UFC 196 preview: McGregor vs. Diaz & Holm vs. Tate

On March 5 the Ultimate Fighting Championship presents one of the most highly anticipated main event combinations of 2016 when featherweight champion Conor McGregor (19-2) moves up to face no.5 ranked lightweight contender Nate Diaz (18-10) in a welterweight contest, and reigning bantamweight champion Holly Holm (10-0) looks to defend her crown against perennial contender and former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate (17-5) Taking place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas this weekend, McGregor’s anticipated challenge for Rafael Dos Anjos’ 155lb lightweight title received an unexpected twist when the Brazilian was forced to withdraw with a broken foot. In tune with McGregor’s unpredictability, the 145lb champion opted to face former lightweight title challenger Nate Diaz in a move that will see the Irishman leapfrog the lightweight division in an even greater jump to 170lbs with Diaz accepting the contest on short notice. Since McGregor’s UFC debut each bout has seen him reach for a higher level with fresh challenges to overcome and a fight with Diaz fits the pattern. McGregor has made a name for himself with knockout power boasting speed, precision and timing with his hands that produced a knockout win against pound-for-pound king Jose Aldo that will surely go down in history. However, for the first time he will face a larger opponent in the form of Diaz who will possess a significant height and reach advantage. Diaz himself is known for his own brand of technical boxing which the Californian last showcased at the back end of 2015 by dismantling Michael Johnson, in addition to a dominant TKO victory in 2013 against former title challenger Gray Maynard, and a career highlight win over another former title challenger, Donald Cerrone, who many tipped to be the one who would bring the fight to McGregor following Dos Anjos’ withdrawal. While fans may assume that McGregor posses a sound ground game, the Irishman is yet to display such abilities having accumulated 6 knockouts in UFC from a standing position with a single unanimous decision win over Max Holloway. It’s worth noting that Chad Mendes enjoyed a fierce opening round by out-wrestling McGregor at UFC 189, and while Diaz is far from a wrestling specialist, he is a highly effective Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt with 11 submission finishes. Should he avoid McGregor’s signature early finish, could it be on the ground where Diaz enjoys a resounding edge over the Irish superstar? In the co-main event 135lb bantamweight queen and former boxing world champion Holly Holm looks to complete a first defence of the title following her destructive KO win over Ronda Rousey in Melbourne, Australia, last November. At UFC 193 Holm showcased the masterful technique and power of her striking specialties in a perfect performance complete with critical takedown defence to counter Rousey’s Olympic level Judo. While the world class striking of Holm sets her apart from the challenger, it will be takedown defence that serves as the foundation of her concerns against Tate. While Rousey failed to take down Holm with upper body clinches, Miesha Tate will bring much different grappling approach. As an experienced grinder and wrestling specialist, Tate will likely look to secure a single or double leg takedown from where she can trap Holm against the fence, but first she will have to stalk down ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ and break through Holm’s marksman strikes. UFC 196 full card: Welterweight Main Event: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz Bantamweight Championship : Holly Holm (c) vs. Miesha Tate [a] Light Heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Ilir Latifi Light Heavyweight: Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko Welterweight: Brandon Thatch vs. Siyar Bahadurzada Welterweight: Erick Silva vs. Nordine Taleb Middleweight: Vitor Miranda vs. Marcelo Guimaraes Featherweight: Darren Elkins vs. Chas Skelly Lightweight: Diego Sanchez vs. Jim Miller Lightweight: Justin Salas vs. Jason Saggo Featherweight: Julian Erosa vs. Teruto Ishihara  

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