Well, that’s what you get for finishing your homework early! Originally, we had written a fantastic preview of UFC 197: McGregor vs Dos Anjos. But the UFC had to be difficult and change the original event to “UFC 196.” Alright, no big deal! It’s a few number changes; we can manage that!
Then the UFC had to get real difficult. Conor McGregor was supposed to make his debut in the lightweight division and become the first fighter to hold two titles simultaneously. But Rafael Dos Anjos went and broke his foot, leaving MMA’s biggest star without an opponent just two weeks before the event. So what does Dana White do? Naturally he brings in the fifth-ranked lightweight Nate Diaz, then asks both him and McGregor to fight at welterweight (170 lbs). Some compromise, Dana!
It’s understandable that the UFC doesn’t want to deprive viewers of their biggest draw, but this is a pretty ridiculous last-minute scramble, especially for McGregor’s camp. It’s a non-title fight, so McGregor gets virtually nothing if he beats Diaz; but if he loses, his reputation is shot.
But as bad as that shakes out for McGregor, it shakes out worse for me. After thinking we were all set for UFC 196, here I am writing another preview for it. Thanks a lot, Dana!
Conor McGregor (-320) vs Nate Diaz (+260)
Jumping up two weight classes should’ve put McGregor (19-2) at a big disadvantage for this fight, but the fact that Diaz (18-10) will also be moving up a class – and has just 12 days to truly prepare – more than balances things out. Granted, Diaz has been asking for this opportunity for a while now.
The biggest shame of this fight might be that there wasn’t more buildup to it. Trash talking is the one area where Diaz is on McGregor’s level. He was able to get inside Michael Johnson’s head in his last bout, eventually winning a three-round unanimous decision. McGregor may not be able to gain the psychological advantage that’s helped him to so many quick wins in the past.
But their fighting pedigrees are a different story. McGregor has won his last 15 fights, two-thirds of them ending in the first round. A striker by trade, McGregor has 17 career knockouts. But Diaz has proven he can take a beating in his career, once lasting a full fight with Dos Anjos despite being out-struck 77 to 13.
Diaz has a slight advantage over McGregor in both reach (76″ to 74″) and height (6’0″ to 5’9″), but he also has just one fight under his belt in the last year. McGregor has been fighting almost every four months for the past year and half. Though the shift to a new class will be an adjustment for McGregor, he has the experience to pull this one out. Take the UFC’s favorite son, but expect a better fight than Dana White deserves.
Prediction: McGregor by (T)KO. OVER 2.5 rounds.
(Image: Andrius Petrucenia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Image has been cropped.)