UFC 189 Mendes vs. McGregor Draft Kings Preview: MMA Spotlight

UFC

Minus one fighter, the UFC 189 event in Las Vegas, Nevada, must go on, and the number one contender, Chad Mendes, will step in on short notice and take on one of the most prolific fighters in the UFC today, Conor McGregor. The featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, had to bow out late due to a rib injury suffered during training, leaving the highly anticipated event on shaky water until the kid from California stepped in to take his place.

Also on the card is the UFC welterweight championship fight, in which champion Robbie Lawler will exchange blows with Rory MacDonald once again, but with much higher stakes. MacDonald is hungry for his first title and wants more than ever to be one of the greatest to ever fight in the division. Lawler has already staked his claim as one of the most explosive fighters in the UFC, but has yet to defend his newly crowned championship. With a card jam-packed full of thrillers, it is a pay-per-view event that will not disappoint. The night of fights will begin with early prelims starting at 7 p.m. EST, then hit FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. EST, and then make a final pit stop on pay-per-view at 10 p.m. EST. International Fight Week will get the party started, and UFC 189 will finish it off. This is an event not to miss!

#2 Chad Mendes (17-2) vs. #3 Conor McGregor (17-2) Featherweight Interim Title Bout – However this fight goes, the excuses will flow if McGregor hoists a championship belt come Saturday night. Aldo has already called it a fake belt, and Mendes is sure to use the “I stepped in with late notice” excuse if he ends up falling at the hands of “The Notorious.” Either way, McGregor could care less about the naysayers or critics, simply because the Irish-born fighter turned mega-star would accomplish a dream if he becomes UFC champion. The piston-like work from McGregor’s hands will affect the late fill-in, Mendes, early, but a finish should not be expected until perhaps the third round. Mendes is highly touted in his own right and boasts some of the best wrestling in the division, yet has refused to use this asset against his latest opponents. If Mendes chooses to stand with McGregor, things could come to a close quickly on both sides. Mendes is not lacking in the power department whatsoever, but one punch from the stocky featherweight, McGregor, could generate “Tweety birds” as well. The game plan is simple for both; Mendes must get in close to McGregor to neutralize his length and use his power to land punches and gain takedowns. McGregor must use his length and unpredictability to frustrate Mendes and finish him. Even though the Irishman loves his kicks, he should restrain from giving Mendes any possible way to take him to the mat. This will be a stiffer test, but will end up as a challenge accomplished, as McGregor should put on a spectacular performance, finishing Mendes in a way only one man has ever done before – Aldo. This will set up the fight everyone wanted to see in the first place. Bet the cards on the luck of the Irish in this UFC title fight: Conor McGregor via Technical Knockout.

[C] Robbie Lawler (25-10) vs. #2 Rory “Ares” MacDonald (18-2) Welterweight Title Bout – It is remarkable that the man who holds a win over his opponent already, and not to mention is the current UFC welterweight champion, is the underdog coming into this title fight. Granted, MacDonald has looked sharp in victories over Tarec Saffiedine and Tyron Woodley, but Lawler has looked equally impressive during his three-fight winning streak. MacDonald may mask the game plan of his mentor and former UFC welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre, in order to defeat an aggressive striker like Lawler. He must use his length precisely while picking opportune moments to take Lawler to the ground and smother him. Lawler has become one of the best and most diverse strikers in the game, really taking advantage of his kicks down at American Top Team. The ground game is still his biggest weakness, but he has worked diligently on quickly getting back to his feet. If the fight stays standing, MacDonald’s predictable striking game may hurt him, and leave him open game for a heavy right hand from the UFC champ. McDonald is one tough dude, but it still is yet to be determined if he can step up when it matters the most. Robbie Lawler via Unanimous Decision.

#8 Dennis Bermudez (15-4) vs. #11 Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens (23-11) Lightweight Bout – Oh, how the mighty have fallen with these two.  Although once both were considered rising contenders in the division, each has suffered losses, setting them back in the UFC top-ten featherweights. Lil’ Heathen has lost two in a row to Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira, while Bermudez lost his last bout to Ricardo Lamas. This fight is almost too predictable, as Stephens has fallen time and time again to fighters with decent wrestling and above average submission skills, which describes Bermudez perfectly. Stephens prides himself on having the one-hitter-quitter in his arsenal, but he lacks in all other areas imaginable. He leaves himself open for counters repeatedly, sits heavy on his lead leg, which leaves it vulnerable for leg kicks, and has never solved his take-down defense issue. Bermudez applies a heavy pressure from the get-go, and will dump Stephens on his head on a moment’s notice. Power, pressure, and patience is all Bermudez needs to pick up the win here. Stephens will wear down while Bermudez is just getting warmed up. A finish is highly unlikely for fantasy’s sake, but this should be a fun fight, nonetheless. Dennis Bermudez via Unanimous Decision.

#15 Gunnar Nelson (13-1-1) vs. Brandon Thatch (11-2) Welterweight Bout – This welterweight fight, between two potential rising prospects, may be an interesting one to tune into. Nelson is a methodical, karate-based fighter who rarely gets baited into a brawl and is usually precise with his strikes. Thatch is an over-aggressive Muay Thai specialist with an expertise in ravaging opponents with his knees. Neither fighter is satisfied with the result of their last fight, meaning both should come out looking to put an exclamation point on their potential victory. Nelson can be too tentative at times, solely sitting on the outside looking for counter-shots, a weakness which lost him the bout against Rick Story. Thatch’s aggressiveness is not what lost him the fight against Henderson; his lack of a takedown and a submission defense is what did him in. These two compare and contrast in many ways, which may lead to some fireworks inside the cage. Nelson showed in his last fight that he can be susceptible to punches, so look for Thatch to capitalize on that in the second round. Brandon Thatch via Technical Knockout.

Brad “One Punch” Pickett (25-10) vs. #14 Thomas Almeida (18-0) Bantamweight Bout – Almeida may be one of the best fighters that nobody has heard of, but as he makes his rise up the ranks, UFC fans will surely become aware of him. Almeida was a highly sought-after prospect out of Legacy FC, compiling a record of 18 victories – 17 of those coming by way of a finish. Pickett is one of the more well-known names to come overseas, but the wily vet has lost three out of his last four, and two in a row. The road does not get any easier for Pickett, as he faces a budding star in the UFC’s bantamweight division. Almeida is faster, more versatile, and the less predictable fighter of the two, and he should run straight through One Punch. Stranger things have happened, but there is a reason why Almeida is the most highly favored fighter on this card. Thomas Almeida via Technical Knockout.

Another fighter who may be worth a gamble on the fantasy wire this weekend is Matt Brown against Tim Means. In what could be a potential fight-of-the-night, do not count out the game Means either, as he has the ability to knock out Brown as well. If a fantasy-goer is looking for a cheap gamble, a good move would be to pick up Means and throw him in the lineup. Another rising star in the UFC, Cody Garbrandt, is also an undefeated fighter with all finishes to his resume. He is not exactly cheap, but is the second-most highly-favored fighter on the card. If Almeida is too pricey, Garbrandt may fill the void perfectly. Find all predictions to MMA events in the MMA Spotlight section, and tune into commentator Justin Huffman on social media for live UFC 189 updates and much more.

Commentary by Justin Huffman
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Sources:
MMA Mania – UFC 189 Preview: 5 Burning Questions for ‘Mendes vs. McGregor’ PPV in Las Vegas
ESPN – UFC 189 Preview: Conor McGregor versus Chad Mendes
Combat Press – Toe-to-Toe: UFC 189 Preview and Predictions

Photo Courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker – Creative Commons License

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