McGregor vs. Brandao: A Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 46

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterJuly 16, 2014

McGregor vs. Brandao: A Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 46

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    Conor McGregor
    Conor McGregorGregory Payan/Associated Press

    Hoist up the Irish tricolour and put on your day-drinking pants. Here comes UFC Fight Night 46, straight out of fightin' Dublin, Ireland.

    I might as well go ahead and use up all my dumb stereotypes, just as the UFC is using up all of its own Irishness this Saturday for its triumphant return to The Emerald Isle. No less than four Irish fighters—five, if you count Norman Parkepopulate this card. Not bad, considering there was nary an Irishman to be found on the UFC roster 18 months ago.

    If not all of this is because of Conor McGregor, a lot of it certainly is.

    This is the UFC's second event in Ireland and the first in five years. The promotion is not going back because it has a hankering for an authentic boxty, although a good boxty can make for a simple but filling meal. 

    It's almost entirely on the shoulders of McGregor, the fast-talking, sharp-dressing, hard-striking 26-year-old Dubliner who has taken the UFC featherweight division by storm and happens to be making his comeback fight on this card, following an 11-month absence after ACL repair surgery.

    McGregor is the headline, but he has a real challenge in Brazilian bull Diego Brandao. Cathal Pendred, a standout from the recently concluded season of The Ultimate Fighter, helps round out the national intrigue. But there's plenty of good stuff up and down the card, which begins at 3 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon and airs entirely on UFC Fight Pass, the company's subscription streaming service.

    Here's a complete guide to the action, including information capsules, predictions and viewing coordinates for each and every bout on the slate.

Patrick Holohan vs. Josh Sampo

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    Josh Sampo
    Josh SampoUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Flyweight
    Records: Patrick Holohan (9-0-1), Josh Sampo (11-3)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    The unbeaten Paddy Holohan is part of SBG Ireland, the Dublin gym made famous by McGregor and Pendred. Hooligan tried out for The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 as a bantamweight but was turned back by grinder Josh Hill.

    Wrestling made the difference there, and it will make the difference here. Sampo is a very good wrestler and a real gamer, and in the evening's first fight, he'll spoil Holohan's debut and the festive mood, at least for a time.

    Prediction: Sampo, unanimous decision

Cody Donovan vs. Nikita Krylov

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    Cody Donovan
    Cody DonovanMatt Roberts/Getty Images

    Division: Light heavyweight
    Records: Nikita Krylov (16-4), Cody Donovan (8-4)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Don't sugarcoat this one. This is a battle to see who can get out of the 205-pound basement. Hence, it's buried on the undercard. Don't look at me like that, Cody Donovan. I'm just telling the truth.

    While we're on the topic of hard truths, Donovan has a glass jaw. That seems to be the situation. Krylov knows how to find jaws; all of his last four wins came by knockout. This one is not rocket science.

    Prediction: Krylov, TKO, Rd. 1 

Tor Troeng vs. Trevor Smith

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    Tor Troeng
    Tor TroengUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Tor Troeng (16-5-1), Trevor Smith (11-5)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Troeng is literally one of the smartest fighters in MMA today. He's a mathematics researcher at a Swedish university, and he wrote this thing.

    No segue here; just wanted you to be aware of that. Troeng has a nice, rangy frame for a middleweight, standing 6'2" with a 78-inch reach. He's one of those good-at-everything-great-at-nothing types, and that might be enough against Smith, a grappling specialist who should be vulnerable to solid kickboxing.

    Prediction: Troeng, unanimous decision

Cathal Pendred vs. Mike King

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    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Cathal Pendred (13-2-1), Mike King (5-0)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Pendred competed on TUF as a middleweight and does so again here. But he really made his bones as a welterweight.

    It wouldn't be as big a deal if the Irishman's game was based on something other than being strong, clinching up his opponent and grating said opponent to ribbons against the chain link. It doesn't work as well when the other guy is bigger than him or can take him down and keep him there.

    King fits both of those molds and brings a solid power boxing game to boot. Sorry, SBG Ireland. You're staring down the barrel of a 0-2 start to the night.

    Prediction: King, unanimous decision

Neil Seery vs. Phil Harris

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    Phil Harris
    Phil HarrisUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Flyweight
    Records: Neil Seery (13-10), Phil Harris (22-11)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Seery, the former Cage Warriors flyweight champ, is the lone Dubliner on the card who does not train at SBG Ireland. He'll also be the first Irish fighter to take a win on the evening.

