The rematch of all rematches goes down this Saturday in Las Vegas between UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor and Number 4 lightweight contender, Nate Diaz…at welterweight. Again. Both men will have a full camp and will be looking for the early finish. The media surrounding the event has really picked up and will no doubt be at a fever pitch by the time the weekend rolls around. UFC 202 could very easily turn out to be the top rated event of the year.
The supporting cast is a pretty good looking ensemble, as well. There are some really intriguing bouts at welterweight, especially the one between Donald Cerrone and Rick Story, as well as a pair of women’s bouts. There are also several fighters making their promotional debuts (Marvin Vettori, Mike Perry, Max Griffin, Chris Avila and Sabah Homasi), and a title eliminator between Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira. You’d be hard pressed to not find a fight on this card to get invested in.
The underdog action for this event is pretty intense, and I’m going to be making a few bold predictions this time around. When you have this many promotional debuts, it’s difficult to not take at least one of them. Stars are born in the UFC, and one of these gents could be the next big thing. Time to see who’s going to spoil a veteran’s night. Let’s get started.
Colby Covington $11,300 / Max Griffin $8,100
Colby Covington is a very good prospect with an excellent wrestling base. He trains with ATT, and has been working to improve the other aspects of his skillset. He looked good against an aging Mike Pyle, but was submitted in less than 90 seconds by TUF alum, Warlley Alves.
Max Griffin is a seasoned regional fighter with a solid record over names like David Mitchell, Waachim Spiritwolf, Fernando Gonzalez and Ricky Legere. He’s a capable wrestler, but his real weapon is powerful, crisp striking. He fights out of MMA Gold and Marinoble’s Martial Arts in California and has a black belt in Bok Fu under Dave Marinoble. I’m pretty confident that Griffin’s power will be the key here, as long as he can defend the inevitable attempts at smothering that will come from Colby.
Max Griffin via TKO
Elizabeth Phillips $10,200 / Raquel Pennington $9,200
Elizabeth Phillips is a tough fighter, but lacks what it takes to find any real success at the UFC level. She is 1-2 in the promotion, with her only win being over Jessamyn Duke. She trains in Spokane Washington at SikJitsu with Julianna Pena, Mike Chiesa and Sam Sicilia, but hasn’t been able to get her UFC tenure on track as her teammates have.
Raquel Pennington is a seasoned vet with a ton of amateur, exhibition and pro fights under her belt. She holds impressive wins over Sarah Moras, Jessamyn Duke, Roxanne Modafferi, Ashlee Evans-Smith, Jessica Andrade, Bethe Correia and current Invicta bantamweight champ, Tonya Evinger. She’s a strong grappler and has very good standup to complement it. She’s gritty and durable and is an opportunist that makes the most of every opening. You could close your eyes, throw a dart and land on any facet of her skillset and call it a key to victory. She’s that good.
Raquel Pennington via Decision
Donald Cerrone $10,000 / Rick Story $9,400
Cerrone is an exceptional fighter who’s just made the jump up to welterweight over the last six months. He’s been successful in his first two outings against athletes outside the Top 15. He’s an excellent grappler and has beautiful technical striking. Donald is a naturally gifted athlete, and according to his coach, Greg Jackson, he learns at an accelerated rate, and masters techniques quickly, as if he were born knowing them. All that said, well-placed body shots and strong wrestlers are his kryptonite, and with the step up to a Number 9 ranked contender, this fight will be a real test for him.
Story is a sturdy, powerful wrestler, and he packs a good wallop, even if we don’t see it that often. He’s on a three fight winning streak, one of which is to Icelandic grappling ace, Gunnar Nelson. His grind is off the charts, and he has just the type of stifling pressure and improved clinch game that can end up being very problematic for Cerrone. His striking has always been good, but he seems to have really gotten sharper since his return. One thing is certain, this will be a great fight.
Rick Story via Decision
Conor McGregor $10,400 / Nate Diaz $9,200
Conor is just not built for welterweight. That’s the biggest thing to note here. He’s got great, unorthodox striking, and he uses angles and explosion so well. His footwork is beautiful, but his head movement needs more work, as Nate was able to ring his bell a good bit in their first outing. His ground game and defensive skills are good, but against Nate Diaz…well, see fight number one.
While conditioning was a real factor in his loss the first time, I don’t think it will be in this one. He’s a very intelligent fighter looking to get retribution, and let’s not forget, he’ll have a full fight camp targeted exclusively for Diaz. I think we’ll see a very different game plan from Conor, but again, I don’t think it will be enough to take home the W.
Nate has the body type to float seamlessly between lightweight and welterweight, and carries a considerable size advantage over Mystic Mac. He will also have the advantage of a full camp, and his conditioning, which has never been an issue, will no doubt be on point this time around, as well. Nate has excellent striking and when he turns the dial up to 11, you get spectacular performances like his fight with Donald Cerrone. If you want to see a real masterpiece display of striking, watch that fight.
His ground game is just as beefy as his striking. Scratch that. His ground game is better than his striking. He’s great in scrambles and his transitions are fluid and effortless. If he gets Conor’s back and sinks those hooks in…well, see fight number one.
I don’t think this is going to be over as fast as the first one. This fight is going to be a real scrap, with both fighters likely tasting the canvas at some point, and the finish coming late in the 4th or early in the 5th. Remember, I predicted Nate would win by submission the first time, too.
Another bold prediction: This bout will take fight of the night honors.
Nate Diaz via Submission
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