Rafael dos Anjos stumbles out of UFC 196 with a broken foot, and Nate Diaz answers the call to accept “the money fight” against featherweight champ Conor McGregor. There are several reasons why this fight is absolutely nuts, and fight fans are loving the sheer chaos that Conor effortlessly creates. He gets what he wants, and he makes his own rules. This fight, last-minute and off-weight, feels like an old-school barn-burner between two guys who don’t give a damn about weight-classes, who don’t care about last minute changes and excuses, who only want to step forward and see what happens.
Following the MMA scene often involves considering possibilities, such as who a fighter might face next and how their styles will clash in the octagon. While there are normally a small number of possibilities to consider for any given fighter, McGregor creates a multitude of unforeseen possibilities.
When Conor McGregor was strutting toward the octagon to face Chad Mendes for the featherweight interim title at UFC 189, was there a person alive who predicted that 8-months later, after KOing Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, Conor would be fighting Nate Diaz at welterweight? Would anyone have been imagining McGregor vs Lawler or McGregor vs Wonderboy? What about McGregor vs Rockhold? In McGregorland, any fight is a possibility. Isn’t this against the rules or something!?
Conor is fearless in venturing into heavier weight-classes. He didn’t hesitate to pick a fight with RDA at lightweight, even though RDA is arguably the toughest opponent he could have chosen. He’s spoken about a potential superfight with Robbie Lawler at welterweight, and has said he might keep moving up after that. That is, of course, unless someone like Nate Diaz stops Conor’s conquest in its tracks. What are Nate’s chances of derailing the McGregor train? Not very good.
The Not-Too-Complicated Nate Diaz Strategy
In Wednesday’s press conference, Diaz confirmed that he isn’t particularly prepared for this fight. He stated that he hasn’t had a fight camp, and his willingness to announce that suggests that he may be far from the fantastic condition he was in during his December fight with Michael Johnson. Nate’s thoughts on the fight? “I’m just gonna kill or be killed. That’s what I’m comin’ with.” I’ll give him points for clarity and directness, but it’s not the most elegant battle plan. (Update: According to Dana White, Nate was training for a triathlon when he got the call and is in excellent shape!)
The Year of Conor McGregor… Again
On the other hand, the “Notorious” Conor McGregor’s thoughts on the fight are much more specific: “I feel his repetitive foot patterns and his pull motions are too readable, too predictable. He’ll be too slow in there. His speed will stifle him. His soft body and his lack of preparation… he will not be able to handle the ferocity, so… end of the first I feel he will be put away.” While not being super specific about his own strategy, Conor doesn’t mind showing that his eyes are open and his gears are turning. How many ways does he “see” Diaz getting KO’d stiff?
In a show of respect, Conor adds that he recognizes the strength in Diaz to stand up and fight on short notice, while other fighters (Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar) chose to back down (Frankie due to injury and Jose due to… uh… erm… the short notice for which he was supposedly preparing?).
When asked about the pressure that Diaz likes to apply, Conor simply shrugged: “He comes forward, but his understanding of ring generalship and ring control is very amateurish. It’s novice where I come from.” Will Conor catch Nate with his signature Celtic cross? Will he bully Nate against the fence like he did to Chad Mendes and Dennis Siver? Or will the taller, longer Nate Diaz hit Conor harder than he’s ever been hit in the octagon and send McGregor back down to play with smaller featherweights? If the pre-fight trash talk is a sign of things to come, Conor McGregor has the edge, but Nate Diaz is clearly game. If he isn’t game for the fight, he’s definitely game for the paycheck.
What do you think? Does Nate have a chance? Is Conor McGregor delusional in strolling through weight classes? Will it take a middleweight kick from Luke Rockhold to make him think twice about his invincibility? Leave a comment below.