When Conor McGregor returns to the UFC this weekend, he'll be doing so in relatively unfamiliar territory.

The former featherweight and lightweight champion will make his return to welterweight against the UFC's leader in wins and stoppages American Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone at UFC 246 in Las Vegas on Sunday (NZT).

In his 25 professional bouts, only two have come in the welterweight division - a win and a loss against Nate Diaz, the most recent of which was in 2016.

McGregor hasn't fought in the UFC since a submission loss to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018 which was two years after his next most recent bout.

Advertisement

There's a major discrepancy in cage time between the Irishman and Cerrone, with the American having fought eight times in the last two years between lightweight and welterweight. Despite suffering two TKO losses in a row, with 23 wins from 33 UFC bouts, including 16 finishes, Cerrone poses a tough return opponent for the 31-year-old McGregor.

However, when asked to predict the result of the bout, a host of Australian and New Zealand UFC fighters all reached the same conclusion.

"My bet, Conor by TKO," middleweight champion Israel Adesanya said.

"I feel Conor is in for a tough fight, but he has to make it look easy to win. He hasn't done as much media and he is refocused as I've seen. Cowboy has been fighting so much lately which is good, but coming off two losses…we'll see how that is for him because he has nothing to lose."

Adesanya's comments were backed up by City Kickboxing teammate and featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, who tipped McGregor to get the win inside the first two rounds.

"I believe that if it stays on the feet and as much of a fan as I am of Donald, I think Conor gets the win. Conor's timing, accuracy and his explosiveness will get him the finish."

Fellow City Kickboxing teammates Dan Hooker, Kai Kara-France and Brad Riddell, who will all be fighting in the UFC's return to Auckland next month, also picked McGregor to win inside the five rounds.

Of the athletes asked, Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa was the only one to tip Cerrone.

Advertisement

"I think it's going to be a great fight, two great fighters. Cowboy has been much more active and I think he'll come away with the win. The fight may go the distance or Cowboy will finish him in the fourth round."

View this post on Instagram

Yup!!!!

A post shared by Donald Cerrone (@cowboycerrone) on

Both McGregor and Cerrone have been focused this week ahead of the bout, which headlines the first UFC card of the year. Neither fighter has been available to media outside of ESPN, the UFC's broadcast partner, for one-on-one interviews.

While taking all the headlines, the bout won't be the only one worth watching on what is a stacked card to open the year. Former women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm features in the co-main event against Raquel Pennington - a bout that was originally booked for UFC243 in Melbourne last October but was cancelled as Holm was ill - with the highlight-creating Anthony Pettis squaring off against rising lightweight star Carlos Diego Ferreira in the first fight on the main card.

In the preliminary bouts, flyweights Tim Elliott and Askar Askarov square off in what shapes up as a potential fight of the night sleeper, with both fighters' well-rounded skill sets and finishing ability posing an intriguing match up. In the featured preliminary bout, undefeated women's flyweight prospect Maycee Barber squares off against veteran Roxanne Modafferi, while featherweight's Sodiq Yusuff and Andre Fili square off in the pick of the undercard bouts.

UFC 246

Main card - from 4pm NZT on SKY Arena (pay-per-view)

Lightweight main event: Conor McGregor v Donald Cerrone

Bantamweight: Holly Holm v Raquel Pennington

Heavyweight: Aleksei Oleinik v Maurice Greene

Strawweight: Claudia Gadelha v Alexa Grasso

Lightweight: Anthony Pettis v Carlos Diego Ferreira

Preliminary card - from 2pm NZT on ESPN
Flyweight: Maycee Barber v Roxanne Modafferi
Featherweight: Andre fili v Sodiq Yusuff
Flyweight: Tim Elliott v Askar Askarov
Lightweight: Drew Dober v Nasrat Haqparast

Early prelims - from 12.15pm NZT on UFC Fight Pass
Light heavyweight: Aleksa Camur v Justin Ledet
Bantamweight: Brian Kelleher v Ode Osbourne
Flyweight: Sabina Mazo v JJ Aldrich