Preview and Predictions: UFC 196 – McGregor vs. Diaz, Holm vs. Tate

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It seems like it was only yesterday when Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo in thirteen seconds but Ireland’s most famous mixed martial artist is already back in action this weekend at UFC 196 as he jumps two weight classes to fight Nathan Diaz at welterweight.

Initially, McGregor was scheduled to fight for the lightweight strap against Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 197 but an injury to RDA, following the numerical subtraction of event names when the original UFC196 fell apart, means that all went up in smoke.

Instead, it’s Nate Diaz he fights so (because I’ve already written a detailed BIG BREAKDOWN of this fight) let’s get right into how I think this will play out and who will win.

As I alluded to in the above breakdown, the initial battle for the centre of the cage will be absolutely huge here. Whoever wins it, and establishes their forward pressuring game, will have a huge advantage.

To do that I see Diaz trying to walk straight forward throwing jabs and straights while, along with his 1-2s, McGregor will throw kicks high, low and often. Logically, McGregor will probably come out on top in that situation.

Diaz’s job from that point on will be to slow the train and try to close the distance. His best chance in this fight is to clinch McGregor up, push him against the cage, throw him and submit him. But for me, McGregor is too good in the clinch and with his back against the cage to allow that to happen.

All that’s left then is the battle from range.

And nobody beats McGregor there.

I expect plenty of jabs, hooks, straights and footwork from McGregor but, in the end, I think his flashy, yet devastating, kicks might just be the x-factor against a man who has been hurt similarly in previous fights.

Don’t be surprised if Conor McGregor pulls off something you probably weren’t expecting and finishes Diaz in the first half of the fight.

Outside of the headliner, we have the small matter of the women’s bantamweight title on the line in the co-main event as, with Ronda Rousey waiting in the wings, Holly Holm defends her belt for the very first time against Miesha Tate.

A former multiple time world boxing champion, Holly Holm performed well in her transition over to MMA but didn’t set the world alight until her last outing.

That fight was, of course, the absolute annihilation of Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 where she not only took Rousey’s belt but some of her allure too. On Saturday night, when she meets Miesha Tate, Holm will fight the person against whom a lot of that allure was built.

Entering MMA with a background as a youth wrestler, Miesha Tate helped to build the women’s side of the sport before the Rousey explosion. In fact, as Strikeforce champion it was Tate who was part of one of the biggest grudge matches in history when she lost the title to Rousey.

Soon after that the UFC absorbed the division and gave Tate a bigger platform for her talents. Unfortunately her Octagon career got off to a bad start with losses to Cat Zingano and Ronda Rousey again, but now, after four wins in a row, Tate has another chance to be the top player at 135 lbs.

As a fight, you’d expect this one to be a long, drawn-out affair between two gritty but highly skilled women.

As always, Holm will be trying to use her striking advantage by keeping a, sometimes absurdly, long distance of range while bulleting in and out with shots. From there her job will also be to keep her back off of the fence by using lateral movement while all the time keeping Miesha in an area where she can’t close the gap between them.

Against Rousey, Holm won because she was able to keep the range for most of the fight while stopping the throws when Rousey got inside. Against Tate she’ll need to do a similar job but against different attacks.

Unlike Rousey, who can seemingly only attack with judo throws, Tate will mix up her entrances. Look for her to come in low and wrestle with single or double legs while also using body locks and throws to change it up.

Along with that, Tate could pose a threat with her hands. Although she isn’t technically the best in the world Tate can pack a punch. Against Jessica Eye, Tate caused big problems with her strikes and as her wading pressure style becomes a little more refined it makes her a much tougher opponent.

With all that said, though, I think Holly Holm will have enough to take this one. Even though I’d fancy Tate to have her fair share of success, Holm’s game is very suited to winning rounds even if she doesn’t get the finish.

I see this being a mixture of clinch battles and takedown attempts in between prolonged periods of long range kickboxing exchanges which plays right into Holm’s hands.

I think we’ll see the first ever decision in a women’s bantamweight fight on Saturday night and I think Holm Holm will retain her title.

Outside of that Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller and Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko are the two best fights of a card that’s really all about the top two.

FULL FIGHT PICKS

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz – McGregor wins with a head kick
Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate – Holm takes the decision
Gian Villante vs. Ilir Latifi – Latifi via KO
Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor – Anderson via decision
Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko – Very good fight, fancy Nunes to take it

Brandon Thatch vs. Siyar Bahadurzada – Thatch
Erick Silva vs. Nordine Taleb – Taleb
Vitor Miranda vs. Marcelo Guimaraes – Miranda
Darren Elkins vs. Chas Skelly – Skelly

Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller – Sanchez
Justin Salas vs. Jason Saggo – Saggo
Julian Erosa vs. Teruto Ishihara – Erosa

BET OF THE WEEK

My bet of the week is Holm Holm to win by unanimous decision at 23/10.

START TIMES

Early Prelims – 11.30pm on UFC Fight Pass

Prelims – 1am on BT Sport 2

Main Card – 3am on BT Sport 2

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma