UFC 196 was meant to be one of the biggest fights of the year, but things ended up a little different than expected as Connor McGregor will no longer fight Rafael Don Anjos and will now be taking on Nate Diaz. It's still going to be a massive day (which also includes a Holly Holm v Miesha Tate fight) however, so read on for our UFC 196 Preview & Betting Tips.
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McGregor was originally scheduled to move up to the lightweight division and challenge for Rafael Dos Anjos’ belt. However, for the second time in his last three fights, McGregor’s opponent has pulled out on less than two weeks’ notice. Unable to find an adequate replacement at lightweight, the UFC instead turned to the always entertaining Nate Diaz and the fight will take place at welterweight, meaning McGregor will be going up 11kgs from his December tussle with Jose Aldo.
Nate Diaz is one half of MMA’s infamous Diaz brothers. Born and raised on the unforgiving streets of Stockton Californian, he and his brother Nick (who’s currently serving his third suspension for Marijuana use) truly live by the mantra ‘anywhere, anytime’. This attitude has seen them involved in multiple brawls in the crowd, during post fight speeches and even once at the hospital after an event. This, mixed with their exciting fighting style and unfiltered honesty on the mic have made them two of the sports most beloved fighters, particularly amongst the hard-core contingent. Fighting in the UFC since winning the ultimate fighter in 2007, Nate Diaz has fought the best of the best in the lightweight and welterweight divisions and is a former title contender. His stand up is almost a carbon copy of his brother Nicks, he utilizes good footwork, high punching output and strong counters. Diaz has very dangerous BJJ and is responsible for some of the UFC’s most memorable submissions, but has zero offensive or defensive wrestling so unless Conor chooses to take him down (which he won’t) Diaz won’t get a chance to show off his impressive ground game. Being a semi-professional triathlete, Nate has some of the best cardio in the sport and I expect him to be in the one pushing the pace despite taking this fight on short notice. Although Diaz doesn’t have good striking defence, he has a great chin and incredible toughness and has only been finished by strikes once in his career.
Although it’s disappointing this fight will not be for the lightweight belt, McGregor is such a brilliant showman in and out of the cage that him vs a hills hoist would be worth the cost of a PPV. The combination of revolutionary movement, unorthodox techniques and ungodly power make him one of the most exciting strikers on the UFC’s roster. Movement is the foundation of McGregor’s style, he uses it to create angles and force opponents into dead space. We haven’t seen a lot of his ground game, but I anticipate this fight taking place almost entirely on the feet. Because he ends fights so quickly, his cardio has not yet been tested so that will be something to watch if Diaz can drag this into the later rounds. McGregor is used to being the bigger guy, but will be giving away a significant size and reach advantage in this fight so it will be interesting to see how he that approaches that puzzle.
Prediction: McGregor will have a big speed, power and technique advantage in this fight and because I expect it to be a pure striking affair it’s hard to see anything other than a McGregor victory. Diaz will have such a reach advantage and is so tough that I don’t think McGregor will be able to make quick work of it, but eventually Diaz will succumb to the overwhelming power punches. Conor McGregor by 4th TKO.
Batamnweight title fight
Holly Holm will look to defend her belt for the first time since winning it as a near unprecedented underdog against Ronda Rousey in Melbourne last November. The incredible thing about her victory was that while it ended with a spectacular head kick, it was not a fluke shot; she dominated the entire 6 mins of the fight. Her first title defence will be against the always game, former Strikeforce champion, Miesha Tate. Tate is probably best known as giving Rousey the toughest two tests of her career, before succumbing to an armbar in both fights.
Holly Holm is the best technical striker in the Women’s MMA. She has a decorated boxing and kickboxing career and has the ability to pick opponents apart or finish them in devastating fashion. She will have a big advantage over Tate in every facet of the stand-up game. Although a brilliant offensive and defensive technician, the most impressive aspect of her striking is movement. She is very adept at keeping opponent at the end of her kicks and punches where they are unable to effectively shoot for takedowns. Her takedown defence has also been ultra-impressive thus far; she has not only stuffed the takedown, but punished opponents for attempting it.
You might think that with Rousey emphatically beating Tate twice and Holm then dominating Rousey that this should be an easy win for Holm. But MMA maths should never be trusted and I expect this to be a hotly contested fight. Tate comes from a wrestling background and should she be able to get this fight to the ground she will be able to win rounds if not force a submission. Holm showed off great takedown defence against Rousey, but Tate will be more tactical with the takedown and will be better at setting them up with strikes. She is also an effective chain wrestler. Her offensive striking is slow, but effective and she is one of the few women to effectively use feints. She has poor striking defence and is hit frequently in fights. However she is notoriously hard to put away and has only been stopped once due to strikes in her Strikeforce/UFC career and that was due to a highly controversial knee by Cat Zingano.
