Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz: What Went Wrong for Mystic Mac at UFC 196
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz: What Went Wrong for Mystic Mac at UFC 196 published by Evanvinh
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Posted on 2016-03-09
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This writer has written 733 articles.
UFC 196 was supposed to be the Conor McGregor show. The featherweight champion was offered the one-of-a-kind opportunity to step up to the lightweight division and become the first man to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes. It's something the UFC has never done before (even with BJ Penn vs. Georges St-Pierre 2, the expectation was for Penn to vacate his lightweight title upon winning), but McGregor is a star unlike any they've dealt with at this point.
UFC 196 was supposed to end with McGregor walking out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena with a belt over each shoulder, with a chorus of rowdy Irish fans singing his praises on high.
Then McGregor's dancing partner, 155-pound champion Rafael dos Anjos, pulled out of his fight with a broken foot. Instead of putting the epic superfight on ice until UFC 200, the UFC and McGregor decided to roll the dice by finding a short-notice replacement.
The man to step in, of course, was Nate Diaz.
The longtime fan favorite was chosen by the UFC over a slew of other names, and seemed to be the perfect choice due to his substantial following and his inconsistent performances in the cage. While Diaz vs. McGregor made sense on paper, it was supposed to be something of a tune-up fight for McGregor. McGregor would still be crowned the first two-division champion in UFC history...he would just have to wait a few more months.
Alas, things didn't go that way and the reasons are so clear in retrospect.The path to that upset was a fun one, to be sure. The first round was McGregor at his best. The Irishman darted in and out with his left hand, exploiting the surprisingly big difference in speed. Though Diaz is a formidable boxer in his own right, he didn't seem to have an answer to McGregor's squirrely movement and hit the stool bruised and bloodied. When the horn sounded for the second round, a switch seemed to flip in the featherweight champ's head. McGregor just wasn't as quick. He wasn't as light on his feet. His breathing seemed to be a bit heavy. That changed things in a hurry. Diaz found his jab and popped McGregor with it repeatedly. While McGregor's hands were still lightning-fast, his feet seemed to betray him. He plodded forward and swapped punches with Diaz until Diaz caught him flat-footed following an exchange.
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