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2016 has seen shocks aplenty in the world of MMA, Bisping, Woodley, Nunes to name but a few. One of the biggest of the year was the fall of Conor McGregor. After the rematch was shelved from the UFC 200 main event it was pushed to UFC 202 and goes down this weekend.

The entire card may as well be Conor and Nate for all we’ve heard about it. There is some value for once in this card and I’ve broken down the top three fights and 5Dimes have provided me with the odds.

Story v Cerrone:

Rick Story is a guy who appears to have been around forever, but on closer examination of his record it is punctuated with periods of inactivity. Arguably his most productive period was 2011 to 2014, a three year spell where he was only able to connect wins at the very end. Two losses in a row was a bad start but then came six fights where wins and losses were alternated. As a result each win meant nothing as no momentum was gained. He also somehow lost to Charlie Brenneman, I’m still scratching my head over that one.

Everyone’s favourite cowboy, Donald Cerrone, comes riding back into town. Cerrone prefers riding a dune buggy to a horse though and it is this unconventional style that makes him such a fan favourite. Cerrone has a reputation of anyone, anytime, anywhere and most of the time has has been able to back it up. Now fighting at 170lbs after a failed attempt at 155lbs, his second defeat to dos Anjos sidelined him for as long as RDA held the belt. Now that has changed a win may see the UFC tempted to rematch him with Eddie Alvarez for another shot at the gold.

As styles go, Story is a bad match-up for Cerrone. Whenever Cerrone is faced with a pressure wrestler, as Story is, he is unable to execute his strategy and if the night doesn’t end in defeat then it becomes a long and weary night for Cowboy. My reservation over betting Story is down to comments he has recently made over winning not mattering, as long as the fans are entertained. While there is an element of truth to this statement its not what a gambler wants to hear as it would suggest early excuses for a poor camp. I’m going to stick with Cerrone, but I’m not expecting an easy or quick nights work.

Recommendation: Donald Cerrone – 2 units at -160 (5/8) @ 5Dimes

Johnson v Teixeira:

Anthony Johnson looks to continue his comeback after the disappointment of losing to Daniel Cormier in his only title shot to date. Since that fight he has ended both Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader in emphatic fashion, keeping a knockout streak going that has stretched now into six of his last eight wins. With his weight issues now well and truly behind him Johnson looks like the consummate 2015lb’er and it is a weight class that suits him. Not too much weight to cut and no drain on his extraordinary power. For as long as Jon Jones is off the scene then Johnson will occupy one of the top three slots in the division.

Excluding a small hiccup in 2014 the UFC has shown that it has an extremely dangerous fighter in Glover Teixeira on its hands. His hands are so furious and his ground game so polished that he has only been the distance three times since 2010. In two of those fights he lost; firstly to Jon Jones and secondly to Phil Davis. Both fighters were better than him on the ground and cleaner with their attack. The other was a comfortable win over Rampage Jackson before he departed for Bellator. In April this year he became only the second man to finish Rashad Evans, which in itself is a statement of intent.

This is one of the tougher fights on the card to call and it really comes down to whichever version of both fighters show up. If the version of Johnson that capitulated to Cormier shows up then Teixeira just needs to take this to deep waters and wait for the inevitable gassing. By contrast, if the version of Glover turns up that was recklessly swinging for the fences against Ryan Bader then AJ just needs to wait for the opening before its lights out. Glover has a solid chin and I’m going to make a small play on him causing the upset.

Recommendation: Glover Teixeira – 2 units at +165 (33/20) @ 5Dimes

McGregor v Diaz:

Since entering the UFC in 2013 Conor McGregor has been a force of a nature. In three years he strung together seven consecutive victories, picking up an Interim belt and the real belt along the way. He soundly beat a two-time challenger and ended an eight year winning streak of a previously indomitable champion. On the verge of greatness he lost. It was a loss that stunned MMA, mainly because it was against Nate Diaz, a man who only had two weeks of preparation time. We have seen time and again this year, particularly with Michael Bisping, that two weeks is often enough time to get fight ready. It wasn’t a bad performance at UFC 196, but it was naïve, reckless and impatient. Irrespective, he remains the single most recognisable MMA name in the mainstream media.

When Nate Diaz stepped in for the injured Rafael dos Anjos in March it was a pay cheque, a money fight, and a means to an end. After all, he couldn’t possibly beat the brash Irishman could he? Turns out he could and the “little cholo gangster from the hood” ended the undefeated streak of MMA’s most marketable star. After nearly four years on the wrong side of relevant Nate Diaz was Stockton-slapping his way to the biggest payday of his career, and as he won the thing he gets another chance to make another. Never disrespect a Diaz, they may teach Jiu-Jitsu to poor kids and they may take bike rides with the elderly but they are also exceptional practitioners on the mat.

In the first encounter virtually nobody gave Diaz a chance of scoring the upset. Fast forward 6 months and the tables have turned, now nobody is giving McGregor a chance of winning (although he is the betting favourite so cannot be classed as an upset). I’ve gone back and forth a few times on this one but I am going to stick with my original pick; Conor McGregor by any means necessary. Yes, he was exposed by Diaz on the ground but he out-struck and outworked Diaz for 8 of the 9 minutes they fought. He lost because he gassed not because he was outclassed. McGregor has far more to lose in this fight and I don’t see a single stone being left unturned.

Recommendation: Conor McGregor – 3 units at -115 (9/10) @ 5Dimes

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