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: UFC 202’s main event between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz is one of the biggest rematches ever without a title belt on the line. Do you agree with that statement, and is this matchup destined for a trilogy considering the amount of interest? Anik: Absolutely. I think it is the biggest fight of 2016, just based upon the mass anticipation and my forecast as to how the fight will do on PPV. Their first fight really had it all, and I expect this one to be the Fight of the Night as well. It’s just a great matchup and rivalry. As individuals, you’re talking about two of the most exciting guys on the roster. And that says nothing of their ability to drum up interest without even fighting. Diaz is absolutely captivating, an elite mixed martial artist who is finally getting the acknowledgement for his skills. He needed a signature win like this to make the money, but he was always must-see TV, against anyone. McGregor is the same way. He has an entire country behind him, rightfully so, and he has performed to his own high expectations. He has won a bonus just about every time he has fought in the UFC. And he is the biggest name on the roster. As for the trilogy, I think it has legs with a McGregor win, but I’d like to see some championship stakes for both guys in the immediate future. But if they decide to run it back a third time to close out the year, who could blame them? 2nd Round Q: McGregor was a much bigger favorite the first time around but has had an extra five months to get used to being a welterweight this time around. How much of a factor do you think that will be, and do you see him winning the rematch? Also, have you made any friendly wagers on him again with anyone following the infamous 209 tattoo after Diaz pulled off the upset? Anik: I think it is less about McGregor getting accustomed to being a welterweight and more about the actual technical preparation leading up to the fight. Conor has always been a hard worker, but the work wasn’t always directed, yet there was no arguing with the results. Now, following the Diaz loss, he and John Kavanagh have been forced to re-assess the way they do things. The result has been a much more rigid and regimented training camp with a specific focus on the opponent and certain techniques. I think that is a bigger factor than the weight class, but you can’t change the reality that McGregor is still fighting the bigger and seemingly stronger man. I think the fight is as competitive as the betting line indicates. Many bettors figure to be enticed by Diaz at plus-money, given the way the first fight went, and the fact that Nate wasn’t even in training for the first fight and still got the W. Rematches are always hard though for the guy that won the first one, and McGregor will be at the height of focus and motivation. I think he’ll be much harder to beat Saturday night. As for any tattoo wagers, think we’re gonna lay low this time around. But I can’t rule out tattoo stakes in the future. What a rush. 3rd Round Q: The co-main event is very intriguing between light heavyweights Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira. Is this a title eliminator bout, and how do you see it playing out with the winner likely facing now undisputed champion Daniel Cormier next? Anik: This is most definitely a title eliminator, and you can be sure Daniel Cormier will be watching the fight with that in mind. This is a huge fight and I love the fact that Glover Teixeira called for it. Certainly a win over “Rumble” positions him for a title shot, but he’s still calling out the guy who I believe is the biggest power threat on the roster, in any division. For years, it was Teixeira who seemed to have that distinction, as the hardest hitter at 205 pounds. He has a great chance here to prove he’s still that guy. Teixeira is a bit plodding, but he is pretty much elite everywhere and has more ways to finish the fight than Johnson would appear to. I’ve heard from pro fighters and Vegas sharps who are on the Teixeira side. I see some value, but fading Johnson seems a dangerous proposition. He learned a lot from his first fight with DC and has been untouchable since. I think one of these guys is getting finished at UFC 202, and I think both fighters would be competitive in a future bout with Cormier. 4th Round Q: With everybody talking about the main event at 170 with McGregor and Diaz both moving up, Donald Cerrone has quietly emerged as a top welterweight contender since jumping from 155. Do you think Cerrone has what it takes to be a serious threat in this division, or do you see him moving back down at some point? Also, how does he match up with Rick Story? Anik: When Cerrone first moved up, I didn’t immediately fancy him a title contender because I saw a lot of tough matchups in the Top 5-7. Now, I do see him as a legitimate title threat. The way he steamrolled through Patrick Cote gives me confidence he can make a run and can compete with the Rick Story-types of the division. Thus, this Story fight is a perfect test for him right now at 170. We’ll have a clearer picture as to Cowboy’s ceiling in this weight class after this fight. Story is criminally under-appreciated and has a lot of huge wins to his credit. He missed all of 2015 due to injury but returned in prime form with a win over Tarec Saffiedine earlier in 2016. I think he’ll be even better now, a fight and another camp removed from the layoff. In this matchup, I think Story will do what he does, make you work, take you down, beat you up in the clinch, and look for his opportunities at distance, where he is underrated. He’ll have to be careful in the clinch with Cerrone though. Cowboy is the faster athlete and has a lot of power in his knees and his kicks. Cerrone will be giving up some strength but leverages his length well, so I think the size is a wash. I think you’ll see two-way action in this fight, with Cerrone in the -165 range. And long-term, I wouldn’t rule out a Cerrone return to lightweight here and there, but I’m intrigued to see what he can do at welterweight. 5th Round Q: Neil Magny is probably the best true welterweight on the UFC 202 card after winning 10 of his last 11 fights. What do you think of his chances to compete at the top of the division if he wins again here, and is he one of the best bets as a small favorite against Lorenz Larkin? Are there any other value plays or underdogs that have caught your eye? Anik: Again, some fine matchmaking by Joe Silva, Dana White and the team here. Some would argue Magny, at No. 7 in the world, deserved a Top 5 guy and shouldn’t be fighting a guy who is unranked. But the betting line tells you all you need to know about Larkin and his worthiness here. I thought he would be a bigger betting underdog, but Larkin has a lot of high-level experience (a win over Robbie Lawler under the Strikeforce banner), and a lot of fight-ending weapons and tools. He does have a tendency to get bullied in there, and Magny figures to be effective in the clinch and working up against the fence. In the center of the Octagon, Magny will also be the longer fighter, but Larkin manages distance well and doesn’t telegraph his strikes. Just don’t fade Magny with my school-supply money. The man just finds a way to win. Ten of 11 wins in the UFC welterweight division is really, really hard to do, and many of those wins were of a high quality. He’s improved so much since TUF in all phases of the game, he’s got heart for days and just never seems to be out of a fight. Really great matchup on paper. As for any other lines that have caught my eye at first glance, I thought Randa Markos would be a bigger than -125 favorite over Cortney Casey, who is a real finisher. But I like Markos’ ability to grapple and dictate where the fight plays out. 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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