder on the planet. It’s just that the Cormier fight showed he is tamed a bit by a fighter who can get him to the ground and strike with competency. To be getting a more versatile fighter like Glover in this spot at these underdog odds is too hard to pass on. I’m going with Teixeira.

My Pick to Win: I’m betting on Glover Teixeira at +190. Johnson’s danger-potential is scary, but I see the overall competence, strength, durability, and versatility of Teixeira getting the job done at the end of the day. Find the best odds and most wagering options on the Johnson/Teixeira fight at the web's best MMA betting site: 5Dimes!

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