Q & Anik is an article featured exclusively at MMAOddsBreaker.com that goes 5 rounds with UFC commentator Jon Anik offering his unique insight on some of the biggest UFC cards of the year. 1st Round Q: You have always been a huge fan of the Diaz brothers, so the UFC 196 main event between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz at welterweight must have made you pretty happy. McGregor was obviously training for a lightweight title fight against Rafael dos Anjos, who ended up breaking his foot and had to pull out. How much do you think that will factor into the new match-up versus Diaz on Saturday? Anik: These guys have been on each other’s radars for some time, so I’m really excited to see this match-up play out. I just feel like it’s a huge ask for Nate Diaz on 10 days’ notice to beat someone like Conor McGregor, who was training for lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. You know McGregor is going to be in championship condition. Much has been made of McGregor moving up from featherweight to welterweight, and rightfully so. But he’s a massive featherweight, he’s a big lightweight, and Nate Diaz is a guy who has bounced around from 155 to 170. So he’s giving up some height, and he’s certainly giving up quite a bit of reach to a guy who is adept at using it. But McGregor has the power advantage and overall has more weapons as a striker. I think he might be the physically stronger guy, too, and short of Nate wearing him down with volume or catching him in some submission in transition, I just really think it’s Conor McGregor’s fight to lose. I just think Nate is going to have a hard time dealing with the pressure, the pace, and the power of all these different limbs coming at ya. I also just think that a lot of Nate’s style is predicated upon being in outstanding shape. And even though we hear reports that he’s training for a triathlon, we know Conor McGregor was training for five hard five-minute rounds, and I’m just not convinced that if we do see a third or fourth round, that Nate’s going to have much left. Of course you know he’s long on output to begin with. I really like the match-up for Conor. Tip of the cap to the promotion for getting such an interesting main event put together after dos Anjos bowed out. But I don’t see this fight being as competitive as the fight between Conor and RDA. 2nd Round Q: You were one of the very few who thought Diaz would upset Michael Johnson at UFC on FOX 17, essentially creating this opportunity for himself. Can you break down the differences stylistically that Diaz will have to deal with between his plan for beating Johnson and preparing for McGregor on short notice? Anik: When Nate Diaz is motivated and when he is on on fight night, a lot of fighters are going to have a hard time with his style and his pressure. We talk so much about Conor McGregor’s pressure, but Nate Diaz has been a guy who doesn’t give you a lot of breathing room in the Octagon. He moves his head well, gets his hands to the target quickly. And if he was sort of training toward this date with the expectation that he might the opportunity to fight Conor, then I think this fight could be closer than my initial forecast. And that is a distinct possibility, that Nate Diaz would be keeping his cards close to the vest, and in actuality, is in tremendous shape because he was training for this date. I wouldn’t put it past Nate Diaz that he is in phenomenal shape, and I think that would change the complexion of this one. That said, this is a very different stylistic match-up than Michael Johnson was. As great as an athlete as Michael Johnson is, when you watch that fight, oftentimes he was a stationary, hittable target in front of Nate Diaz. The improved footwork we’ve come to expect from Michael Johnson wasn’t necessarily there. He was a hittable target and credit to Diaz for capitalizing. Here he’s facing the master of movement and a guy that’s got more confidence than anybody in the sport right now. I just think Nate’s going to have a hard time getting inside and closing the distance consistently because McGregor is constantly in motion. 3rd Round Q: New women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm could have waited for Ronda Rousey to be fully healthy before returning to the Octagon for her first title defense. However, she wanted to get back at it sooner than later and now faces a very experienced foe in No. 2 contender Miesha Tate. What do you think of this match-up, can Tate pull off the upset and ruin a potential blockbuster Holm-Rousey rematch? Anik: I have a lot of respect for Holly Holm in wanting to be an active champion because the payday that she would get for a Rousey rematch might be 10 or 15 times what her payday could be for fighting Miesha Tate. She just wants to be an active champion, and she wants to successfully defend the title. And Miesha couldn’t be more deserving. It’s a four-fight winning streak (for her), but it’s really a high-level winning streak. She took out all of these would-be contenders along the way to realizing this title shot. You know how tough she is, she has outstanding wrestling, I think he striking and her fight IQ have improved tremendously since she has committed to Extreme Couture in Las Vegas. She has made great in-fight adjustments, and clearly having Robert Follis in her corner brings stability and confidence. Everything she has been through as a fighter, the series with Ronda Rousey, not getting the title shot that she thought was promised to her…I think it all has served to toughen Tate mentally. In terms of her heart and her mental and physical toughness, all huge things when it comes to MMA success, she’s got all of that stuff. And she can take a shot with the best of them. All of that said, because Holly Holm proved capable of executing that type of championship game plan and performance against Ronda Rousey, you’ve gotta be careful betting against her. I think she has a significant striking advantage in this fight. Obviously, it’s one thing to have a reach advantage, it’s another thing to know how to use it. She’s a master at controlling distance and maximizing opportunities and openings…just ask Ronda Rousey. 4th Round Q: There are two intriguing light heavyweight bouts also on the UFC 196 main card, including a battle between No. 13 Gian Villante and unranked contender Ilir Latifi. You have some inside info on Villante, could you please share that with our readers and also discuss your thoughts on Latifi’s chances here? Anik: It’s interesting, we talked to Ray Longo on our podcast this week, and he said Chris Weidman has largely had his way with Gian Villante in the gym. And at times, it’s been discouraging for Villante because Weidman picks things up so easily and is just so talented. So Longo told us, when Weidman lost to Luke Rockhold, it really rejuvenated Gian Villante and gave him confidence because no longer was Weidman this seemingly unbeatable force. At +175 or so, Longo sees a lot of value on Villante and believes him to be in a very good place in advance of this one. He will need to be because Ilir Latifi is a monster on a mission. He’s got four wins in the UFC, all of them are first-round finishes. His last two wins are knockouts in less than a minute. I think Latifi is probably the guy with the higher ceiling in this division. He’s just a mauler with fight-ending power behind everything he throws, and at some point Villante’s chin – which has cracked at times in the past – is going to get tested. We’ll see how it holds up. 5th Round Q: I personally thought rising prospect Corey Anderson had earned a bigger fight than a match-up with Tom Lawlor as the No. 12 light heavyweight in the UFC. However, there’s an interesting link between both of them and Villante that justifies Lawlor as Anderson’s opponent. Can you tell us more about that? Anik: So Gian Villante knocks out Corey Anderson and then turns around three months later against a returning Tom Lawlor, and he gets knocked out. So Villante is the common opponent and a recent opponent for both of those guys, and Lawlor had more success, despite losing the early portions of the fight. Not sure how much stock you put into that. We had Tom Lawlor on ‘The Anik & Florian Podcast’ during fight week, and he said he has had a lot of success fighting as an underdog in the UFC. He likes his ability to come through in these spots. He doesn’t think Anderson is spectacular in any realm of MMA, he’s just a supremely conditioned athlete who wears guys down. I think for the first time in Corey Anderson’s last three fights, he’s fighting a guy who can match him in the cardio department. If you’re asking me which guy has more upside in the division, I think it’s certainly the younger, fresher Corey Anderson. But the price on Lawlor is a touch higher than I expected it to be. Mentally, he seems in a good place…he’s not putting pressure on himself anymore, he’s trying to enjoy the ride. Sometimes when guys get over a mental hump like that, they’re at their most dangerous. There’s a lot of long-term upside with Corey Anderson, but he’s got a real challenge in front of him this weekend. Disclaimer: Mr. Anik is contractually prevented from wagering on UFC events. His opinions posted here are for information and entertainment purposes only.
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