Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz. There isn’t much more that needs to be said to sell UFC 202. The biggest rematch the MMA world has seen in years highlights a card full of entertaining bouts. Overlooked is the co-main event between light heavyweight contenders Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira.
Here is all you need to know for UFC 202 – including my predictions for who should be walking away with the victories.
Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz
We all know Conor McGregor. The brash Irishman hits like a truck and uses crisp technical movement to find Sportsbooks to land his huge punches. He is particularly fond of his huge left cross that has laid out more than a few fighters. McGregor usually stands very upright in his striking stance and jumps in and out of distance very well. He may be at his most dangerous when he can back his opponent into the cage and limit their space to move.
McGregor’s ground game is sufficient at best. He has good enough athleticism to create a sprawl and get a fight standing against average grapplers.
Nate Diaz is an interesting fighter who has carved out a style uniquely his own. Diaz builds his entire game around his boxing and utilizes his long reach to constantly land jabs and counter strikes. The most important boxing related skill he has though is the shoulder roll. Diaz’s stance puts most of his weight on the front leg – an easily exploitable limb – which allows him to pivot and shoulder roll to avoid punches.
Diaz also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has some of the best ground work in MMA. The biggest issue is his general lack of wrestling ability. Diaz can dominate on the ground, but is almost void of wrestling – instead opting to force his opponent into desperation shots.
Normally for these breakdowns, we don’t have very recent fights we can examine, but McGregor and Diaz met less than six months ago, so let’s take a look at that bout.
One of the biggest factors in the first fight was the reach. McGregor has always been the bigger fighter and was at a height, weight and reach disadvantage for the first time against Diaz. As you can see below, whenever McGregor throws his left hand Diaz had the length to throw a check punch himself. However, when McGregor fought a shorter fighter like Chad Mendes, you can see that he could throw the left without any fear of being hit back.
Diaz dominated the first fight once it came to the ground. And you could see Diaz’ experience taking over on the mat compared to McGregor’s inexperience. In the second round, Diaz had McGregor’s back but saw his Sportsbook to move to full mount. As you see in the photo below, Diaz puts pressure on McGregor’s head to keep him distracted from his knee movement. Diaz then grabs McGregor’s arm as the Irishman tries to spin away, which forces McGregor to his back. Diaz then shifted his knee down and took full mount.
The issues that hindered McGregor in the first fight are largely correctable with a full camp – which he has. But don’t forget that Diaz also has a full camp to train for the rematch. Can two fighters change drastically enough in less than six months to change the outcome of this match? I don’t imagine. The bout should go longer, but Diaz has gone five rounds and has proven cardio, while McGregor has only made it out of the second round once.
Prediction: Nate Diaz
Anthony Johnson vs Glover Teixeira
Anthony Johnson may very well be the hardest hitting man on the planet. This is not meant to be hyperbole – he has 15 career victories via knockout, which includes his past four victories. If you have any questions about Rumble’s power, just ask Ryan Bader or Jimi Manuwa or Alexander Gustafsson. He is not one-dimensional either, as he is able to knock opponents out with his hands or feet – not to mention some vicious ground and pound if he gets top control.
Rumble doesn’t get a lot of credit for his grappling abilities, but he has quietly made huge strides in that aspect of his game – the guy did land a takedown on Daniel Cormier. He’s never going to use grappling offensively, as he wants to move forward and knock his opponents’ head off.
The biggest issue of Rumble’s game is his cardio. He has always been known to gas out due to his all-out aggression in the Octagon. If an opponent can survive the early barrage – which is not easy – Johnson becomes a much more beatable opponent.
Glover Teixeira is a finisher. Despite being often overlooked by many, Teixeira is 7-2 in the UFC with six of those victories coming via stoppage. Teixeira’s greatest ability is to use his boxing ability and clinch work to grind up his opponent to properly set up his power punches. We’ve also seen the Teixeira is adept at catching kicks and landing a takedown, which may come into play if Rumble wants to throw his deadly feet.
Teixeira is a solid wrestler and his best path to victory is taking Rumble down. We all know that taking Rumble down and wearing him down is the path of least resistance, but Ryan Bader found out that’s easier said than done.
Teixeira’s durability has always been some of the best in the UFC – he’s only been finished once in his entire career – but he takes damage to give damage. There is no doubt that Tex is a tough guy, but eating damage against Rumble is not a good strategy.
