UFC’s big summer show is upon us.
It’s International Fight Week and the big show is UFC 189, headlined by Chad Mendes vs Conor McGregor for the interim featherweight title. With Jose Aldo out because of an injured rib, the winner of this one should face him in the fall.
In another title fight, Robbie Lawler faces Rory MacDonald for the welterweight title.
We’ll be there live with play by play, so check back here on Saturday afternoon.
In addition to the FGB crew, included in our picks are John LaRocca, president of Premier Wrestling, the hardest working woman in MMA, Heidi Fang, and my own personal bodyguard, Alex Goff.
Here’s how we’re doing so far:
Here’s our UFC 188 preview:
Brad Pickett Vs Thomas Almeida
Duan: Thomas Almeida
Alan: Thomas Almeida
John: Thomas Almeida
Heidi: Thomas Almeida
Alex: Thomas Almeida
Jim: Thomas Almeida
GG: Thomas Almeida
Gunnar Nelson Vs Brandon Thatch
Duan: Gunnar Nelson
Alan: Gunnar Nelson
John: Brandon Thatch
Heidi: Gunnar Nelson
Alex: Brandon Thatch
Jim: Gunnar Nelson
GG: Brandon Thatch
Dennis Bermudez Vs Jeremy Stephens
Duan: Dennis Bermudez
Alan: Dennis Bermudez
John: Dennis Bermudez
Heidi: Dennis Bermudez
Alex: Dennis Bermudez
Jim: Dennis Bermudez
GG: Dennis Bermudez
Robbie Lawler Vs Rory MacDonald
Heidi: Rory MacDonald by decision
MacDonald and Lawler fought a closely contested battle when they clashed back at UFC 167. Since then, MacDonald has rattled off three impressive wins over top competition in the division and did so with effective game plans designed to exploit his opposition where they are most flawed. Lawler launches power punches and MacDonald has been picking apart his adversaries with the jab. I expect this one to stay on the feet much more than their last scrap, in which MacDonald took Lawler to the canvas 4 times. MacDonald’s technique, accuracy, and high output of punches will serve him well against Lawler.
Alex: Robbie Lawler by decision
Rory MacDonald, the MMA wunderkind, disposes of his opponents with a technical brilliance unseen in most bouts. It is often discussed how to build the perfect MMA fighter. Rory seemed to be the mold. Get the athlete at a young age and enrich his mind with a cornucopia of disciplines. It only seemed natural the young prospect would replace his aging mentor. His mentor was the 170 pound champion named Georges St-Pierre – a fighter whose ability to adapt to his opponents and more importantly put across enough effort to defeat any opponent in the moments where it mattered the most.
This ability was on full display at UFC 167. When rounds were close in the eyes of 2 judges, he did just enough to win a controversial decision against future champion Johny Hendricks. That same evening Robbie was given a tough veteran who was vastly less superior in the sport. What we learned that night is the veteran was able to crack Rory’s code with pressure and a will to not lose. I have written about this before, but post Georges St-Pierre, the 170 division is now defined by toughness, grit, and digging deep to win the fight. Technical superiority isn’t as necessary late in the fight when what matters is being able to muster the courage to throw a punch, with the full understanding you may receive one as well but if you can just get 1 more punch than your opponent, it greatly increases the chances of winning. Rory will be the more technical fighter on Saturday, but he won’t be the tougher fighter. In the 170 pound division, toughness is what matters and Robbie Lawler will win.
GG: Rory MacDonald by decision
Thus far in his young career, Rory MacDonald hasn’t ever had to fight a five round fight. Robbie Lawler has fought five rounds in three of his last four. You’d think that my point would be that Lawler’s ability to test himself for five rounds makes this an advantage for him. But I don’t think it does. Robbie Lawler has given out and taken tremendous punishment in his career. It’s amazing that he’s become the fighter people expected him to become after he turned thirty years of age.
Fabricio Werdum and Daniel Cormier would lead you to believe that MMA isn’t a young man’s sport, but I still think top guys who are coming into their prime are better off than guys who are just leaving theirs. Lawler dipped into the fountain of youth of late, but I think it’s Rory’s time. If Robbie pulls this one out, he’s a Hall Of Famer.
Duan: Rory MacDonald
Alan: Robbie Lawler
John: Robbie Lawler
Jim: Robbie Lawler
Chad Mendes Vs Conor McGregor
Duan: Chad Mendes by decision
Aldo is a better fighter than Mendes, but Mendes is the much worse match up for McGregor. With both of these guys 100% prepped, this would be nightmare territory for Conor. That’s not what this is though. I feel the way the fight has come together gives McGregor the best chance he’s ever going to have of turning over an opponent like Mendes. Don’t get me wrong; if Chad is in fighting shape I still favour him to win. His skill-set is just all wrong for McGregor. Short notice fights are strange though and strange things tend to happen in them.
Alan: Conor McGregor by decision
In a very strange way, McGregor vs Mendes feels like a bigger fight for the Irish star than a title fight with Aldo would have been. Simple reason being that it just seems like he has a lot more to lose now. A brave loss, dying on his sword against the champion could have actually done Conor a lot of good both as a fighter and in terms of how people view him. However the type of loss that could come at the hands of Chad Mendes (where he just gets out-wrestled and made to look bad) would be a huge set back and kill not just McGregor’s momentum, but also UFC’s best chance for a major fight this year. I’m going to be optimistic and say that doesn’t happen. McGregor is so fast and elusive that I think it will be hard to play the wrestling game with him – particularly with Chad not having had a full camp. I also think Chad is the type of guy who may want to stand in order to prove a point. He’s got great hands, and a lot of power no doubt. But this tactic would be his downfall. McGregor is too skilled a striker, and there’s nothing that Mendes can show him on the feet that he hasn’t seen before. In contrast I think there’s a ton that Conor can do standing that would leave Mendes flummoxed and confused.
Conor’s other big advantage is that his cardio is most likely top notch with a full training camp under his belt. Chad’s will be in question. I think Conor will see if he can expose this by keeping the pace fast, and trying to test Mendes’ endurance. The result I see being a decision victory with Conor very dominant in rounds 3-5.
Jim: Conor McGregor by late TKO
The main event on UFC 189 will likely be either a godsend or a bust for UFC depending on who wins this fight. If McGregor wins, he can tout about how Aldo was afraid and even the last minute change of opponent didn’t slow him down. In this case, UFC can really build for Aldo and McGregor and make it even bigger than this fight was promising to be. A win by Mendes likely makes Conor look bad and sound like a blustery blowhard. The interest in Aldo versus Mendes will be nowhere near that of Aldo/McGregor.
I think this really comes down to whether or not McGregor can keep Mendes off him. If Mendes can hold him on the cage or land the takedowns then this will be a long night for Conor McGregor. There’s also always the threat of Mendes’ punching power which McGregor can likely avoid using his speed and angles. And that is where I think Conor has his advantage; in speed, angles, striking accuracy and output, as well as his reach. McGregor’s movement and striking and disappearing are going to be what wins him this fight.
John: Conor McGregor
Heidi: Chad Mendes
Alex: Conor McGregor
GG: Conor McGregor