Here we are. UFC 202 is nearly upon us. Bloody Elbow’s staff has made its predictions for the entire card, but because this is a mega event, we’ve divided the predictions into two posts. You can read our preliminary card picks here. As for the PPV main card, the majority of the BE team is siding with Nate Diaz to make it 2-for-2 against Conor McGregor. Nick Baldwin, Victor Rodriguez, Eddie Mercado, and Lewis McKeever have got Conor evening the score with Nate. The co-main event has a similar split of people picking Anthony Johnson over Glover Teixeira. Phil Mackenzie, Lewis, Jed Meshew, and Tim Bissell are backing Teixeira to get the victory.
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Monday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor
Anton Tabuena: It’s weird how everyone seems to be talking about how much McGregor improved, when it’s more likely that Diaz with a legit camp would be the one with major changes to his output. I expect Conor to have a significantly better game plan, but how much improvements can he actually make skill-wise in that short amount of time? He’s doing bike trails, hired a BJJ coach and a tall boxer. That can help him be more accustomed to what Diaz brings to the table, but in the end, it won’t make him have better cardio, better boxing, or better BJJ than Nate. With his stance, Diaz normally has trouble from takedowns and Thai kicks, but Conor doesn’t really utilize either well and prefers side kicks and oblique kicks. He can use distance and his speed advantage to slowly try and pick him apart, but I doubt he can maintain that for 25 mins. He will probably go back to what he’s used to, and they will have stretches where they’re trading in boxing range. Conor obviously has a chance, but I believe Diaz should be the considerable favorite here. Nate Diaz by late submission.
Mookie Alexander: I’m going back and forth on this too much so I’ll make it short. It’s really not some inconceivable thought that McGregor will effectively work past Diaz’s jab and be more economic with his strike selection — more leg kicks and fewer spinning high kicks — and even knock Diaz out. Don’t laugh it off, you’ve seen enough stunning MMA results this year that a Diaz getting KO’d is somehow not in the cards. That said, as much as I really don’t like basing my picks based on mental warfare, I do not trust Conor McGregor to not engage in a pure firefight with Nate Diaz and have it backfire. This will be another terrific fight, but I like Diaz to hurt McGregor again with his boxing and this time jump on a guillotine for the win. For only the 2nd time ever, I’m picking against Conor McGregor, so you McGregor marks better not bombard my Twitter account and call me anti-Conor. Nate Diaz by submission, round 4.
Victor Rodriguez: Yeesh. The first fight saw some great back and forth action where Diaz punished McGregor for not respecting his range and power, thinking he could simply outbox Nate. Problem is, it’s really hard for me to see the fight going the same way. See – historically, anyone that tries to outbox a Diaz brother eats it. Michael Johnson? Check. Takanori Gomi? Check. Donald Cerrone? Double check. Gray Maynard? For the love of everything holy, never again. Yet for all their faults, Kavanagh and McGregor could very well learn to avoid that deadly jab and the ensuing setups, learn to fluster Nate and actually put the pressure on him as needed to get the win. Nate’s gotten a lot better at checking leg kicks, though. Not only that, but he may not be much of a wrestler, but can work takedowns of caught kicks and work his superior grappling game. Still can’t see myself going against a focused McGregor, because he’s defied so many crazy expectations up until now. I’ll probably hate myself for this, but let it roll. Conor McGregor by TKO, round 4.
