Nate Diaz withstood Conor McGregor’s barrage on Sunday morning and took the rising superstar down for a second-round submission in their welterweight fight at UFC 196.
McGregor, the featherweight champion fighting up two weight classes on short notice against Diaz, started typically fast and furious, landing heavy blows and bloodying his American challenger early.
But the force from McGregor’s famous left strike, so deadly in the lightweight division at 155 pounds (70.3kg), simply did not pack the same punch at 170-pound (77.1kg) welterweight.
After expending great energy looking for the kind of fight-deciding blow that won him the featherweight title in record time against Jose Aldo at UFC 194, McGregor looked tired by early in the second round. The 5ft 9in 27-year-old from Dublin began swinging more wildly, with less purpose, at his 6ft 1 in (1.83m) opponent from Stockton, California.
McGregor’s defence collapsed, Diaz landing a succession of heavy blows, before turning around McGregor’s desperation takedown attempt into a short-lived ground contest, finishing in submission with a a rear naked chokehold.
“I’m not surprised,” Diaz said in his post-fight interview. “He had some good punches,” but, “I just knew I was gonna start off slow and as soon as I got warmed up ... my jiu-jitsu is always there for when I hit the ground .. it’s the boxing that gets the fight there.”
Both Diaz and McGregor prepared for the fight on short notice, after Rafael dos Anjos pulled out for a planned lightweight title fight with McGregor about two weeks ago with an injury.
“I’m an athlete, a warrior, we should always be ready to fight everybody on our worst day,” Diaz said after the bout.
The usually, infamously brash McGregor was more soft-spoken in defeat.
“I took the chance going up to 170 but Nate came in – I thought I took him the first round, I was just not efficient with my energy
“He was efficient, I wasn’t efficient. I hit too much arms, these things happen, I learn, I grow, I took a chance. I come away .. it is what it is, I face it like a man, like a champion and I’ll come back again.”
In his post-fight commentary, UFC broadcaster Joe Rogan noted the discrepancy in all-round mixed martial arts expertise between the fighters, and how McGregor’s explosiveness failed him against a sturdier opponent.
“Nate Diaz answered a lot of questions,” Rogan noted.
Of McGregor, he said: “What we had seen before was spectacular vitcories, incredible results, but what we didn’t see was him having to overcome specific adversity, particularly the ground, particularly a rock standing up.
“There’s a reality in martial arts that cannot be ignored. Techniques you have to master, and Diaz has mastered techniques Conor has not, and that particulary is the ground, but even in the boxing Nate found holes in Conor’s game.”
It was the first loss in UFC for McGregor, a relative unknown just a few years ago before he rocketed to stardom upon his arrival in the division in 2013.
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