Rumble is a bad man, but I think Teixeira can get this done. Teixeira is a beast, but he’s smart enough to pick his spots against a power puncher like Rumble. Tex should be able to grind through Rumble’s questionable gas tank and take over this fight in the second and third round.
Prediction: Glover Teixeira
Rick Story vs Donald Cerrone
Rick Story is a talented, offensive fighter who has carved himself a good career within the UFC – this will be his 19th fight in the Octagon. ‘The Horror’ Story has built his career on grinding his opponents with his aggressive wrestling skills and a volume-based striking attack. Though he can get caught up headhunting on occasion, Story is also one of the best fighters in the division at working the body in the standup game.
Story is also incredibly durable, as he has only suffered one career stoppage loss – which came at the hands of Demian Maia’s excellent jiu-jitsu. He also sports some heavy hands despite only picking up four KO/TKO victories in his career.
Donald Cerrone is one of the most lethal fighters in the UFC, with ‘Cowboy’ posing a threat to finish his opponent in every aspect of the game. His striking game is built upon a kickboxing base and he puts a heavy emphasis on using a variety of kicking techniques. It is his mastery of controlling the distance that allows him to fully utilize those kicks. The biggest issue in the striking game for Cerrone is just how open he leaves his body – something that Rafael dos Anjos used to put him away.
Cerrone’s willingness to move forward and take risks in the standup game is due to his prowess on the mat. He has 16 career victories via submission and is extremely active from the guard position.
If Story has one major concern in this bout, it will be protecting himself from Cerrone’s kicks. Story will need to get inside and try to grind out Cerrone with his body work because he will get picked apart if Cerrone can control the distance. Cerrone will have an issue with Story’s body shots, as ‘Cowboy’ has shown to have a soft midsection.
With all that said, I made the mistake of questioning Cerrone ahead of his bout with Patrick Cote and I’m not doing that again.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone
Hyun Gyu Lim vs Mike Perry
Hyun Gyu Lim is an exciting fighter that has disappeared from the public eye, as ‘The Ace’ has not fought in nearly 15 months. Lim is a deadly striker who uses his boxing and taekwondo skills to render his opponents unconscious. He is a great striker who loves using his knees to attack opponents – Lim shows a special fondness for flying knees.
Lim is also obnoxiously big for a welterweight, as the Korean Top Team product is 6’2’ with a massive 79-inch reach. However, he can abandon this advantage at times – instead going hyper-aggressive and charging forward through punches.
Mike Perry is making his UFC debut after going a perfect 6-0 to start his career. All of his victories have come via KO/TKO with four of those bouts being ended within the first round. Perry is a strong puncher who is very patient in the striking game, which can make him very dangerous.
However, Perry is still pretty green. He doesn’t have great foot or head movement, which could make him target practice for fighters with more skill than he is used to facing. Perry also needs to throw more combinations, as he largely throws one – very powerful – punch at a time.
Perry is a slugger and that is exactly not what you want to be when you face Lim. Lim is a dynamic striker who loves to be aggressive and with some less-than-UFC ready movement, Perry should be an easy target for The Ace.
Prediction: Hyun Gyu Lim
Tim Means vs Sabah Homasi
Tim Means is the kind of fighter that young fighters should watch. ‘The Dirty Bird’ is a capable fighter in every facet of the game, though he does prefer to keep the fight on the feet. Means is an aggressive, but technical striker who exhibits above-average power in his hands. He has good cardio and an iron chin – he has been knocked out once in his pro career and that was 12 years ago.
Means is solid on the ground and will work to find a submission from the mat. His wrestling has been getting better and better, but he does use it almost exclusively defensively to keep the fight standing.
Sabah Homasi makes his UFC debut on short notice after Sean Strickland pulled out of the fight due to injury. Homasi is a striker first who has picked up eight of his 11 career victories via KO/TKO. He throws big looping punches and sports power in both hands, though he can stand to throw more combinations rather than just one big punch at a time.
Homasi will also be taking this fight only three weeks after his last appearance at Titan FC 40. Though Homasi ended that bout early in the second round, you need to wonder how that quick of a turnaround will affect him.
Homasi has power but has not fought anyone on the caliber of Means. ‘The Dirty Bird’ is more aggressive, technical and well rounded than Homasi and I’ll be shocked if Means allows this bout to make it to the distance.
Prediction: Tim Means