UFC 196 was supposed to feature featherweight champion Conor McGregor’s attempt to make history as the first dual titleholder in UFC history, but a foot injury to lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos has thwarted that scenario. Instead, the popular Irishman will now take on rival Nate Diaz in a welterweight superfight, a fight that has no title implications but which promises to be as exciting as any on the UFC calendar all year. In addition to what is sure to be a great main event, the co-main event of the evening features women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm, fresh off her 2015 Knockout of the Year over Ronda Rousey, defend her belt against the always-durable Miesha Tate. Although losing McGregor vs. RDA stings, this is still a great card, and one fight fans should definitely check out this weekend.
Without further adieu, here are five things to watch for at UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz.
1) McGregor’s Welterweight Debut
He won’t be chasing history, but Conor McGregor will still fight at UFC 196, and that should make any MMA fan happy. The featherweight champion will move up not one, but two full weight classes when he takes on short-notice opponent Nate Diaz in a welterweight grudge match. McGregor has run through everyone he’s fought in the UFC so far, going 7-0 with six knockouts in the Octagon, but Diaz represents a new challenge as a taller, heavier opponent who has a history of pulling off upsets. With all of the hype surrounding him, it’s not surprising the oddsmakers have McGregor pegged as a huge favorite in this one, but with the weight class change and the short notice switch of opponents, it will be interesting to see how McGregor looks in his first fight at 170lbs against a dangerous, crafty veteran like Diaz.
2) Holm’s First Title Defense
Arguably the most shocking upset in MMA history occurred last November when Holly Holm brutally knocked out Ronda Rousey with a head kick at UFC 193 to win the women’s bantamweight championship. Very few people were giving Holm much of a chance to beat Rousey but she completely dominated the fight from bell-to-bell to take home the title and emerge as the top female fighter in the sport. It was expected Holm was going to have her first title defense come in a rematch against Rousey, but instead the UFC threw a curveball and Holm will now fight Miehsa Tate in the co-main event of UFC 196. Tate is a durable, battle-tested opponent, but after seeing Holm wreck Rousey, it’s hard to see Tate’s grappling-heavy approach standing much of a chance in this fight against the devastating striking of Holm.
3) Latifi’s March Towards the Top-15
One of the most underrated light heavyweights in the UFC is Ilir Latifi, who takes on Gian Villante at UFC 196 in what is sure to be a cracker of a bout between two men who love to stand and trade. Latifi is currently 4-2 in the Octagon with all four of his wins coming via first-round stoppage, but for some reason the isn’t ranked in the top-15. Villante is, though, and if Latifi can pick up an impressive win against the American this weekend, the voting panel will have no choice but to finally rank the big Swede in the top-15 of his weight class.
4) Silva Looks to Rebound
It wasn’t that long ago that Erick Silva was considered a future welterweight title challenger, but it seems like every time he fights anyone in the top-10 he loses. Yes, Silva has shown flashes of brilliance in the past against lower-tiered opponents, but he’s never reached his true potential in the sport. The Brazilian is coming off of a disappointing split decision loss to Neil Magny and if he wants to stick around the UFC he has to beat Nordine Taleb at UFC 196. It’s a fight he absolutely should win on paper, but would it really shock anyone if he laid another egg at this point?
Check Out More Content Before This Weekend’s HUGE Fight Card
|5 Things to Watch: UFC 196||Fight Breakdown: UFC 196|
|UFC 196 Underdog Picks||UFC 196 Targets|
5) Miller and Sanchez at the Crossroads
Two veteran lightweights meet in a preliminary bout on UFC Fight Pass as Jim Miller battles Diego Sanchez. A few years ago, this may have been a No. 1 contender’s fight, but at this point of both fighters’ careers it’s a crossroads bout as each of them has lost three of their last four fights. Both men are still capable of putting on an exciting scrap for the fans, but it’s clear both men need a win if they want to remain relevant in the sport, making this an ultra-important fight for both.