For weeks, rumors were circulating about UFC 197. First, there were rumors that the card would feature a long-awaited grudge match between longtime UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva and Brazilian counterpart Vitor Belfort. After all, both men have a history, and the card was expected to take place in Brazil.
Then, word began to spread about the possibility of newly crowned Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold defending his title against top Vitor Belfort.
And then, news broke a week ago that due to economic issues in Brazil, the card would be moved to a new location. This sparked thoughts about a possible Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate bout in Washington, alongside Demetrious Johnson’s next title defense against Henry Cejudo.
Well now, we know what will happen. That’s because a few hours ago, news broke that new UFC Featherweight champion Conor McGregor will move up to face current Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos on the March 5th card.
This was the fight that many believed would be next for the two champions, and now, it is booked. McGregor (19-2) enters the fight on a monster tear, having won his last 15 bouts, with all but one coming via finish. He has gone 7-0 inside the octagon, with the lone decision win coming against Max Holloway back in August 2013, where he suffered a leg injury that sidelined him for 11 months after the fight. He is coming off a stunning 13-second knockout over longtime Featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo, breaking championship records in the process. He has 17 knockout wins, and that will likely be the way he can win this fight.
A journeyman for most of his career, Rafael dos Anjos (25-7) is at the pinnacle of his reign. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt tends to go the distance most of the time, as evidenced by his 12-5 record in fights that go the full length.
However, the Lightweight champion has been a finisher of late, utilizing his Muai Thai prowess to finish three of his last five opponents. Prior to that, he had gone the distance in six of his previous seven fights. He has won 10 of his last 11 bouts, including finishes over Jason High, former WEC and UFC champion Benson Henderson, and most recently a shocking 66-second knockout win over fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. He has the ground game to submit McGregor, as well as the power to fend him off on the feet. Regardless of who wins, the fight will generate an infinite amount of buzz.
In the co-main event of the evening, newly crowned Women’s Bantamweight champion Holly Holm will take on former Strikeforce champ Miesha Tate.
Holm (10-0,) who was campaigning for a fight before a potential rematch against longtime champion Ronda Rousey at UFC 200 in July, got her wish. She’s coming off a scintillating domination of Rousey at UFC 193, in a fight where many thought she was a live dog for Rousey to devour. However, the longtime championship boxer utilized terrific takedown defense to go with her crisp boxing, before ending the fight with a patented headkick.
Holm possesses the best striking in the division, and while she did have a pair of uninspiring decision wins in her first two UFC fights, seven of her other eight fights have ended via knockout. That’s tough news for Tate, who was supposed to get the shot at Rousey instead of Holm. Alas, she now faces a fresh challenge, having already faced Rousey on a pair of occasions.
Tate (17-5) is primarily a wrestler with some submission skills, so she’ll undoubtedly try to take Holm down. If she succeeds at doing so, her chances of winning the fight are there. If she can’t, there’s a chance she may get knocked out for just the third time in her career.
UFC 197 will take place on March 5th, 2016 at an undisclosed location. Rumors were swirling about it taking place in Washington state, but there’s a chance it will take place in Las Vegas after the announcement of these two bouts. No other fights have been booked for the card yet.