Fraser Coffeen: I picked McGregor over Jose Aldo based purely on one factor: Conor’s confidence. He was on a roll and believed in himself to this insane degree, and he made it happen. It helped that it was a stylistically favorable match-up – not a bigger opponent, not a longer opponent, and not an opponent who would exploit what I think we can now fairly say is a weakness in Conor’s submission defense game. All of those pluses are out the window against Diaz, but the biggest issue for Conor here is that confidence. He can talk all he wants about his preparation, but it all feels like bluster to me. He’s been all over the map since the loss, and I don’t see him righting the ship. He flew too close to the sun, and this is the result. Nate Diaz by submission, round 1
Eddie Mercado: This is such a close fight. So many factors at play here. Full training camps and $300k training camps. Plus this a rematch of a very close fight. Will Nate Diaz be even better? I doubt it. I mean he looked how Nate always looks when he fought Conor at UFC 196 so what exactly are we supposed to see different from Diaz? He’s pretty much a finished product. He’s damn good, but also as good as he is going to get. Nate Diaz might be getting a bit too much credit for his boxing abilities. Don’t get me wrong, Nate is a superb scrapper but the truth is, there are ever present lapses in defense when one allows Nate to open up. The questions here for me are has Conor learned from his mistakes and will those potential learned lessons even matter? Well maybe… If Conor cuts out the ‘spinning shit’ and has a more patient showing then I can see him find the necessary openings to hurt Diaz and put him away. Conor McGregor by TKO, Round 2.
Lewis McKeever: I have no idea who’s winning this one, but I think it’s going to be a great fight. I think the key for McGregor is to use feints and catch Diaz with flush counters, similar to how he opened up round 2. But Diaz could easily overwhelm him like he did in the first fight. If you were to put a gun to my head, I’d pick McGregor via decision. Conor McGregor via decision.
Stephie Haynes: Conor is just not built for welterweight. That’s the biggest thing to note here. He’s got great, unorthodox striking, Excellent countering, 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 same 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.
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. Nate Diaz by late 4th or early 5th submission.
Dayne Fox: I do believe that we will see a better version of McGregor than we did last time out. Losing will often make you refocus on your objectives. He sounds like he is applying some strategy this time around rather than hitting Diaz as hard as he can and hoping he goes away. He’s likely better managing his diet as well. But fighting outside of featherweight negates his greatest strengths in being the bigger man as well as his power. Diaz will have a full camp this time around and may even be in McGregor’s head. A Diaz doesn’t know how to fight any other way than angry, so McGregor can say whatever he wants to Nate and it isn’t going to make a difference to his performance. Perhaps we won’t have the same amount of drama this time around now that the McGregor bubble has been somewhat burst, but it should be a better quality fight. I still expect the cardio machine that is Diaz to take a late submission. Diaz via submission of RD4
Jed Meshew: I’m super excited to see how Conor reacts after losing twice to Nate. After the first loss he was introspective and self aware for about all of 5 minutes until he started justifying what happened. This time he is going to have to have a real reckoning with the fact that there is a guy out there who he can’t mess with and who can beat him up. Because let’s be honest here, McGregor isn’t winning. For Nate to win, he just has to be himself. (Also, he looks to be in phenomenal shape for this fight and I think Nate doesn’t get the credit he deserves for improving on his deficiencies).For Conor to win, he has to fight 5 rounds completely against all his natural instincts and doing so against a guy who is clearly living rent free in his head and will be talking all of the shit mid-fight. It just ain’t happening. If you haven’t seen it, go check out Conor’s interview with Jay and Dan on FS1. It is surreal. He is completely different than we’ve ever seen him before and I really think it’s because Nate has him rattled.
Oh, and for all the people saying Conor just has to not get tired, well it doesn’t work like that. I can be leading a marathon for the first 100 yards if I start at a dead sprint. That doesn’t mean I can win the marathon by “just not getting tired.” Conor’s success in the first round had a lot to do with the fact that he was going so hard in it. Nate Diaz is quicksand. The harder Conor fights, the worse it’ll get. Diaz by submission, round 2.
Staff picking Diaz: Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Phil, Bissell, Tim, Stephie, Dayne, Jed
Staff picking McGregor: Nick, Victor, Eddie, Lewis
Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira
Anton Tabuena: This could boil down to whoever hits cleanly first, but I still think this should favor Rumble heavily. He’s younger, faster, more athletic, and seems to hit way harder too. He also has a more diverse striking arsenal, so if he doesn’t get careless, I believe this is his fight to lose. Anthony Johnson by KO.
