Believe it or not, there is more than just the wacky welterweight main event between UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor and former lightweight title challenger Nate Diaz on UFC 196. While all the attention will be focused on the pair of brash men in the main event, the card also features Holly Holm’s first defense of the women’s bantamweight title that she captured against Ronda Rousey. The remainder of the main card features a pair of light heavyweight bouts. Gian Villante takes on Ilir Latifi, while Corey Anderson squares off with Tom Lawlor. Opening up the pay-per-view portion of the event, the next women’s bantamweight title challenger could be determined between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko. Lines have already been released for the top two bouts on the card, as Conor McGregor opened at -280 (bet $280 to win $100) against Nate Diaz (+200), but was quickly bet up to -420. The line for Holm/Tate hasn’t moved nearly as much, with the defending champion opening at -400 and currently sitting at -350 after some tightening of the lines. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the remaining betting lines for UFC 196 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (PPV, 10pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET)
——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET)
——————– Brad’s Analysis: Ilir Latifi should make his cult following happy again after this fight, as he matches up quite well with Gian Villante. Both men are stout wrestlers, and their takedown defense should turn this primarily into a striking battle. On the feet, Villante might be a bit more versatile, but Latifi seems to be both more durable and the harder hitter. At some point, I think he lands on Villante’s chin and ends the New Yorker’s night. Speaking of guys who have put Villante out, Tom Lawlor faces a much more difficult task this time around, and let’s not forget that he wasn’t doing so well against Villante early either. Corey Anderson should be massive in comparison to the former middleweight, is one of the better wrestlers at 205, and is better on the feet than people give him credit for. I don’t anticipate this being the most exciting bout, but fans have already paid their $60 by this point, so that doesn’t matter too much. Valentina Shevchenko was able to win her last fight against Sarah Kaufmann because she was the physically superior athlete. That advantage will be taken away from her against Amanda Nunes, so we’ll see how technically gifted the Kyrgyzstanian is. Nunes will still be the more dangerous submission artist, and will have more finishing power in her strikes, but she hasn’t proven to be a round winner yet. Shevchenko showed good instincts to overcome a top 10 opponent on incredibly short notice in her UFC debut, so perhaps she can pull this one out as well. I’m torn on this fight because I can see Nunes willing early, or Shevchenko surviving and taking over, so aside from some crazy movement, I’ll sit this one out. I feel like what happened to Nordine Taleb against Warlley Alves is going to happen again here. Only faster. That isn’t to say that Silva is better than Alves, he’s just better at dispatching these types of opponents, even without whatever he may or may not have been taking earlier in his career. Things I learned while researching this card: Marcelo Guimarares is still in the UFC. The Brazilian has been in the UFC since 2012, and this is only his fourth fight with the promotion. A pair of split decision wins were sandwiched around a brutal knockout loss to Hyun Gyu Lim, and I think Vitor Miranda will overcome his age once again to stop Guimaraes once again. Miranda has shown some decent wrestling ability to go along with his striking game, and that should be all he needs to strand Guimaraes on the feet. Elkins/Skelly is just about as grindy as a fight can get, which is strange to say since Chas Skelly has finished in three of his four UFC wins. Both have faltered when faced with fighters who can shut down their grappling, but there aren’t a lot of fighters out there who can do that. In this fight, I think Skelly will find early success as he is more creative in clinch situations, but he’s also prone to tiring, and Elkins can probably win the second half of the bout. I slightly favor Elkins here, but it’s an extremely tough one to call, and I’ll only bet it if the line swings wildly one way or the other. Diego Sanchez didn’t look bad in his venture down to featherweight (as much as you can say a guy who you expected to get destroyed but instead got beaten up soundly for 15 minutes “looked good”), but there’s no sense in him killing his body to get to a division where he has no future. He doesn’t really have a future at 155 either, as realistically he hasn’t won a fight without the aid of a terrible (not just bad, terrible) decision since UFC 121 against Paulo Thiago back in 2010. Those fights being scored correctly would make him 1-9 in his past 10. Jim Miller is on the downside of his career too, but overall he’s more skilled and I think he has more left in the tank than Diego. Still, I’m not betting against Diego just in case he gets another decision. Neither of these fighters has competed since 2014, and that makes this fight very difficult to break down. Saggo’s last UFC performance was a valiant effort against Paul Felder, while Salas has been up-and-down against some of the lower tier at 155. I think Saggo wins this, but if he can’t get his grappling going it will be a dull-but-close kickboxing bout. Julian Erosa is the more well-rounded than Teruto Ishihara, but his weakness lies in his striking defense, and that’s definitely something that Ishihara is equipped to exploit. As long as Erosa can keep the distance, or turn this into a grappling match he’ll be fine, but there’s enough danger there to keep me away from Erosa.