UFC fans get weekend off before furious stretch

By The Rex Factor

Fans of mixed martial arts got a well-deserved break this weekend from a barrage of fights to watch the Olympics, mow the lawn or just relax.

After a couple of years of between 40-45 fight cards each, the 2016 slate got off to a relatively slow start. There were only 16 fight nights from Jan. 2 through July 6, spanning more than half of the calendar year. Some of the cards were duds, and few of them generated real interest outside of a few pay-per-view battles.

But things have picked up since the week of UFC 200, with Las Vegas hosting three nights of star-studded battles at two different venues.

There has been at least one card per week since then, and starting again Aug. 20, there will be a Saturday card for NINE straight weeks, going through Oct. 15!

The next big thing for the time being is UFC 202, which features a main event rematch from UFC 196 between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz in the 170 pound division. Once again, they will face off in Las Vegas. The 12-fight card is slated to start at 6:35 p.m. Eastern time, with the five pay-per-view fights set to begin at around 10:15.

The dynamics for UFC 202 are totally different for McGregor. While Diaz has attracted much of the early wagering and the fight is basically a pick-em less than seven days out, there can be a compelling case for the Irishman.

In UFC 196, McGregor was supposed to fight for the belt at 155 pounds against Rafael dos Anjos after stopping Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds at 145 in his previous fight. When dos Anjos had to drop out 11 days before with an injury, Diaz stepped in on short notice, but McGregor had to go up to 170. He had trained for a fight at 155 and predictably gassed out after dominating much of the fight.

With a full camp at 170, McGregor will have no such excuses this time and should be relentlessly attacking Diaz from the opening bell. This was his first real defeat (sans asterisk) in the octagon and he predictably wants to avenge it now before moving on to handle other chores, presumably back at 155.

Two top-three fighters in the light heavyweight division go at it in the co-main event of the evening as Anthony Johnson meets Glover Teixeira in a fight that was scheduled for four weeks earlier before Johnson postponed due to personal issues.

The fun doesn’t stop anytime soon. Demian Maia meets Carlos Condit on Aug. 27 in Vancouver. UFC 203 is in Cleveland on Sept. 10, featuring hometown hero and heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic against Alistair Overeem.

College football and the NFL will be a few weeks into their seasons by the time UFC 204 will be in Manchester, England on Oct. 8. The main event is set to feature current middleweight champion Michael Bisping against Dan Henderson. Henderson knocked out Bisping back at UFC 100, but that was more than seven years ago. Bisping, like Miocic, figures to have a healthy home crowd supporting him – though the main pay-per-view card won’t get started until 3 a.m. (GMT) in order to accommodate the U.S. television audience.

Other locales for fights through Oct. 15 include Hamburg, Germany, Hidalgo, Texas, Brasilia, Portland and Pasay, Philippines. In all, seven countries will play host to UFC fights through Nov. 5, showing the company’s commitment to continue to put on top-notch cards all over the globe. So while fight fans were relegated to Olympic events this weekend, rest easy. Your Saturdays will be busy starting again next weekend.

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