Prediction: Holm looked flawless in dispatching Rousey last November, but I think that had as much to do with Rousey’s poor gameplan and inability to adapt than it did Holm’s technical brilliance. If Tate chooses to chase Holm around the octagon, she will be picked apart in similar fashion. But I expect Tate to have a much better gameplan; close the distance, rough holm against the cage and look to land takedowns. While Holm’s striking prowess and understanding of distance means she should get the job done, I think this fight will be a competitive decision. Holly Holm via 49-46 decision.
At only 5’8”, Latifi is the shortest light heavyweight in UFC history, but he is also one of the division’s hardest hitters. He has won 4 of his last 5 fights by 1st round stoppage. Being built like a bar fridge means Latifi is very difficult to takedown, but he has a strong offensive wrestling game and the majority of his wins come after he gets an opponent down and then pounds on them mercilessly till the referee is forced to stop in. On the feet he is an effective counter puncher, but if Villante can keep out of range it will be difficult for him to close the distance. Both Laitifi and Villante have shown off pretty poor gas tanks so if this one goes into the later rounds it could get pretty ugly.
Gian Villante is best known as the childhood friend and number one training partner of former middleweight champion Chris Weidman. He is a strong wrestler, who often abandons the takedown to trade leather and entertain the crowd. On the feet he is rudimentary but does have a lot of power in both his punches and kicks. He tends to load up on punches rather than throwing in combination. Unfortunately he is very hittable, which spells danger against a striker with Latifi’s life-altering power.
Prediction: Villante has two pretty clear ways to win here; he can keep Latifi on the outside and outpoint him or put him on his back and win rounds by controlling on top. The thing with Villante is that he probably won’t even try that and will instead look to trade bombs on the feet. He is completely outgunned in this style of fight and sooner or later Latifi will catch him clean and put the lights out. Ilir Latifi by 1st KO.
This is a fight between a newcomer with some serious upside in Corey Anderson and a savy veteran on the downside of his career in Tom Lawlor. Corey Anderson can be best described as a boring, predictable wrestler which make his fights lacklustre to watch but great to bet.
On the ground Anderson is all about control and strikes, he has never attempted a submission in his UFC career. On the feet he is a run of the mill high output combination boxer, which is used mainly to setup the takedown. He will come into this fight as the far superior athlete, with significant strength, speed and cardio advantage. He also fights under tutelage of Mark Henry, one of the sharpest minds in business so expect him to have an excellent game plan. You have to have serious concerns about his chin, several times in his career he has been rocked by seemingly innocuous punches.
Filthy Tom Lawlor is coming off a crazy come from behind KO win over the aforementioned Gian Villante. He didn’t look great in that fight, but if nothing else it showed he still has dynamite in those hands. Lawlor comes from a wrestling background, but he tends to use it more defensively and I think he will be the inferior wrestler in this fight anyway. He can be quite dangerous in scrambles and has a wicked guillotine, so Anderson will have to be wary of that. On the feet he sticks to mainly straight lefts and hooks and does most of his damage when countering.
Prediction: Lawler has only two, very unlikely paths to victory in this fight, land the one-hitter-quitter or lock up a razor tight guillotine. I think we will just see Corey Anderson do Corey Anderson things on his way to a one-sided grinding decision. Corey Anderson by 30-27 decision.
To kick off the main card we have two of the most exciting strikers in womens MMA not named Holly Holm. The fight will most likely determine who is next in line for a shot at the bantamweight title. Nunes is coming off an incredibly impressive performance where she dispatched Olympic silver medallist Sara McMahon in under 3 minutes. In fact, her last 6 wins have come by 1st round stoppage and she might be the most dangerous 1st round fighter in the division. However if her opponents are able to weather the storm, Nunes does tend to fade as the fight goes on. She has a lot of power, strong ground and pound and dangerous BJJ, but does struggle when put on her back.
This will be Shevchenko’s second fight in the UFC. She took her debut on late notice and upset the heavily favoured Sarah Kaufman. Despite being a new comer to the octagon, Shevcenko is a decorated Muay Thai practioner (with wins over Joanna Jedrzejczyk) and a second degree Tae Kwon do black belt. She is a southpaw with very impressive technical striking. During her debut she also looked reasonably comfortable on the ground and has shown off solid submission defence in her fights prior to the UFC.
Prediction: For me this fight goes one of two ways. Either Nunes comes out and blitzes early and forces a stoppage or Shevchenko survives the early onslaught and uses her superior technique to win a decision or force a late stoppage. I was so impressed with Shevchenko in her debut and I’m looking forward to see what she can do with a full training camp. My money is on the underdog. Valentina Shevchenko by 3rd TKO
Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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