UFC 200, which went down on July 9, was supposed to be the biggest card in UFC history—but in the end, it wasn’t. While it was certainly one of the biggest events the organization has ever promoted, it ultimately fell a bit flat, picking up something in the area of 1 to 1.2 million pay-per-view buys.
So, what would it have taken for UFC 200 to go down as the biggest event in UFC history? Well, it would have helped if interim light heavyweight champion Jon Jones hadn’t been yanked from his title unifying grudge match with Daniel Cormier at the last minute. Yet there is perhaps nothing that hurt the card’s success more than its early loss of a hotly anticipated rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. To remind: the two fighters were momentarily expected to headline the historic card, but this plan ultimately fell through when McGregor started butting heads with the UFC.
Luckily, we’re still getting this massive rematch—it’s just occurring a few weeks later than we expected. Instead of headlining UFC 200 as initially planned, it’ll headline UFC 202 this Saturday night. And though the rest of the card is far from stacked, the scale of its headliner alone could well render it the biggest card in the company’s history.
Here’s what to expect from this massive event’s main card.
Diaz (19-10) vs. McGregor (19-3) | Questions, Questions, Questions
McGregor and Diaz first met back at UFC 196, in a bout that was clumped together on just 11 days’ notice. Originally, McGregor had been expected to challenge Rafael Dos Anjos for the UFC lightweight title. When Dos Anjos was forced to withdraw from the bout with an injury, however, McGregor was forced to shift his focus to a last-minute welterweight bout with fan favorite veteran Nate Diaz.
Given the streak McGregor was on at the time, and the short time Diaz had to prepare, pretty much everyone expected McGregor to win handily. As we now know, however, this is not the way things unfurled. Though McGregor dominated the first round’s striking exchanges—and even pulled off a beautiful X-guard sweep on his BJJ savvy foe—he gassed out in the second round, at which point he was busted up and ultimately submitted by his unheralded foe.
After months of drama, we’ll finally get the rematch this Saturday, and the fight couldn’t be richer in question marks.
The bigger questions seem to surround McGregor. Has he fixed the cardio issues that spelled his demise at UFC 196? Will he be able to hang on the mat with a grappler as talented as Diaz? Will he be able to contend with Diaz’s noteworthy physical advantages—namely his weight and reach? How will he handle the pressure to avenge his first and only Octagon loss? Yes, there are dozens of questions surrounding the Irishman that we simply have no way of answering until fight night.
Of course, there are some big uncertainties in the Diaz corner, too. This time around, after all, he’ll be the one dealing with the pressure of expectation. Given the way he performed on 11 days’ notice, many people expect him to blow through McGregor with a full camp. How will he deal with this expectation? Will he thrive in the face of it, or crack under the weight of it? Diaz also lost the first round of the first fight, and while his win was far from a fluke, it did seem to hinge on McGregor’s gassing out. If McGregor doesn’t gas out this time, will Diaz still be able to earn the W? Yes, the questions surrounding this bout are seemingly endless.
What we have in this mammoth rematch then, is a very difficult bout to call. The first fight raised far more questions than it answered, and so confidently picking a winner for the rematch is a tall task. Luckily, fight night is now less than two days away. It won’t be long now until all our questions are answered.
Johnson (21-5) vs. Teixeira (25-4) | Moving On Without Jon Jones
Not long ago, Jon Jones sat a top the light heavyweight division as one of the most dominant champions in MMA history. A little over a year and a whole lot of legal trouble later, and Jones’ roost has been usurped by rival Daniel Cormier.
For a time, it looked as though Jones would attempt to reclaim the light heavyweight title from Cormier at UFC 200. When the former champion was flagged for a potential doping violation, however, this rematch fell through. Despite his seemingly boundless talent, Jones had failed us again, and considering his many previous offenses, neither the fans nor the UFC seemed to have much left in the way of patience. And so, the light heavyweight division was forced to move on in his stead. Cormier won a last-minute, non-title super fight against middleweight GOAT Anderson Silva at UFC 200, and immediately shifted his focus to the next number-one-contender at light heavyweight.
That number-one-contender will be determined by UFC 200’s co-main event: a clash between Brazilian destroyer Glover Teixeira, and one of the hardest hitters in the game, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
In advance of the fight, Rumble has been pegged as a slight favorite, and it’s easy to understand why. Though he’s fought as low as welterweight in the past—pushing himself to the brink of emaciation to get there—he’s one of the biggest, strongest fighters on the UFC roster. The guy is the embodiment of power, and he backs that power up with a versatile striking arsenal, and an often overlooked wrestling game.
Of course, a Rumble victory is far from a foregone conclusion. All four of the American’s legitimate losses have occurred by way of rear-naked choke—a clear indication of a skill deficit in the jiu jitsu department. This could make things very interesting against Teixeira, who has some of the finest jiu jitsu at light heavyweight. No, the Brazilian’s locking up a choke for the upset would not be surprising. And really, neither would his planting a bomb on Rumble’s chin. He hits plenty hard too.
