Prepare for a war!
Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz, BT Sport, 5.00am (ish!)
It’s not been a particularly great week for Irish fighters with Paddy Barnes, Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan all crashing out of the Olympics in Rio without a medal, but in the early hours of Sunday morning Conor McGregor can get us back on track when he faces his biggest challenge to date.
The UFC 202 main event in Las Vegas is going to be a humdinger with the ‘Notorious’ going toe to toe with Stockton’s own Nate Diaz in a rematch of their UFC 196 match-up. That event saw the pair face off at 170lbs – 25lb heavier than all McGregor’s previous UFC fights and 15lb heavier than he was scheduled to fight at before Lightweight Champion at the time, Rafael Dos Anjos, pulled out.
In stepped Diaz.
Diaz is a UFC veteran, boasting more fights in his UFC career than McGregor has professional fights. He has 22 fights in the UFC under his belt and is extremely well known for his durability and endurance. Diaz has great stand up and with a Gracie Black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to his name, he’s more than capable of controlling the fight on the ground as well.
The last time the pair met it was explosive with many pundits giving the first round to McGregor who started strong and seemed to find Diaz’s chin with most strikes. In the second round though the Irishman appeared to fade due to trying to unload and get the early knockout as he predicted. The difference in size and in particular Nate’s durability proved to be more than Conor expected.
Diaz landed some good combinations in the second round and had a lot of luck with his right jab. Eventually a shook McGregor went for a takedown which was easily blocked and before long it was all over.
Diaz won in the second round by a rear naked choke, but make no mistake – this fight was won on the feet.
On Saturday night it is a different story.
McGregor proved he has a very high fight IQ immediately in his post-fight press conference at UFC 196, as he highlighted the mistakes in his approach to the Diaz fight. The question from here becomes, if McGregor has amended his approach can he continue the entire fight the way he started the first seven minutes of the original bout, or will Nate Diaz with a full training camp under his belt be too much for the native Irishman? Don’t forget, Diaz has only been stopped twice in his career and only once by knockout. He’s tougher than the garlic bread in the Paddy Power canteen.
We’ve already seen fireworks in the press conference for UFC 202, but Notorious needs to keep his cool and stay focused on the task in hand.
If McGregor can become more economic with his energy, and respect the inevitable size difference between himself and Diaz in the octagon, he should have enough to win. He will need to fight smart though – he has the ability to stay on the edge of the pocket with Diaz and use his movement and unpredictability to lay traps and counter. In the first fight he had a lot of success with the left uppercut. Nate’s counter with the straight right time and time again proved to be the difference however, and if last time was anything to go by we expect an all-out war in Vegas.
It might not be pretty but it will be interesting to see if McGregor can fix the holes in his game plan that were previously exposed by Diaz. Whether it’s the smart bet or just a patriotic punt, we’re siding with Notorious and backing McGregor to win by K.O at and get the fighting Irish back on track.