Mookie Alexander: We’ve seen Glover’s chin get dented, but not to the point of getting KO’d or actually knocked down. We’ve seen Rumble get hit, he doesn’t seem fazed unless you poke his eyes Kevin Burns style. Teixeira is a dangerous striker but Rumble’s power is just so difficult to avoid. It’s a real toss-up fight. If Rumble gets going early then this will be over early. Otherwise, if Teixeira gets to work his BJJ, which will most likely happen if Rumble gets sloppy and/or tired, then Glover will get the submission. I’m a little concerned Rumble won’t pace himself properly and Teixeira will take advantage of that, but I can’t see Teixeira surviving Rumble’s biggest shots. Anthony Johnson by KO, round 1.
Victor: We need to immediately clear up one thing, and that’s the fact that this fight could be hilariously ugly no matter what. Glover’s got cleaner and crisper combinations along with a much-lauded BJJ game that we haven’t really seen much of in the UFC. On the other hand, Rumble hits like a Mack truck, has amazing takedown defense and isn’t really known for his cardio. There’s no way Glover takes Rumble down, and this starts to look like it’s a matter of whether or not Rumble’s chin holds up to the accuracy and volume of Glover’s punches or Rumble lands the 2-3 good shots he needs to put Glover to sleep. It’s a tough one for me, but I have to go with the guy working under Henri Hooft and has more control of where the fight takes place. Rumble Johnson by ugly TKO.
Lewis: Anthony Johnson doesn’t deal well with pressure fighters, and Glover Teixeira is very much a pressure fighter. Johnson looks invincible when he’s the one dictating the action, but seems to fold when his opponent’s take it to him. This was the case back when he lost to Josh Koscheck at welterweight in 2009, and is still the case at light heavyweight in 2016. In short, I think Johnson has a tendency to quit, and I think Tex will make him quit via submission in the third round. Teixeira via submission.
Eddie: Man, I’m such huge fan of both of these guys. Both are powerful finishers who are more than down to slug it out. To beat Glover you better be more athletic AND possess an equal or greater skillset. Anthony Johnson is just that. I can see Glover being too tough to get put away and Johnson unlikely to give up the takedown. For me, that is a recipe for Anthony Johnson by Decision.
Dayne Fox: My initial thoughts were to pick Johnson right away. After further thought, my pick remains the same. Teixeira hasn’t been finished since 2002 which gave me pause that he may be able to extend the fight and make Johnson gas. Then I remembered he sure as hell has been rocked plenty by the likes of Ryan Bader and Ovince St. Preux. Bader and OSP aren’t bad fighters and have a bit of pop in their fists, but nothing like what Rumble offers. Johnson finishes this early. Johnson via KO of RD1
Jed: The smart pick here is to say Johnson will land one of those bombs and finish Glover. I’ve never been a smart man. Glover is durable, has a good pressure game, and underrated takedowns. I like him to survive the storm and work Rumble over on top. Teixeira by submission, round 3.
Staff picking Rumble: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Eddie, Tim, Stephie, Dayne
Staff picking Teixeira: Phil, Lewis, Bissell, Jed
Donald Cerrone vs. Rick Story
Anton Tabuena: Story is a live dog here as he conceivably can use that edge in strength and wrestling to muscle his way to a clinch and batter him on the fence. That said, if he can’t constantly wall-n-maul Cerrone, he will have significant disadvantages at range and on the ground. Donald Cerrone by Decision.
Mookie Alexander: You don’t need to be a vicious KO artist to hurt someone to the body, which is why picking Story to win that way is more than reasonable. That said, will we see Story easily pressure Cerrone into a close-range, dirty boxing fight? I’d be surprised if Story was able to grind Cerrone out on the ground — taking him down is one thing, but controlling him is another — and he’s arguably at a disadvantage if this is a kickboxing match at Cerrone’s controlled distance. It’s a really tight call because there’s an obvious path to victory for Story, it’s just that I see more ways to win for Cowboy, and he’ll strategically outpoint Story for the decision win. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision.
Victor: Oh. Oh, god. I’ve shown a lot of love for John Crouch & co. here, but welterweight Cerrone is downright frightening these days after ditching his feeling-out process from the past and just working right at his opponent. Story’s going to have to work extra hard to get that takedown, and he’s not safe with Cerrone on his back. Cerrone’s experience and ability to pick opponents apart at mid-range along with his takedown defense should win him this one. Donald Cerrone by TKO.
