Conor "Notorious" McGregor has the "it" factor. He's either extremely likable or equally unlikable. Which side of the extreme depends on who you ask.
In either case, he is very good at his craft. That dynamic is what makes an athlete polarizing. Fighters with those qualities become mega stars as long as they keep winning.
Sometimes winning isn't even necessary, just look at Chael Sonnen.
At any rate, McGregor is set to take the next step in his rise up the ladder at 145 pounds in the UFC on Saturday night. The proud Irishman will face dangerous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Diego Brandao in the main event of the UFC Fight Night 46 event from Dublin, Ireland.
Take a look at this tweet from McGregor and guess who the crowd will be rooting for on Saturday.
The featured bout has the potential to be explosive. McGregor usually makes sure his fights are action-packed. Only UFC Fight Pass subscribers will be able to watch this card live.
Here's a look at the entire card with predictions for each match. Just below the card section is a closer look at the fights on the main card.
Main card (UFC Fight Pass at 3 p.m. ET)
- Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao - McGregor by TKO
- Gunnar Nelson vs. Zak Cummings - Nelson by KO
- Brad Pickett vs. Ian McCall - McCall by Decision
- Norman Parke vs. Naoyuki Kotani - Parke by Decision
Undercard (UFC Fight Pass at 12:30 p.m. ET)
- Ilir Latifi vs. Chris Dempsey - Latifi by Submission
- Neil Seery vs. Phil Harris - Harris by Submission
- Cathal Pendred vs. Mike King - Pendred by TKO
- Tor Troeng vs. Trevor Smith - Troeng by Decision
- Cody Donovan vs. Nikita Krylov - Donovan by TKO
- Patrick Holohan vs. Josh Sampo - Sampo by Submission
Parke Will Overwhelm Kotani In Stand-Up Game
Usually, "Stormin'" Norman likes to beat his opponents with grappling and submissions. As a matter of fact, 12 of his 19 wins have come by forcing his opponent to tap out.
Against Japanese newcomer Naoyuki Kotani, Parke will have the opportunity to score a rare win based on his striking. Kotani is a very accomplished grappler in his own right. He has an astounding 25 wins in his MMA career by submission.
That said, he hasn't faced elite-level competition in most of his fights. With Parke, Kotani will not only be matched against a fighter whose skill level is superior, but Parke is also a better athlete.
Bleacher Report's Scott Harris sees it the same way. He wrote:
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 consistently.
In addition to the skill disparity, Kotani is also a shop-worn 32-year-old who will get exposed by a younger and hungrier Parke.
McCall’s Speed Will Tank Pickett
Brad "One Punch" Pickett has had a nice run in MMA, but the 35-year-old has to see that his career might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.
He's been alternating between wins and losses in the last four fights. By his current pattern, it's time for a loss, and McCall will make sure Pickett stays consistent.
Having come down to the flyweight division, Pickett lacks the speed to keep pace with a quick 125-pounder like McCall. Pickett is as tough as they come, so don't expect him to be stopped.
However, McCall should be able to parlay his quickness advantage into a decision victory based on striking accuracy.
Gunnar Nelson Will Remain Undefeated
Nelson and Zak Cummings have a lot to prove to UFC fans, but Nelson is simply a little stronger all around. As a grappler and submission artist, his dexterity and explosion gives him a clear edge over Cummings. But the most definitive advantage is in striking.
The two fighters could battle to a stalemate on the ground, thus striking is likely to be the determining factor in the fight.
Nelson has an improving stand-up game that will be the difference between him becoming a star, or just a good fighter.
For a while, the veteran from Iceland was a bit of a one-dimensional fighter. Per Peter Carroll of Severe MMA, Nelson now sees his striking as a skill equal to his strong grappling game.
My camp was split between Iceland and Ireland and I’ve really been focusing on my striking in the lead up to this fight. I’m very comfortable grappling and I wanted to work on what was needed. I started out training karate when I was kid and eventually my ground game became stronger than my striking, but now I feel like that’s changed again.
He's beginning to gain real buzz as he has blasted through his first three opponents in the UFC. On Saturday, he'll make it four in a row with a KO victory that'll get everyone's attention.
Conor McGregor Will Continue His Rise to Super Stardom
Brandao isn't getting caught up in McGregor's hype. In an episode of MMA Hour, Brandao was asked about McGregor's brash style. The 27-year-old remained focused and determined to shut McGregor's mouth, or subdue his rising popularity. Brandao said:
Whoever has a mouth, can talk whatever they want. If he's man enough, he can go say it to peoples' face. I don't care about Conor. This fight is about me, to prove to myself. Because of the last fight, everyone thinks, 'Diego's done.' Everybody knows I've been up and down. July 19, Diego is back, that is the only thing I am going to say. I cannot say nothing about Conor. He's already a superstar, everybody know him.
McGregor is known for his antagonistic comments, and no one is seemingly off limits. Here's the thing: Thus far, he has backed up all of his fighting words up. McGregor is undefeated in the UFC, and hasn't lost a fight in four years.
Against Brandao, McGregor's two-inch height advantage, pursuit and more controlled striking will lead to a stoppage victory.
His next stop might be in the co-feature of a pay-per-view attraction.
What Does EA Sports UFC Think?
Let's preface the following simulation with this disclaimer: The version of Brandao used is a created fighter with an overall rating of an 85. He was made to be a solid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artist with Brandao's FightMetric stats used as a guide for all of his ratings.
With that said here's what happened:
Apparently, man and machine agree on the outcome of this bout. McGregor systematically destroyed Brandao in the simulation, and the real-life encounter won't be much different.
Follow me on Twitter.