Nate Diaz took this fight on two weeks notice, replacing an injured Rafael Dos Anjos, who was expected to defend his lightweight title against McGregor. Both McGregor and Diaz are known for their brash nature and unfiltered mouths, and had been calling each other out for some time now, allowing for an easy build-up for this new main event. Their heated exchanges began on social media after Conor indicated his willingness to move up in weight and Diaz made known his desire to “welcome” him to a heavier division. The weight limit for this match was set at 170 and the heat carried on through the two weeks leading up to the event resulting in some highly entertaining media interviews and face-offs.
Tactically, this was a fascinating match-up, as both fighters are known for their precision when it comes to striking. Conor McGregor is more of a timely powerful striker, while Nate Diaz likes to throw less powerful but high volume strikes. Nate did have the slight size and reach advantage for the matchup, and his ground game is much more decorated than McGregor. However, the fight was taken at short notice and Conor was going in as the heavy favorite.
The opening round saw Conor the aggressor, putting a little more pressure on the slow starting Nate Diaz. There were some good exchanges between the two, with Diaz landing some peppering jabs and crosses, while McGregor would answer back with heavy overhand lefts, eventually opening a cut over the bigger man’s right eye. There was a small scramble on the ground near the end of the round in which Conor managed to control Nate before the bell rang to end the first round.
In the second the exchanges continued and midway through the round Nate capitalized on McGregor’s exposed chin and low defense to land a quick one-two combination that staggered his opponent. Despite being stunned, McGregor was still willing to exchange and Diaz continued to pour on the strikes, landing more combinations. Pressing Conor against the cage Nate punished McGregor and seconds later hurt him again with a big left hand, forcing him to shoot for a takedown. Nate’s natural advantages in size and strength came to the fore as he easily stuffed the takedown, transitioning on top of Conor to land some ground-and-pound punches before finishing the featherweight champ with a rear naked choke. In typical Diaz fashion, Nate then celebrated by flexing to the crowd.
The Take Away
So what does this loss mean for Conor McGregor? Well it definitely does not support his proclamation of being the pound-for-pound best fighter in MMA. This is his first loss in the UFC, and third overall – all of which came in the by submission. This has been Conor’s Achilles’ heel in his game, however, in this fight the set up for his defeat began with the deceptively quick hands of Nate Diaz.
What also does not help Conor is the fact he lost to someone who didn’t have a full training camp. Granted, McGregor was preparing for a lightweight bout two weeks before last night and not a welterweight bout, so in the preparation department, both fighters were on even playing field. Conor obviously still remains the featherweight champ, but doesn’t look like he will get a shot at the lightweight title for some time. We will most likely see Conor defend his featherweight belt, and hopefully see the deserving Frankie Edgar get his shot. As for Nate Diaz, this win is his biggest to date and should allow him a rematch with Rafael Dos Anjos for the 155 lbs title.
No excuses were made, with McGregor stating in his interview with Joe Rogan, “I am humble in victory and defeat.” He continued by giving credit to Nate Diaz for being more efficient in their fight. At the same time, Nate Diaz gave credit to Conor for accepting the challenge. In hindsight, this was a fight neither competitor had to take. Nate took it at short notice, while Conor did not have to accept the fight at 170 lbs. Despite the differences in personality and lifestyle, we have to give both fighters credit for being willing to take on anyone, at anytime. To quote Nate Diaz himself, “We should always be ready to fight everybody on our worst day,” words we can be certain both fighters believe in and live by no matter the outcome. — Wes Derequito