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UFC 196 McGregor vs. Diaz: Observer Panel Picks & Preview

UFC 196

The first big show of the year is upon us as Ireland has taken over Las Vegas and Stockton is there to fight. Since this fight was signed last week, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz have managed to cram three months of trash talk into 11 days and captured the imagination of fight fans everywhere.

Lost in the shuffle is a highly anticipated title fight in the marquee division in women’s MMA. Our very own Tom Lawlor is also on the main card along with the guy he knocked out in his last fight. And in the Fight Pass main event, two battle-tested UFC veterans will throw down as Diego Sanchez moves back to 155 to take on Jim Miller.

Our panel is here to weigh in on their opinions on the top fights on the card and as you can see from the results below, our panel (for the most part) picks at a higher clip than the people who set the betting odds.

Here’s our panel with the 2016 records in parenthesis with a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks 

  • John Pollock (18-7; .720) – Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Mike Sawyer (17-8; .680) – Tough Talk MMA
  • Josh Nason (17-8; .680) – Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; Assistant Web Editor of WrestlingObserver.com; WON Twitter guy
  • Mike Sempervive (17-8; .680) – Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Ryan Frederick (16-9; .640) – WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
  • Consensus picks (14-9; .609)
  • Dave Meltzer (15-10; .600)– Wrestling Observer founder
  • Steve Juon (14-11; .560) – MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
  • Favorites (14-11; .560)
  • David Bixenspan (14-11; .560) – Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
  • Front Row Brian (13-12; .520) – MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
  • Paul Fontaine (10-15; .400) – MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer

Conor McGregor (19-2) vs Nate Diaz (18-10)
Welterweights

The World Featherweight Champion takes on the #5 ranked Lightweight contender in a Welterweight fight. Despite how ridiculous that sounds, this show is going to do huge business and it’s because of this fight. And it should be a great one. McGregor has outstanding power and with the extra weight could be even more powerful. If it goes to the ground, Diaz should have the huge advantage. The odds are heavily in Conor’s favor and the fight seems a lot closer than they would suggest but our panel is picking straight up and without having to think about the odds, it’s a clear consensus.

McGregor (big favorite): Frederick, Juon, FRB, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

Women’s Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm (10-0) vs Miesha Tate (17-5)

Holm makes her first title defence after the biggest upset in UFC history when she knocked out Ronda Rousey. Rousey’s previous biggest rival Tate gets the title shot she’s been working toward for two years. This should be a very different fight for Holm but so far she’s passed every test in the UFC even if it was with a solid C in her first two fights. Again the panel seems pretty unified on this one and the odds, while not quite as lopsided as the main event, favor the champion. The winner will likely get the biggest money fight of her career against Ronda later on this year.

Holm (sizable favorite): Frederick, Juon, FRB, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Sempervive, Meltzer
Tate: Bix

Ilir Latifi (11-4) vs Gian Villante (14-6)
Light Heavyweights

Latifi has stormed the UFC with 4 first round stoppages in his first 6 fights. He has had a few stumbles with 2 losses and while one was against someone who now fights at Middlweight in Gegard Mousasi, he was knocked out in the first round by non-contender Jan Blachowicz. Villante is also susceptible to the KO but has managed to win 3 of the last 4. This and the next fight is almost a mini-tournament of sorts to get into that next level of contenders once Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier settle their differences. It would seem natural to have the winners of these two fights face off down the road.

Latifi (moderate favorite): Juon, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Bix, Meltzer
Villante: Frederick, FRB, Sempervive

Tom Lawlor (10-5) vs Corey Anderson (7-1)
Light Heavyweights

The co-host of Filthy Four Daily on this very website steps back into the Octagon in an attempt to finally break into that elusive top 15. He really should be there already considering he’s coming off of a KO win of Villante, who already is. He’s got a tough opponent in former TUF Champion Anderson. Anderson has won 4 of 5 in the UFC with the last 3 coming by decision. The two most likely outcomes seem to be a finish for Lawlor or a grinding decision for Anderson. With the way my selections have been going so far, you can look at my pick in this fight as support for a fellow website contributor….

Anderson (sizeable favorite): Pollock, Fontaine, Bix
Lawlor: Frederick, Juon, FRB, Sawyer, Nason, Sempervive, Meltzer

Diego Sanchez (25-8) vs Jim Miller (25-7)
Lightweights

Another TUF winner on the card here as Diego Sanchez is back in the Octagon. If not for a gift win against Ross Pearson that only the two judges who voted for him think he won, Sanchez would be on a four fight win streak. After dropping to 145 for a fight with Ricardo Lamas, he’s back at  his familiar 155 for this one. Jim Miller is a perennial contender who almost always has exciting fights and this one could steal the show. Miller has also lost 3 of his last 4 with two of those uncharacteristically coming by stoppage. It seems unlikely that either of these two would ever be cut by UFC but it’s tough to stick around in UFC with a 1-4 record in your last 5 fights so this is important for both of them.  

Miller (slight favorite): Frederick, Juon, FRB, Sawyer, Pollock, Nason, Fontaine, Bix, Sempervive, Meltzer

Dave Meltzer will be cageside for the big show, starting at 6:30 pm eastern with the Fight Pass prelims. In the meantime, check out the following content relating to this show: