It’s the biggest weekend of the year if you’re both an MMA and pro wrestling fan. This weekend has big shows in both genres and the UFC could end up having one of it’s biggest shows in history with UFC 202.
Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz first squared off in a show that broke the PPV buys record in March and after a heated pre-show press conference on Wednesday they will rematch tonight. There are no title fights on this show but that hasn’t dampened the excitement level among MMA fans.
This is pretty much a one match show but our panel will pick winners in the five biggest fights on the card including a light heavyweight number one contender’s match, two big welterweight fights and what could be a coming out party for the next big contender at bantamweight.
Here’s our panel with the 2016 records in parenthesis. We’ve also added a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks
Josh Nason (50-35; .588) — Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com , WON Twitter guy
John Pollock (50-35; .588) — Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
David Bixenspan (50-35; .588) — Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
Ryan Frederick (48-37; .565) — WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
Dave Meltzer (46-39; .541) — Wrestling Observer founder
Favorites (46-39; .541)
Front Row Brian (46-39; .541) — MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
Mike Sawyer (46-39; .541) — Tough Talk MMA
Consensus picks (40-34; .541)
Mike Sempervive (45-40; .529) — Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
Steve Juon (45-40; .529) — MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
Paul Fontaine (43-42; .506) — MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer
Nate Diaz (19-10) vs Conor McGregor (19-3) II
Diaz is the a top lightweight contender. McGregor is the featherweight champion. So they meet here in the middle, right? Not exactly. Their first fight was done at 170 since it was taken on short notice by Diaz and McGregor insisted that the rematch take place at the same weight.
It’s bold move by the 145 lb champion, especially since UFC president Dana White insists that his next fight will be a title defense at the lower weight class. McGregor was submitted by Diaz in the second round of the first fight after winning the first round by dominating the standup. McGregor insists that he will pace himself better this time out while Diaz says that with a full camp, McGregor won’t stand a chance this time out. The oddsmakers are almost split down the middle on this one but our panel isn’t.
– McGregor (small favorite): Frederick
– Diaz: Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Bix, Sempervive, FRB, Meltzer, Fontaine, Juon
Anthony Johnson (21-5) vs Glover Teixeira (25-4)
The winner here should get a title shot at champion Daniel Cormier later this year unless interim champion Jon Jones somehow avoids a suspension as a result of his recent drug test failure. Both have received title shots in the past and neither really came close to winning their challenges. But they’ve earned this spot and other than Cormier and Jones these two are clearly the class of the division.
Johnson has more power than perhaps anyone in any weight class but Teixeira is tough to put away. In fact he’s not been finished since his very first pro fight, back in 2002.
– Johnson (moderate favorite): Frederick, Juon, Diaz, Pollock, Nason, Bix, Sempervive, FRB, Meltzer
– Teixeira: Fontaine
Donald Cerrone (30-7) vs Rick Story (19-8)
Cerrone, the longtime lightweight contender and former title challenger, has found a home in his higher weight class, having scored stoppage wins in his first two fights at 170. He looked particularly good in his last fight against Patrick Cote, handing the veteran Canadian his first KO since Anderson Silva eight years prior.
Story is a top 10 contender and a tough out, though. He’s won three straight, including a dominant decision over a top contender in Gunnar Nelson.
Cerrone (small favorite): Frederick, Juon, Diaz, Pollock, Nason, Bix, Sempervive, FRB, Meltzer, Fontaine
Cody Garbrandt (9-0) vs Takeya Mizugaki (21-9-2)
After dominating a previously unbeaten opponent in his first ever UFC main event back in May, Cody Garbrandt was talked about as a potential title challenger for champion Dominick Cruz. Fighting on the FS 1 prelims might seem like a step back for him but in reality his fight will probably be seen by at least twice as many people as that KO win over Thomas Almeida was.
With an impressive win over a tough and recognizable veteran in Mizugaki, Garbrandt will be on the cusp of stardom. Mizugaki has won 6 of his last 8 fights but the two losses were both by stoppage and Garbrandt has finished all but one of his pro opponents. Garbrandt is the biggest favorite on this card.
Garbrandt (huge favorite): Frederick, Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Bix, Sempervive, FRB, Meltzer, Fontaine
Neil Magny (18-4) vs Lorenz Larkin (17-5)
It’s tough to talk about Magny without mentioning his recent seven fight win streak, which is now 10 out of 11. Or the fact that this will be his 12th fight since the start of 2014. He’s turned that impressive run into a top 15 ranking and if he can get another win here, he should get a top five opponent next.
Standing in his way is the former Strikeforce light heavyweight fighter who has dropped two weight classes and never looked better, having won three of his last fights including two KOs. Most people consider this the third biggest fight on the show and it will be the featured Fight Pass prelim.
– Magny (small favorite): Frederick, Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Bix, FRB, Meltzer, Fontaine
– Larkin: Sempervive
Action begins with the Fight Pass Prelims at 7:30 p.m. ET and moves over to FS 1 for that portion of the prelims at 8 pm. Ryan Frederick will have running play by play of the fights
While you’re waiting, check out the following content related to the show:
– DFS playbook –- Who to pick, who to avoid
– UFC 202 discussion on the Board, including Ryan Frederick’s extensive preview of the card, along with fighter notes