Saturday 3 December 2016

Who could face Conor McGregor at UFC 196? The four leading contenders

Published 23/02/2016 | 16:42

The MMA world was rocked with the announcement that Rafael Dos Anjos has pulled out of his scheduled UFC 196 appearance on March 5th. But who will replace the Brazilian?

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The historic bout would have seen Dos Anjos put his lightweight title up against ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor as he bid for dual weight glory.

Without McGregor the main card is now sadly lacking in big name draws. Though Holly Holm is defending her bantamweight title, it’s only her first defence and too early to expect her to be a Pay-Per-View draw.

The remaining fights on the main card would not be enough to convince MMA fans to part with their hard earned dollars and therefore highly likely the UFC will work their rolodex to come up with an opponent for the Dubliner.

Here’s a list of suitable candidates.

Nate Diaz

Diaz looked superb in his last UFC fight in December. He out fought and out thought a tough opponent in Michael Johnson. Never one to be afraid to tell us what he’s really thinking, Diaz grabbed the mic during his post-fight interview and called out McGregor.

The fan reaction was overwhelmingly positive, mainly due to the prospect of trash talk all the way to the Octagon and fireworks once they got there.

In normal course or events Diaz wouldn’t be considered for a McGregor match-up. However, with the UFC 196 card now sadly lacking in star power after a number of changes the UFC brass may consider giving the fans what they want.

Anthony Pettis

According to Pettis’ manager Malki Kawa, he would like to see his charge being considered for the fight.

Pettis lost to Dos Anjos, thereby relinquishing his UFC lightweight title at UFC 185.  His next outing did go much better as he lost again to Eddie Alvarez in January.

While he was champion he campaigned for a fight against the then featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Pettis’ stock has fallen a little since but a win against McGregor would put him back in the lightweight contender discussion.

Eddie Alvarez

Alvarez came into the UFC as a former Bellator MMA lightweight champion. He was long considered UFC calibre but for a number of reasons only made the crossover last year.

It’s not known whether Alvarez is available or injury free but his combative style would make him a good match-up for McGregor. Alvarez is also currently ranked #1 contender in the lightweight division and if available could be the next best option to Dos Anjos based on merit.

Donald Cerrone

‘Cowboy’ is fresh off a victory last weekend and has had some verbal previous with McGregor. The two clashed at a press conference when McGregor announced his intention to move up and try for the lightweight title.

Cerrone was beaten quickly by Dos Anjos the night after McGregor beat Aldo last December.

Though Cerrone is probably out of the lightweight title picture he has since moved to welterweight where he fought and won at the weekend. Given this is another division McGregor has ear-marked for the future it could add to the storyline for this match-up.

Always a fan favourite, Cerrone could be one of the better draws and a natural foil for McGregor at UFC 196.

Regardless of who they pick, the UFC really need to keep McGregor on this card.

Remember, this was originally supposed to be UFC 197. However, when the heavyweight challenger and then champion pulled out of their scheduled fight on 6th February the original UFC 196 was down-graded to UFC Fight Night: Hendricks vs. Thompson and broadcast on FOX as opposed to PPV.

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