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11th Jul 2015

UFC 189: SportsJOE picks the winners so you don’t have to

What a night!


Well it’s here ladies and gents.

All the hooting and hollering has come down to a fight in the wee hours of Sunday morning for the interim featherweight title between when Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes meet.

On one of the cards of the year, we’ll also see the welterweight title on the line in a rematch between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald and the Irish contingent are also well represented with Cathal Pendred and Neil Seery both in action.

Our MMA writers’ records are looking pretty damn similar on this pivotal weekend:

Bourbon Ben Kiely: 82-56

Darragh The Quizmaster Murphy: 82-56

Conor McGregor (17-2) v Chad Mendes (17-2)

BK: There are so many unknowns for this fight, that nobody is really certain how it’s going to play out.

On paper, Mendes is the safer bet because of the standard of competition he’s faced and his elite wrestling. However, fights aren’t fought on paper, they’re fought in that eight-sided cage yoke.

McGregor has looked so impressive against fighters who are just a tier below Mendes (Holloway and Poirier) that it’s not unreasonable to assume he possess the tools to defeat the number one contender. McGregor via TKO (round 3)

DM: I really was going to pick Chad Mendes here because I think he’s a step above McGregor in terms of well-roundedness.

But I changed my mind just based on the enigmatic nature of McGregor and the vast improvements we’ve seen in him from fight to fight. With such a lengthy training camp, I’m expecting something special from the Irishman tonight and could very well be proven wrong by the sock of coins that Mendes calls a right hand.

The Notorious has the best movement in the division without a doubt and should be able to keep out of range of getting caught but the question of his defensive wrestling remains to be seen. I think this will come down to who establishes the range first and, from what we’ve seen thus far, McGregor is superior at doing that quickly. McGregor via TKO (round 2)

Robbie Lawler (25-10-1NC) v Rory MacDonald (18-2)

BK: This has been my most anticipated fight since it was first announced and I can honestly say that I couldn’t care less who wins.

These are two warriors who are at the peak of their abilities and are consistently improving with each fight. Lawler’s brutal striking has made him stand out in a division that from 1-15 is filled with absolute murderers. He also showed in his championship winning performance against Hendricks that he can nullify even the most elite wrestlers.

However, I think MacDonald has shown with each fight after his loss to Lawler that he is a masterful tactician and reader of his opponent’s game. It’s time for the Canadian to shake off the tag of GSP’s protégé and claim the title of “the new welterweight champion of the world”.  MacDonald via split decision

DM: I know I’m in the minority but I’m looking forward to this fight more than the main event.

Recent history would suggest that it’s illogical to pick against Robbie Lawler but I truly feel that Rory MacDonald is the future of the welterweight division and tonight’s the night that it comes good for the Canadian.

The only negative element of MacDonald’s game is that he often lacks the power to finish fights whereas Robbie Lawler has that God-given knockout power.

It’s tough to say what the previous fight will have done for the confidence of both fighters but the closeness of the decision would lead one to believe that it won’t be too much of a factor.

I don’t know how he’ll do it but I just think the time is now for Rory. MacDonald via somehow


Dennis Bermudez (14-4) v Jeremy Stephens (23-11)

BK: This should be a fun fight between two fighters who are right up there in the 145 lb division. Stephens has one hell of a punch, but I feel Bermudez will secure the takedown and out-work his opponent to get the victory.  Bermudez via decision

DM: This seems like a bit of a mismatch to me. Dennis Bermudez was well on his way to a title shot after putting together a seven-fight win streak that was derailed by perennial top contender Cub Swanson.

Jeremy Stephens’ best years, meanwhile, has gone 3-5 in the last four years and Lil’ Heathen really struggles against top opposition, which Bermudez undeniably is.

The Menace is the better wrestler and he should be able to dictate where this fight takes place. Bermudez via decision

Dennis Bermudez

Gunnar Nelson (13-1-1) v Brandon Thatch (11-2)

BK: Nelson enters into this one off the first loss of his professional career, in which he was bullied by a much bigger Rick Story. Thatch also carries a significant size advantage over Gunni, which could give him the edge.

