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UFC 202 predictions

The biggest fight of the year is upon us. The stakes are high, the outcomes uncertain and the fan bases fervent. Aside from the Diaz-McGregor main event, the card features an important light heavyweight co-main event as well as a bantam and welterweight contest of significance.

What: UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2

Where: T-Mobile 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.

Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor

I don't know what to expect, exactly, in the second fight. The first one was created under such unconventional terms that the convention of the present makes it difficult to discern what from the first fight will come along for the ride. As much as the first fight can provide helpful evidence, it courts myths as well. Some suggest McGregor has poor jiu-jitsu, which is demonstrably false. Others suggest McGregor's cardio woes can't be repaired, which seems dubious.

But there are reasons for concern if you're a McGregor supporter. For starters, it's just hard to shake that Diaz was able to win via stoppage in less than two rounds with virtually no camp. We've seen elite fighters falter with last-minute opponent switches, but not quite like this.

Second, one wonders if McGregor's power has hurt him to an extent. This is a welterweight fight, but he is a monstrous featherweight. His power is as legitimate for that division as they come. This has turned him into an excellent and usually quick finisher. I don't think he's a front runner, but he likely knows he can't win fighting the way he normally unloads. That means he has to compete slowly. Does he really have the ability to stretch his game out, a process to which he's entirely unfamiliar? Maybe, but that's a tall order.

More Coverage: UFC 202 Results | UFC news

It's difficult to say how this fight will play out, but if McGregor's task is to extend the fight, he's being forced to enter a form of fighting that favors his opposition. Perhaps the ferocity McGregor brings to this fight will win the day. A victory by the Irish featherweight should be surprising to no one, but forced to make a choice, I lean towards the bigger fighter with the bigger gas tank.

Pick: Diaz

Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira

Will Johnson land a bomb and polish off Teixeira? Will Teixeira withstand the bomb and finish off Johnson with superior grappling? This is basically the essential question of this fight. A vote in either direction is justified. I'll side with 'Rumble' here and presume the Brazilian just can't stand up to the American's overwhelming power.

Pick: Johnson

Rick Story vs. Donald Cerrone

Cerrone has been on fire at welterweight, but Story is no ordinary bruiser. He has a reputation as good wrestler-boxer, but that's not fair. He is that, but he can also follow a game plan diligently and make adjustments away from his opponent's best weapons. Story can also take damage or a heavy chin shot. Most importantly, he's a known worker of the body, something Cerrone doesn't respond favorably to. I suspect Story will try to force this into a wrestling battle against the fence or on the ground. Cerrone is no slouch in either place, but Story's size and underrated skills will be the difference.

Pick: Story

Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Mike Perry

This is virtually guaranteed to be Donk Fest 2016. Perry is athletic and has big power, but is technically unrefined. Lim is more refined than Perry, but doesn't carry the reputation of a technical marvel. The difference is that Lim is much bigger, a little harder to hit and at least has some version of defense. Perry is one direction and when that works, boy it works, but Lim should be able to avoid or stand up to it.

Pick: Lim

Tim Means vs. Sabah Homasi

Homasi is a well-rounded fighter, but he doesn't have the capacity of quick, lethal violence that Means does. We'll see Means's troubles outside of the cage affect him inside, but short of that, this is Means's to lose. He's essentially better everywhere, in some cases massively so. I expect Means to finish Homasi on the feet or the clinch and to do so relatively quickly.

Pick: Means

From the preliminary card:

Cody Garbrandt def. Takeya Mizugaki
Raquel Pennington def. Elizabeth Phillips
Artem Lobov def. Chris Avila
Cortney Casey def. Randa Markos
Lorenz Larkin def. Neil Magny
Colby Covington def. Max Griffin
Alberto Uda def. Marvin Vettori

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