In today’s new roundtable, Torch contributors give their predictions on tonight’s top two fights at UFC 196 in Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz and Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
In case you haven’t noticed, MMA is currently Conor McGregor. The brash Irishman has captured the attention of the world with his almost unparalleled trash-talk and a crazy ability to back it up. McGregor says he’s going to finish Nate Diaz in the first round. Do you want to argue with Mystic Mac at this point?
What the world loves about McGregor is his absolute lack of fear in taking any fight. Not only does he take fights that most deem extremely difficult, he seeks them out. The man either realistically believes himself to be the greatest fighter on that planet, or he’s deluded himself to that status. His actions are consistent with the bravado that spews out of the man. Even Jon Jones, who could potentially be the greatest mixed martial artist the world has ever seen, refused to fight Chael Sonnen on short notice. McGregor not only agreed to a late change opponent, he moved up two weight classes to fight him. All that talk about McGregor fighting Robbie Lawler at UFC 200? A win over Nate Diaz on Saturday, and there’s a good chance that becomes a reality.
McGregor is talking a first round finish here. Diaz is about as tough an out as they come, so that prediction sounds unlikely on its face. But you know who else was a tough out? Jose Aldo (13 seconds). Dustin Poirier (1 minute, 46 seconds). Excellent fighters in their own right – heck, Aldo is one of the greatest to ever walk the planet – that had never been knocked out until they ran into the Notorious one. Diaz has only been finished once in his career, but putting Diaz’s lights out is a far more likely proposition than a one punch knockout of Jose Aldo a few months ago. McGregor is a huge featherweight, and Diaz is a natural lightweight. Diaz will be coming in heavy, but he’s also coming in without the benefit of having much of a training camp. Advantage: McGregor. Diaz’s best chance lies in his grappling, but the man from the Emerald Isle is going to be too quick, too precise, and just too good at the end of the day. McGregor by third round TKO.
Meisha Tate has called herself kryptonite to Holly Holm’s style, and it’s true that styles do make fights. Her takedown ability is much better suited to close the distance in the classic striker vs. grappler matchup we have here. Regardless of what Ronda Rousey has led us to believe, Judo is not a particularly effective discipline in MMA. Her sheer athleticism and strength, coupled with great technique just overwhelmed her opponents. Tate’s standup has steadily progressed, and she’s learned to put a lot more force behind her punches than earlier in her career.
What we have seen from Tate though, is that while she’s a superb athlete, she’s not in the elite class that Rousey and Holm are in. The latter two have much higher ceilings and are able to reach levels that are just unattainable for the former Strikeforce champion. Tate’s not going to be able to finish Holm, even if she gets her to the ground, and the champ will be able to control distance and pacing on her feet. While Tate will fight a tactically smarter fight than Rousey did, it’s not going to be enough to hold UFC gold. Holm shows us why she’s the real deal, en route to a unanimous decision win, and keeps the lucrative championship rematch with Rousey alive for an other day.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Diaz-McGregor prediction: I think McGregor supplies an explosive finish to continue his meteoric rise. The fact that Diaz is so tough will only make McGregor knocking him out all the more impressive. I think the fight stays on the feet because Diaz will want to challenge McGregor there instead of trying to take him down where he would the advantage. Diaz also wants to give the fans an exciting fight, which is why the UFC chose him in the first place. I think McGregor stops him in the second round after dropping him a few other times in the first round. Diaz is ultra tough, though, so it won’t be easy for McGregor to stop him. I think he does, though, which makes the legend of McGregor grow even more.
Tate-Holm prediction: I think Tate works as hard as she can to get Holm to the ground, but that Holm shows the same elusiveness that helped her so much against Ronda Rousey and peppers her with strikes. I think she wears her down over time and gets the stoppage win in the third round. I think Tate has some success but comes up just short in the end. Holm’s confidence has to be at an all-time high and that can make you soar to new heights. I think Holm wins here to set up a monster rematch with Rousey down the road. I expect an exciting night of fights, capped off by the first successful title defense of Holly Holm’s MMA career.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Well I see the Nate Diaz insertion as an entertaining twist not just because finally he’s the underdog in a shit talking contest but it also gives us a gauge of how legit of a threat McGregor can be at 170. He wants to fight Lawler already, he’s got balls the size of Volkswagen beetles, but now he needs to back it up and deliver a beating on an elite level 25 pounds above his normal weight class. I’m picking Diaz (because I’ve never picked McGregor, ever despite his entertaining nature) to outpoint the featherweight champ and take home a split decision win.
Holly Holm is going to destroy Meisha Tate. That is all.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
When Rafael dos Anjos pulled out with a foot injury, the UFC knew exactly what it was doing when it went with Nate Diaz as his replacement. Diaz wouldn’t be flustered by McGregor’s trash talk and would deal out his own brand as well to create some instant heat for a fight that would have roughly ten days notice. Even more important, he is the safest bet that their cash cow in McGregor would walk out of the pay-per-view with cash cow status in check. They can claim all they want that Diaz was also picked for his entertaining style and they wouldn’t be lying. But that isn’t their #1 reason. McGregor is likely to beat Diaz because if anything is McGregor’s kryptonite, it is a wrestler who is larger than him that can grind him out over the course of the fight. Khabib Nurmagomedov fits that profile perfectly and volunteered to step up. Is it a surprise the UFC passed on him? Of course not! Diaz was the perfect choice for the UFC as he was the best stylistic matchup for the Notorious one. I’m sure his reach will cause McGregor problems, but not nearly as much as what dos Anjos or Nurmagomedov’s wrestling would. McGregor has proven himself to be an accurate and hard hitter and he’ll eventually crack the tough Diaz chin in the… third round.
Holm’s first title defense will prove to be quite telling. Stylistically Tate poses a much bigger threat to Holm’s reign than a rematch with the formerly God-like Ronda Rousey would since Tate comes from a wrestling background in addition to being a more disciplined striker. For all the talk that Tate isn’t a smart fighter (and there is a lot of truth behind that statement), she does a solid job of adjusting within the fight and should be able to find some way to put Holm on her butt at some point. But I still don’t see Tate dethroning the champ. Even though her fight IQ has grown, I still can’t help but picture her rushing into the clinch with Rousey (an Olympic judoka) or standing and trading with Jessica Eye (by far a better striker than she is grappler). Most telling is that Tate may be a more disciplined striker than Rousey, but who isn’t? Tate is nowhere near the level of Holm in terms of striking technique, but I’m sure we’ll see her try to prove she can beat her at her own game. Holm isn’t a hard hitter and only batter Rousey so badly because Rousey was running full speed into most of those punches, so I see the fight going to a decision with Holm comfortably taking four rounds for a 49-46 unanimous decision.
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