Phil Mackenzie: Story checks too many of the boxes of what works against Cerrone, even if Donald has looked surprisingly technically evolved in his brief welterweight stint. He’s a pressure fighter, he works the body, he’s a southpaw, he’s monstrously durable and he isn’t outsized. Story isn’t that quick, but he’s not as plodding as, say, Jeremy Stephens was, and he did a great job of snuffing Alves’ kicks and forcing him into boxing and clinch exchanges back in the day. If Cerrone wins this, I think he really needs a truly 3d performance, where boxing, kicks and counter takedowns on an aggressive Story all play their role. Rick Story by unanimous decision.
Eddie: The road to the title, at lightweight or welterweight, seems to head right through Donald Cowboy Cerrone, at least at some point. If you cannot get past Cerrone then chances are you are not fighting for a title anytime soon, excluding Eddie Alvarez. Cowboy is just that guy. However, his Achilles Heel seems to be body shots… Beer much? You know who has vicious body strikes? Rick The Horror Story, that’s who. Story rips to the liver with night-ending ferocity which looks like his key to victory in this bout. Rick Story by KO (Body Punch) Round 1.
Jed: How improved is Donald Cerrone? That’s the question because Rick Story does all the things that have historically given Cerrone problems. He’s a southpaw, he pressures well, and he attacks the body with dedication. Give me Story by decision.
Staff picking Cerrone: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Story: Phil, Lewis, Bissell, Eddie, Stephie, Dayne, Jed
Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Mike Perry
Anton Tabuena: Short notice UFC debut against a knockout artist? This will be brutal, and I expect another highlight reel finish from the Korean slugger. Hyun Gyu Lim by KO.
Mookie Alexander: This isn’t going the distance. I can see a Perry upset because he is powerful and Lim gets hit too much for my liking, but Lim can crack and I think he’ll get Perry out in the opening round. Hyun Gyu Lim by KO, round 1.
Phil Mackenzie: Lim is always fun to watch, primarily due to how amusingly gigantic he is. However, the Hyun Gyu Hyun Gyu Hippo is not exactly unhittable, and Perry punches very hard. That’s a solid recipe for an upset. I think the most likely outcome is that Perry weaves, and Lim lands one of his classic “flying knees” where he barely leaves the ground and just blunders over the opponent. Hyun Gyu Lim by TKO, round 1.
Eddie: Lim has been out of action since his May of 2015 TKO loss to Neil Magney. Expect some cage rust to play a fac… Oh who am I kidding? Lim is a savage and I expect nothing else but utter brutality. Hyun Gyu Lim by KO, Round 1.
Jed: Don’t pick guys coming in on short notice. Lim is massive and I like him to land something stunningly impressive to finish Perry. Lim by KO, round 2.
Staff picking Lim: Nick, Mookie, Victor, Anton, Fraser, Phil, Bissell, Eddie, Tim, Stephie, Dayne, Jed
Staff picking Perry:
Sabah Homasi vs. Tim Means
Anton Tabuena: Another short notice fight. Tim Means by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Tim Means is back, which makes me happy. Tough for Sabah Homasi though, whose short notice UFC debut will probably end in a stoppage loss against someone who is not too far from being ranked in the top 15 at welterweight. Tim Means via TKO (punches), round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: Like the Lim-Perry fight above, these fighters share broadly similar core competencies with one another. In this case, they are clinch and stand-up specialists. Means works at a faster pace, is cleaner technically, has been more durable historically, has more experience and isn’t on short notice. Tim Means by TKO, round 2.
Eddie: For my interview with Sabah Homasi, CLICK HERE
Jed: Even if this wasn’t short notice, Tim Means is a horrid style match-up for Homasi. Tim is a ruggedly durable guy with potent offense and an aggressive, no-nonsense style. When he’s in there, Tim Means business. Means by TKO, round 1.
Staff picking Homasi:
Staff picking Means: Nick, Mookie, Anton, Fraser, Phil, Bissell, Tim, Stephie, Dayne, Jed
About the author