UFC 196 is finally here, and it’s a very different show from from a few months ago.
The preamble is done and after one of the more dynamic weigh-ins in recent memory, it’s time for the fighters to put up or shut up. Most notably, headliners Conor McGregor (19-2-0) and Nate Diaz (19-10-0).
Welcome back to The Crossfire.
Kenai Andrews checks in with his thoughts on the card.
UFC FIGHT PASS PRELIMS (6:30PM ET/3:30PM PT)
JULIAN EROSA (15-3-0) VS TERUTO ISHIHARA (8-2-2)
Andrews: Ishihara put on a show in his UFC debut, but Erosa is step up in competition here. Erosa can strike, but also has a ground game he like to use. Juicy J is the more versatile fighter here and he should get the unanimous decision here.
Andrews Prediction: Julian Erosa via unanimous decision.
JASON SAGGO (10-2-0) VS JUSTIN SALAS (12-6-0)
Andrews: Tough one to call, as both fighters have fought good competition and lost. Saggo likes to find submissions so he needs the fight to go to the ground. Salas prefers to strike so it’s a matter of who can enforce their game. Saggo did fairly well against a top striker in Paul Felder, so I’m going with the Canadian.
Andrews Prediction: Jason Saggo via submission.
DIEGO SANCHEZ (27-6-0) VS JIM MILLER (25-6-0, 1NC)
Andrews: Should be one of the better fights on the card. Sanchez is the old warrior whose heart and determination keeps him on the show, but Miller, who has lost only to the top guys for pretty much his entire career, finally gets a favourable matchup. As long as he doesn’t play to Sanchez’s brawling tactics, he should be able to get the decision win here.
Andrews Prediction: Jim Miller via unanimous decision.
TSN 2 PRELIMS (8PM ET/5PM PT)
DARREN ELKINS (20-5-0) VS CHAS KELLY (15-1-0)
Andrews: Elkins hasn’t had a finish since UFC 158 in 2013, but he knows how to grind out a decision. Kelly weathered the storm in his last fight and came back to get the submission. I think something similiar will happen here.
Andrews Prediction: Chas Skelly via submission.
VITOR MIRANDA (12-4-0) VS MARCELO GUIMARAES (9-1-1)
Andrews: Miranda, the TUF 3 Brazil finalist, needs to keep the fight on the feet. That won’t be easy as Guimarares knows how to grind things out. But the striking and 75% knockout percentage of Lex Luthor is hard to ignore. Miranda gets it done.
Andrews Prediction: Vitor Miranda via TKO.
ERICK SILVA (18-6-0, 1NC) VS NORDINE TALEB (10-3-0)
Andrews: Tough matchup as both fighters are trying to rebound from a previous loss. Can the calm and methodical Taleb weather the Silva storm of aggressiveness? I think he can, but he has to keep the fight standing. I like Taleb’s octagon savvy and we saw with the Neil Magny fight that Silva can be frustrated.
Andrews Prediction: Nordine Taleb via unanimous decision.
BRANDON THATCH (11-3-0) VS SIYAR BAHADURZADA (21-6-1)
Andrews: Siyar is returning to competition for the first time since UFC 168. Both guys look for the knockout, but I think Siyar will try get the fight to the ground, which is Thatch’s weakness. Thatch hopefully has improved his takedown defence because he will need it tonight.
Andrews Prediction: Brandon Thatch via unanimous decision.
MAIN CARD (10PM ET/7PM PT)
#4 AMANDA NUNES (11-4-0) VS #10 VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO (12-1-0)
Andrews: We last saw Shevchenko perform impressively against Sarah Kaufman, but Amanda Nunes should prove more difficult. Ever since her loss to Cat Zingano, Nunes has reigned in her aggressiveness only to the point where it’s hard to take advantage of.
Andrews Prediction: Amanda Nunes via unanimous decision.
#12 COREY ANDERSON (8-1-0) VS TOM LAWLOR (10-5-0, 1NC)
Andrews: Anderson comes with a significant 5-inch reach and 3-inch leg reach advantage. He should be able to get the fight to the ground and grind out the win. Lawlor needs to land strike, but that opens up takedown opportunities for Corey that he will capitalize on.
Andrews Prediction: Corey Anderson via unanimous decision.
#13 GIAN VILLANTE (14-6-0) VS ILIR LATIFI (12-4-0, 1NC)
Andrews: The thing is Latifi can knock out Villante. But can he get to him? And if Villante can finish Corey Anderson, he can finish The Sledgehammer. Latifi was impressive in his last fight, but I think Villante will weather the early storm and take the decision.
Andrews Prediction: Gian Villante via unanimous decision.
(C) HOLLY HOLM (10-0-0) VS #2 MIESHA TATE (17-5-0)
Andrews: As Miesha said in the Embedded Series, she needs to make this fight dirty, work the clinch and keep Holm from getting comfortable on the feet. We haven’t really seen Holm on her back, so if Miesha can take the fight there, she has a good chance. But Holm is smart and her team at Wink-John will have her ready for this. No Ronda Rousey knockout here, but Holm should walk away with the win.
Andrews Prediction: Holly Holm via unanimous decision.
(C) CONOR MCGREGOR (19-2-0) VS NATE DIAZ (19-10-0)
Andrews: This is a much tougher fight than it appears. Nate’s boxing, reach and ground game are formidable, and if Conor gets taken to the ground, the advantage is Diaz’s. But on the feet, McGregor’s dynamic striking is hard to ignore.
Andrews Prediction: Conor McGregor via TKO.