With four months still to go, 2016 has already seen shocks aplenty in the world of MMA. Michael Bisping, Tyron Woodley, Amanda Nunes and Eddie Alavarez to name but a few of the championship bouts that have swung in favour of the underdog. But one of the biggest of the year was undoubtedly the fall of Conor McGregor. After the rematch was shelved from the UFC 200 main event it was pushed to UFC 202 and goes down this weekend.
The entire card may as well be Conor and Nate for all we’ve heard about it, but there is plenty of value for once in this pay-per-view card and so FO have broken down the top three fights and advertising partner 5DimesLines.com have provided us with the odds in case you fancy a flutter:
Rick Story vs. Donald Cerrone
Rick Story is a guy who appears to have been around forever, but on closer examination of his record it’s punctuated with periods of inactivity. Arguably his most productive period was 2011 to 2014, a three-year spell where he was only able to connect wins at the very end. Two losses in a row was a bad start but then came six fights where wins and losses were alternated. As a result each win meant nothing as no momentum was gained. He also somehow lost to Charlie Brenneman – answers on a postcard for that one.
Everyone’s favourite cowboy, Donald Cerrone, comes riding back into town this week. Cerrone prefers riding a dune buggy to a horse though and it’s this unconventional style that makes him such a fan favourite. Cerrone has a reputation of anyone, anytime, anywhere and most of the time has has been able to back it up. Now fighting at 170lb after a failed attempt at the 155lb championship, his second defeat to dos Anjos sidelined him for as long as RDA held the belt. But he’s looked reinvigorated at the bigger weight.
As styles go, Story is a bad match-up for Cerrone. Whenever ‘Cowboy’ is faced with a pressure wrestler, as Story is, he’s unable to execute his strategy and if the night doesn’t end in defeat then it becomes a long and weary one for Cowboy. Yet some reservations over betting Story are down to comments he recently made over winning not mattering, as long as the fans are entertained.
While there is an element of truth to this statement it’s not what a gambler wants to hear as it would suggest early excuses for a poor camp – even though he maintains his switch to Blackzilians has been beneficial. So for that reason, I’m going to stick with Cerrone, but I’m not expecting an easy or quick nights work.
Recommendation: Donald Cerrone – 2 units at -160 (5/8) @5DimesLines.com
Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira
‘Rumble’ looks to continue his comeback after the disappointment of losing to Daniel Cormier in his only title shot to date. Since that fight he has finished both Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader in emphatic fashion, keeping a knockout streak going that has stretched now into six of his last eight wins. With his weight issues now well and truly behind him Johnson looks like the consummate 2015lb’er and it is a weight class that suits him. Not too much weight to cut and no drain on his extraordinary power. For as long as Jon Jones is off the scene then Johnson will occupy one of the top three slots in the division.
Excluding a small hiccup in 2014, the UFC has shown that it has an extremely dangerous fighter in Glover Teixeira. His hands are so furious and his ground game so polished that he has only been the distance three times since 2010. In two of those fights he lost; firstly to Jon Jones and secondly to Phil Davis. Both fighters were better than him on the ground and cleaner with their attack. The other was a comfortable win over Rampage Jackson before he departed for Bellator. And in April this year he became only the second man to finish Rashad Evans, which in itself is a statement of intent.
This is one of the tougher fights on the card to call and it really comes down to whichever version of both fighters shows up. If the version of Johnson that capitulated to Cormier is in Las Vegas, then Teixeira just needs to take this to deep waters and wait for the inevitable gassing. By contrast, if the version of Glover turns up that was recklessly swinging for the fences against Bader, then AJ just needs to wait for the opening before its lights out. But Glover has a solid chin and I’m going to make a small play on him causing the upset.
Recommendation: Glover Teixeira – 2 units at +165 (33/20) @ 5DimesLines.com
Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor
Since entering the UFC in 2013 McGregor has been a force of a nature. In just three years he strung together seven consecutive victories, picking up an Interim belt and the real featherweight belt along the way. He soundly beat a two-time challenger and ended an eight-year winning streak of a previously indomitable champion. On the verge of greatness he lost. It was a loss that stunned MMA, mainly because it was against Nate Diaz, a man who only had two weeks of preparation time.
We’ve seen time and again this year, particularly with Bisping, that two weeks is often enough time to get fight ready. It wasn’t a bad performance at UFC 196, but it was naive, reckless and impatient. Irrespective, he remains the single most recognisable MMA name in the mainstream media.
When Diaz stepped in for the injured Rafael dos Anjos in March it was a pay cheque, a money fight, and a means to an end. After all, he couldn’t possibly beat the brash Irishman could he? Turns out he could and the “little cholo gangster from the hood” ended the undefeated streak of MMA’s most marketable star. After nearly four years on the wrong side of relevant, Nate was Stockton-slapping his way to the biggest payday of his career. And as he won the thing he gets another chance to make another pay day.
Never disrespect a Diaz, they may teach jiu-jitsu to poor kids and they may take bike rides with the elderly, but they are also exceptional practitioners on the mat.
In the first encounter virtually nobody gave Diaz a chance of scoring the upset. Fast forward six months and the tables have turned, now nobody is giving McGregor a chance of winning (although he is the betting favourite so cannot be classed as an upset). I’ve gone back and forth a few times on this one but I am going to stick with my original pick; Conor McGregor by any means necessary.
Yes, he was exposed by Diaz on the ground but he out-struck and outworked Diaz for eight of the nine minutes they fought. He lost because he gassed not because he was outclassed. McGregor has far more to lose in this fight and I don’t see a single stone being left unturned.
Recommendation: Conor McGregor – 3 units at -115 (9/10) @ 5DimesLine.com