UFC 196 Preview: How Conor McGregor and Holly Holm Could Lose
Conor McGregor is an untamed beast that stands in as the UFC’s top featherweight, both in rank and as the champion. He boasts a stout 19-2 mark, took down Jose Aldos in just 13 seconds in his last title fight and hasn’t lost since 2010.
Mark that down as a cool 15 straight wins for the man they call Notorious, including 17 by KO/TKO. Some have argue that he’s more a star than a fighter, however, and that even though his bout with Nate Diaz at Saturday night’s UFC 196 event isn’t for his belt, it’s still a spot where he could go down.
While unlikely, it’s interesting to ponder McGregor being torn down from his throne atop the UFC, as he’s quickly risen to elite status and hasn’t been quiet about it in the least. But on a night where a Diaz brother could make things a little too interesting for comfort, could we see even more shock with Holly Holm losing in her first ever title defense?
There is a ton of pressure staring back at Holm, which is much different than her bout with Ronda Rousey, where all of the pressure was on Rousey. Holm shocked the UFC world by stealing the women’s Bantamweight title with a knockout via kick, but her date with Miesha Tate could be a little different.
McGregor vs. Diaz Odds
The odds do not suggest McGregor is about to lose for the first time since 2010. Mystic Mac enters as the heavy favorite (-465), opposed to Diaz (+370) who has an arguably pedestrian 18-10 record to this point.
The fight was supposed to be a majorly hyped showdown with Rafael dos Anjos (25-7), but a foot injury killed that matchup and the UFC did an admirable job of finding the capable Diaz to fill in. That takes away the title fight element in this one, and makes it less of a crushing blow if McGregor doesn’t take this fight as serious as he should.
Chances are McGregor still doesn’t want to lose to Diaz, and if his mind is right, he really shouldn’t. There is no denying McGregor has the more polished resume and certainly has fewer slip-ups. More importantly, Notorious has been on top of his game for about five years straight now, and lucky or not, made rather quick work of Jose Aldos not too long ago.
Can Diaz Pull it Off?
But where does a potential upset come in? Rousey went down not too long ago and we see crazy upsets in MMA all the time, so odds aside, it’s always possible for a fighter to rise up and shock the world.
A good start is a height and reach advantage for Diaz, who towers over the Irishman by a good three inches. The reach could make things interesting if we see an all-out brawl – especially if McGregor decides to charge at Diaz early.
McGregor is likely to take his time in this one, though, knowing that he’s the superior boxer. If Mystic Mac simply waits for his spot, he could find the perfect punch in due time. Of course, that leaves two realistic options for Diaz: to take McGregor to the ground or somehow win in a straight up strike for strike battle.
Either path is unlikely to lead to an upset. McGregor is the superior fighter when it comes to speed, positioning and power. A straight up fight works greatly to his advantage. McGregor has also shown to be quite a strong defender when it comes to takedown attempts, while even if taken to the ground, McGregor could stand a good chance to escape due to Diaz’s subpar floor game.
That brings us to two realistic possibilities: Diaz gets a lucky punch in and McGregor drops en route to the shocking of the world, or Diaz goes the distance and somehow scores better and gets a Decision. Any Decision is likely to go to McGregor, though, making Diaz a very tough upset bid on Saturday.
An upset is always fun, even without a title, but we wouldn’t bit on it happening in this matchup. We’ll take McGregor in the second round.
Holm vs. Tate Odds
Due to a title fight alone, this feels like a bigger fight. It’s probably not in reality, though, unless Tate can shock us all with a massive upset. Holm is riding high after taking down what many felt was the best female UFC star to ever exist to this point, and she’s also a perfect 10-0 in MMA fighting.
But defending titles is a lot different that surprising a submission specialist like Rousey – especially when boxing was always known to be her weakness. That being said, Vegas doesn’t love the potential for an upset in this bout either, giving Holm the obvious nod (-345) with Tate coming in at +285.
The first big thing to consider here is the fact that we always need to expect the unexpected. Few really felt that Holm, even with a distinct skill advantage over Rousey, could beat her. Rousey was insanely dominant and was tearing down barriers (and opponents) in record time. But the mighty fell just months ago, and the new mighty one could fall on Saturday, as well.
But will she? It’s tough to doubt Holm at this point, as she decidedly destroyed the best women’s MMA star there ever was, and she came into that title win with an unblemished 9-0 mark. The 34-year old “Preacher’s Daughter” wasn’t too shabby in her own sports before diving into the MMA scene, either, winning titles as a boxer (18 straight title defenses) and one tournament title as a kickboxer.
Needless to say, Holm is highly skilled and can kill her opponent straight up with her hands and is always a threat with her feet.
Tate Has a Chance
Tate is no slouch, though. She went almost three rounds with the roided beast that is Cat Zingano and she didn’t back down in two showdowns with the great Rousey. Riding four straight wins since last losing to Rowdy Ronda, Tate now looks primed to take back the title she originally won back in 2009.
Due to her elite grappling ability, Tate is a fantastic counter fighter to Holm, much like Rousey was. Her obvious strength is her ability to counter moves and win on take downs. Ultimately, that’s going to give her one realistic shot at upsetting Holm and taking back the Bantamweight title: submission.
The first part of getting to that point will be keeping away from Holm’s jabs and kicks. Luckily for her, she’s had recent experience with this in a few fights and it’s obviously gone well for her during her win streak.
The biggest thing to consider here, though, is Tate’s potential patience. When met with elite boxers, she has learned to pick her spots, rather than to race into punches. If she can take her time and avoid a blurred, hurried frenzy like Rousey did, she can find the right moment to counter Holm and take her down. Once on the ground, Tate’s superior wrestling skills could potentially be on full display.
Holm Has to Win
The odds do not suggest this, and just as Holm was prepared for Rousey’s desire to end the match quickly, she’ll be just as ready for Tate to try to be patient. Look for Holm to try to lure Tate into a punching match. If that happens, you can take a Holm win to the bank.
Even if you’re pulling for Tate, let’s consider what awaits us: a title rematch between Holm and Rousey. Everyone wants to see that fight happen again no matter what, but how much bigger and meaningful will it be if Holm still has the title. Or think of how much bigger of a star she will be after defending her title here and maybe 1-2 more times? Holm has the odds and goods to win her first title defense, and a very big way, for the sake of women’s MMA, she kind of has to.
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