The exciting thing about this fight, however, is that the winner will be the clear best light heavyweight on earth not named Jones or Cormier. They’ll be the irrefutable number-one-contender for the title in Jones’ stead. While Jones’ struggles are undeniably tragic, the light heavyweight division needs to keep moving while he gets his shit together, and that’s exactly what will happen when Teixeira and Rumble collide in UFC 202’s co-headliner.
Story (19-8) vs. Cerrone (30-7) | A Tough Fight for Cowboy
After losing a lightweight title shot to Rafael Dos Anjos in just 66 seconds, fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone took a trip north to welterweight in search of greener pastures. And though he’s undoubtedly one of the division’s smaller fighters, his first two fights at this new weight have been downright fantastic.
First, he defeated Brazil’s Alex Oliveira—also, coincidentally nicknamed “Cowboy.” Then, at UFC Ottawa, he beat the tar out of Patrick Côté, handing the veteran his first legitimate strike-induced loss. Though it was initially hard to imagine Cowboy’s welterweight run going especially well, it’s been just about flawless so far. Unfortunately, his beautiful run has led him to Rick Story: a long-time welterweight contender, and one of the most proven hype-destroyers in the UFC. Indeed, there seems to be a real chance that Cowboy’s ultra-fun welterweight run comes to a skittering test this Saturday.
It all comes down to styles. Cowboy has always been weak against pressure. It was Dos Anjos’ frenzied pressure, after all, that smothered Cowboy’s recent title aspirations. Moreover, Cowboy has always shown a susceptibility to body shots—Anthony Pettis put him away with one, and Dos Anjos hurt him with one. The bad news for Cowboy, then, is that Story is not only one of the division’s best pressure fighters, but that his pressure game is based in large part on thumping punches to the body. Let’s put it this way: if you could build a fighter in the lab with the sole goal of beating Cowboy, your cyborg warrior would probably look a lot like Rick Story.
But, here’s the fun thing about Cowboy: he’s so slick, so crafty, so experienced, and so downright dangerous that he should never be counted out. Yes, he could very well lock up Story’s neck this Saturday, or even crack his mighty chin with a kick. Tough as this fight looks for the UFC’s most loved gunslinger, he might just pull of the win after all, and keep riding up the welterweight ranks.
Lim (13-5-1) vs. Perry (6-0) | Fireworks Guaranteed
The second fight of UFC 202’s main card will pair South Korea’s Hyun Gyu Lim with the debuting Mike Perry in an intriguing welterweight showdown. While nothing is certain in MMA, the course of this fight seems pretty obvious: one man is going to sleep. I’ll elaborate.
In one corner, we’ll have a Lim, a competent striker whose bread and butter is hitting extremely hard, and absorbing punishment almost as well as he dishes it out. In the other, we Perry who has won all 6 of his pro fights by knockout. Yes, all signs point to somebody taking a nap under the Jumbotron.
So, who comes out on top?
Well, while Perry is undeniably rich in promise, he’s been fighting professionally for less than two years. Lim, meanwhile, has been at it for more than 10 years, and has also fought under the bright lights of the UFC six times, losing only to top talents in Tarec Saffiedine and Neil Magny in that time. Yes, safe to say the experience advantage is soundly in the corner of Lim. He’ll be the more composed, more patient man in the Octagon, and while he’s known to get reckless at the drop of a hat, he’ll be the far sharper striker simply by virtue of having had more practice. Though it wouldn’t be shocking to see Perry score his seventh-straight knockout, the more likely outcome seems to be a nice KO for the South Korean. Just be sure not to blink.
Means (25-7-1) vs. Homasi (11-5) | A Strange, but Exciting Opener for the Main Card
Originally, welterweight striker Tim “The Dirty Bird” Means was expected to meet the streaking Sean Strickland on UFC 202’s main card. Were he still fighting this rising prospect, his place on the main card would be justifiable. Instead, however, a Strickland injury forced Means to shift his focus to the debuting Sabah Homasi who, unlike the aforementioned Perry, owns a not-so-hot record of 11-5. To put it bluntly, this fight seems like a bit of a strange pick for the main card—especially with names like Cody Garbrandt, Takeya Mizugaki, Randa Markos and Raquel Pennington buried on the undercard.
Despite this, however, the fight should be a fun one. The owner of an awesome, range-reliant striking attack, and one of the nastiest clinch games in the division, Means is always fun to watch. And though Homasi doesn’t exactly scream “hot prospect” he’s got more than enough pepper in his punches to make this one interesting. He is, to remind, on a three-fight KO streak.
In the end, however, Means’ sizable experiential edge should earn him the W fairly convincingly. Homasi is simply unlikely to offer anything Means hasn’t seen against superior opposition in Matt Brown, Neil Magny, Jorge Masvidal and Bobby Green. The pick, then, is a nice, stoppage W for The Dirty Bird, and a fun start to this massive event’s main card.
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