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UFC 194 predictions

What is there really left to say? The best card (on paper) in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship takes place Saturday with the biggest fight in the featherweight division's history. Moreover, the card carries a middleweight title bout that is arguably the best co-main event in MMA history. This is a rare treat.

What: UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada

When: Saturday, the three-fight Fight Pass preliminary card starts at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 preliminary card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight pay-per-view card kicks off at 10 p.m. ET.

Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor

You won't care, but you should know I agonized over this pick in ways I've never agonized over a pick before. Picking a fighter here is just so incredibly difficult. The reason for that is quite simple: both fighters have incredible resumes and the way their styles clash makes for a huge degree of unknowables.

For Aldo, what is left to say? He's been everyone's kryptonite for a solid decade. He has explosive speed, powerful leg kicks, fantastic jiu-jitsu, shutdown takedown defense and, in my opinion, the best reflexive decision making in the sport.

For McGregor, he is a force of nature. He has fight-altering power in his left, accurate volume punching, an ability to mesh old and new techniques into something altogether unique and a mind that is absolutely bulletproof.

More Coverage: UFC 194 Results | UFC news

So where do they crack? Where does one fold? Who wins? The truth is - despite whatever the fervent fans of either side tell you - there is a great case to be made for either competitor. And if I'm being candid, I don't have a strong sense of how this is going to go. I just don't. There are a number of more obvious scenarios most of us have considered, but this one feels like it could easily extend well beyond that.

What I ultimately know is that McGregor is the heavier striker of the two and that's more than enough on its own terms to give him the win. That's to say nothing of his four-inch reach advantage, which might be the most deciding factor of all. Still, Aldo's fought tougher competition and has more overall ways to win. He can win on the floor and the feet and I'm not sure I can say the same for McGregor. In the end, I just can't overlook that.

Pick: Aldo

Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold

The interesting aspect to this pick is that one can get a general sense of someone's chances without a clear roadmap of how they get there. Before Weidman fought Anderson Silva, this was precisely the logic many used to argue for his chances. To be sure, we know where Weidman excels. He has a phenomenal array of non-cage takedowns, brutal ground and pound mixed with slick submission attempts, excellent footwork married with forward pressure and beyond. But he has holes, too. He's a little physically slow. His striking seems to be more reactionary than planned.

Rockhold's striking is slightly impromptu, but he can freestyle with a bit more ease. The AKA product has more options in more ranges and good power everywhere. His jiu-jitsu is also creative and sneaky while his takedown defense is maddeningly frustrating for opponents.

I expect Weidman to suffer here. Rockhold is going to collect his pound of flesh. In the end, though, Weidman's resiliency is arguably beyond compare. He has an ability to dig deep in ways that are simply hard to articulate, and that extends to weight cutting or being fatigued in the middle of a fight. Weidman dies very, very hard. So, do I expect Rockhold to get his at various points in the fight? It seems all but inevitable. When it's all over, though, I like the champion's chances to retain his title in what should be a pitched battle for the ages.

Pick: Weidman

Ronaldo Souza vs. Yoel Romero

Romero has been improving quite a bit as of late. The key here is whether Romero has improved enough to overwhelm Jacare to batter him with strikes. Sure, Romero can win the wrestling contest, but at what cost? Anywhere they go on the mat is to Jacare's advantage. On the feet, I admit it's very competitive. Romero isn't as polished, but he's lethal in quick doses and can get out of range in the most athletic of ways. But if Romero's best hope is to be more athletic than Jacare, I don't like his chances. The Brazilian is about as athletic as they come in his own right and even if he can't match Romero on that one account, he has so many other portions of the game developed in ways Romero never will.

Pick: Jacare

Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson

This fight is deceptively difficult to call. It's true Nelson has more ways to win and that's why I like his chances. That said, Maia is overall a better grappler. It's true the Brazilian doesn't quite have the physical control he once did, it's still his bread and butter. Look, Maia will likely get countered or nullified, but you have to acknowledge his ability to force opponents backwards and constantly pressure for the takedown. Nelson might be willing to accommodate his jiu-jitsu, but he has to be wary about spending time underneath. The good news is as long as it stays on the feet, Nelson should have the decisive advantage.

Pick: Nelson

Max Holloway vs. Jeremy Stephens

Stephens has the power to put the lights out on anyone at feather or lightweight. Not just power either, but the ability to close distance with explosive speed. Still, Holloway's too very likely too much. His mix of movement, angles, combinations and forms of attack are far beyond what Stephens has showed to date. Stephens can win at any point, but all things being equal, this is Holloway's fight to lose.

Pick: Holloway

From the preliminary card:

Urijah Faber def. Frankie Saenz
Tecia Torres def. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger
Colby Covington def. Warlley Alves
Kevin Lee def. Leonardo Santos
Magomed Mustafaev def. Joe Proctor
John Makdessi def. Yancy Medeiros
Court McGee def. Marcio Alexandre Jr.