    "2 Tap" and Harris have actually done battle before, with Harris taking a decision win under the BAMMA banner. This one should go differently, with Seery stringing together fun combinations to keep Harris guessing and off balance.

    Prediction: Seery, unanimous decision

Ilir Latifi Vs.Chris Dempsey

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    Division: Light heavyweight
    Records: Ilir Latifi (8-3), Chris Dempsey (10-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Latifi is best known as the guy who replaced Alexander Gustafsson on extremely short notice to fight (and lose to) a hobbled Gegard Mousasi.

    He has to see a lot of himself in Dempsey, a late replacement who earned this fight in some part because he was breathing and had a passport.

    Latifi's debut was about a year ago. Since then, the fireplug of a submission grappler notched his first UFC W, a first-round chokeout of grappling-deficient and now-retired Cyrille Diabate. He'll have a harder time against Dempsey, a very good wrestler, but should get the job done, especially given that Dempsey is a natural middleweight.

    Prediction: Latifi, submission, Rd. 2

Norman Parke vs. Naoyuki Kotani

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    Norman Parke
    Norman ParkeUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Norman Parke (19-2-1), Naoyuki Kotani (33-10-7)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    It's hard to imagine Kotani as anything except another Japanese MMA deep cut that is not cut out for the big, bad UFC. His 50-fight career is certainly impressive no matter how you measure it, but there is also the small matter of fact that he has never quite gotten over the hump against top competition, at least not on consistently.

    That will be no different against Parke. Both are ground fighters (Kotani has 25 wins by tapout), but Parke should have an edge in power and in striking. The man from Northern Ireland should take this one. I predict something hard and flashy.

    Prediction: Parke, TKO, Rd. 1

Brad Pickett vs. Ian McCall

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    Brad Pickett
    Brad PickettGregory Payan/Associated Press

    Division: Flyweight
    Records: Brad Pickett (24-8), Ian McCall (12-4-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    I smell an upset in this one.

    McCall is an outstanding wrestler, no two ways about it. He's a big flyweight too, and when he gets a head of steam he is very hard to stop.

    The question arises when you look between the ears. McCall has had lapses in big moments and shown questionable judgment. And by the time he steps into the cage this weekend, he'll have been out nearly a year with an injury layoff.

    As an opponent, Pickett is pretty deep waters to jump into after such a long leave. He's good in every area and looked great in his 125-pound debut (a decision win over Seery, as it happens). This is also his chance to sponge away his spotty track record against big names.

    In a nutshell, I expect Pickett to come in motivated and in top form, and McCall to come in, well, less so. Pickett can outstrike McCall and scramble out of Uncle Creepy's ground-and-pound. Sound the upset alarms on this one.

    Prediction: Pickett, unanimous decision

Gunnar Nelson vs. Zak Cummings

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    Zak Cummings (right)
    Zak Cummings (right)USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Gunnar Nelson (12-0-1), Zak Cummings (17-3)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Nelson gets an honorary Irishman's badge for working so closely with SBG Ireland. He can add that to the performance bonus he'll get from his win over Cummings Saturday night.

    I don't mean to diminish Cummings' skills. He's an excellent submission artist, and that should mean a very fun ground fight. Cummings has also looked great in two UFC fights thus far—both victories, one a submission.

    But I don't think Nelson can be stopped. He's a bit of a monster. He'll beat Cummings to the positional punch and work his way into something nasty. I'm guessing a rear-naked choke.

    Prediction: Nelson, submission, Rd. 2

Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao

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    Conor McGregor (top) hammers Max Holloway
    Conor McGregor (top) hammers Max HollowayUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Conor McGregor (14-2), Diego Brandao (18-9)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    If my predictions hold true and Irish fighters underperform at UFC Fight Night 46, it will be up to McGregor to redeem everything. And redeem it he will.

    Brandao is very talented as a menacing power striker and deceptively slick submission pro. He has also shown he is smart and conditioned enough to survive the distance. However, his tendency to tire still exists, and this could go as long as five rounds.

    Add in McGregor's deep gas tank and dynamic striking (not to mention the fact that he'll have quite a few thousand screaming countrymen on his side), and Brandao may have a long night that could see his trademark aggression, deliberately controlled or not, work against him.

    McGregor will keep him at range, outland him in exchanges and keep him guessing with fire-breathing combos. It's hard to see him losing this fight.

    Prediction: McGregor, unanimous decision

     

    Scott Harris covers MMA and other topics for Bleacher Report and other places. Follow him on Twitter if you feel so inclined.