On the other hand, Thatch is coming off a submission loss to a much smaller fighter in Benson Henderson. Nelson is probably the greatest BJJ practitioner on the continent of Europe which means you could give him the advantage.

After weighing all this up, I feel that the adopted Irish man could upset the odds and pull off one of his trademark lightning quick submissions to end this contest early. Nelson via submission (round two)

DM: You’d have to wonder how much longer Nelson will persist at welterweight because he quite simply doesn’t have the frame to deal with the bigger 170lbers out there.

Thatch is the biggest welterweight out there but it could play into Gunni’s hands that Rukus could be second-guessing his ground game after Henderson choked him out in February.

If you were looking at both guys side by side, you’d have to be picking Thatch all day long but Nelson has got nasty Jiu-Jitsu. I see this fight going the way of Nelson v Johnson where the Icelandic fighter was able to drag the fight to the mat and tiring out the bigger, stronger fighter before the submission materialised. Nelson via submission (round one)

UFC Fight Night Dublin McGregor vs. Brandao, The O2, Dublin 19/7/2014 Iceland's Gunnar Nelson celebrates winning Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Rodrigo Romos

Brad Pickett (24-10) v Thomas Almeida (18-0)

BK: Young prospects like Almeida are genetically engineered to dismantle battle-worn veterans like Pickett. Although Almeida packs a ferocious striking game, I can’t see him finishing a resilient “One Punch”, but I do see him outclassing the British fighter. Almeida via decision

DM: It saddens me to say it but it looks like the career of Brad Pickett is starting to wind down. Approaching his 37th birthday, Pickett is getting to the stage where you have to worry about what’s going to be the final straw and t really could happen tonight against a guy like Thomas Almeida.

Apart from Renan Barao, Almeida could very well be the most powerful striker that Pickett has ever faced and I’d be flabbergasted if Thominhas doesn’t get through the Englishman’s guard. While Pickett’s chin has looked nothing but perfect in his career, there’s a shelf life on every fighter and I think the Brazilian actually finishes One Punch. Almeida via TKO (round two)

Cathal Pendred (17-2-1) v John Howard (22-11)

BK: Howard is a highly experienced veteran, but has struggled against grinders in the past. Pendred has a penchant for winning fights ugly and I think that’s exactly what’s going to transpire in this bout. The Punisher should improve his record to 5-0 in the UFC and face a proper test against a ranked opponent in his next trip to the Octagon. Pendred via decision

DM: John Howard is somehow only 32 but, in fight years, he’s up with the Ken Shamrock’s of the world. The Bostonian has been in some wars over the last 11 years and it’s really starting to show in his last three outings.

Doomsday has lost some of the explosive power that made him such an exciting prospect in his first stint with the UFC while Pendred could only have dreamed of the promotional run that he’s currently enjoying.

The Punisher may not be the most technical striker you’re ever going to see but he does have an immeasurable skill that a lot of fighters don’t possess. He finds a way to win. He grinds and grinds and his will to win is enough to get past lesser fighters. It could go the other way but, hey, who would pick against an Irishman on this weekend? Pendred via decision

Cathal Pendred celebrates winning the judge’s decision 18/1/2015

Neil Seery (15-10) v Louis Smolka (8-1)

BK: Seery is one of the most underrated fighters on the UFC’s current roster. His elite boxing, formidable ground game and relentless work rate makes him arguably the second most well-rounded Irish fighter in the UFC behind McGregor.

He’s a slight underdog against the much bigger and far younger Louis Smolka but 2 Tap definitely  has the requisite skills to defeat him. I expect a repeat of the Chris Beal fight, which should hopefully see the Dubliner matched up with a ranked flyweight next. Seery via decision

DM: Neil Seery’s performance against Chris Beal means that I’m never going to pick against him, regardless of who’s he fighting. I would go so far as to say that 2 Tap has the boxing to beat the vast majority of flyweights in the world.

In terms of intelligent bets, I’d be lumping on Seery all day long because Smolka is actually favoured by most bookies which is strange considering that the Hawaiian hasn’t exactly torn the division apart. I predict Seery taking the first round in the stand-up department and frustrating Smolka with his ability to keep the fight on the feet. Seery via decision

seery guillotine