There was little left to the imagination the first two times Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz butted heads. Both fighters thought for sure they’d win both of their first two meetings, yet after two epic UFC clashes, we’ve got a 1-1 draw.
McGregor in all of his glory tapped out for the third time in his MMA career when he stepped up to Diaz’s weight class. Prior to doing so, however, he delivered numerous crushing blows that left the scrappy Diaz bruised and bloodied.
That wasn’t enough, however, and Diaz hung around long enough to take advantage of a completely gassed Notorious in just round two.
Fight two was much different, as McGregor knew to be far more patient, picked his spots wisely, sent Diaz to the ground twice and even avoided a near-catastrophic takedown. In the end, Diaz still made a case to notch a second win, but McGregor took three of five rounds, earning the Decision and notching the UFC’s nastiest rivalry at one win, a piece.
There isn’t much of a question where we go from here.
The story is incomplete and while McGregor tying the score showed us his strong will and ability to fix his flaws, it didn’t for sure tell us who wins this matchup.
The UFC, whether by accident or not, has itself a trilogy that needs to be resolved. The marketing, talent and hype associated in this matchup has surpassed all expectations and there is no doubt a third (and likely final) meeting between McGregor and Diaz will be coming not too far down the road.
Both fighters probably want as much. McGregor still would love to settle the score for good with a good old fashioned knockout, while Diaz can’t love the fact that a victory got stolen by way of Decision. In fact, he’s already made it known that he is “coming for” McGregor again:
The back and forth bickering won’t matter come Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3, however, as all that will matter is who has their armed raised with a second win in the end.
What We’ve Learned
So much has gone on in the past year, as Diaz and McGregor have fueled the fire (and then some) by calling each other names, openly swearing in public and in the media and even throwing bottles of liquid at each other.
Despite the seemingly monstrous amount of two-sided hate here, McGregor actually surprisingly showed some impressive respect for Diaz’s toughness and will to keep chugging along when he discussed fight #2 in the post-fight presser:
Their quick embrace at the end of round five in fight two told us that the respect could go both ways, but that came before we knew who was going to win. Upon learning that he had lost the second meeting, Diaz wasn’t so thrilled and he details his mental state in his own press conference after the fight:
Okay, so this doesn’t tell us a whole lot that’s new. Diaz thought he won, wasn’t happy that he didn’t, thought McGregor wasn’t deserving of the win and wants another crack at him.
That’s not surprising. What is surprising, however, as the amount of respect McGregor showed Diaz after the fight, both immediately after the fight was over and in words in the press conference. Compliments from a brash guy who previously didn’t seem to respect anything about Diaz, that kind of tells us something.
Then again, maybe we should have expected that based on how McGregor fought. He was much more patient and judicious with his movement and striking than he was in the first fight. It was a clear sign of respect for Diaz’s ability to take punches and tire out his opponents and also his overall skill-set. McGregor knew a flat out KO was not going to be easy, and while he declared he’d get one before the fight, he fought the entire time as if he was prepared mentally and physically for the second meeting to go the distance.
We can see that pretty clearly by looking quickly at how the two McGregor vs. Diaz fights went.
McGregor was not a slouch in the first meeting at UFC 196, as he actually truly abused Diaz for much of the first round. He showed a lack of respect for Diaz’s striking and was visibly putting a ton of force behind almost every punch he threw.
Seeking the knockout, McGregor got severely gassed and his lack of respect for Diaz’s skill-set culminated in a tap-out via rear naked choke.
As you can see from the videos, Diaz was very good at trying to bait McGregor to engage on the ground, but the difference here at UFC 202 was how patient and aware McGregor was. That was paramount to McGregor squeaking out the win and tying this series up, 1-1.
McGregor vs. Diaz 3 Breakdown
McGregor was not perfect throughout the second fight, but he delivered numerous fantastic shots, survived the two rounds he didn’t perform that well in and stayed within himself. The reality is when the fight stayed off the ground in both fights, McGregor was the clear aggressor and in both fights inflicted far more damage.
The problem in both fights is that Diaz is no punk. This guy has 11 losses in professional mix martial arts bouts now, but a whopping nine of them have gone the distance. Including UFC 202, Diaz has worked his way to a Decision in 9 of his 11 losses. He’s had one loss by Submission and his other loss came by TKO.
Never being knocked out in the UFC has been a running theme for Diaz, who has proven time and time again that he can take a major beating and either last until the final frame is up or wait until his opponent gets tired or messes up and squeezes out the win.
Diaz has the power and striking to knock people out, the endurance and toughness to wear them down and the ground game to end a match at any moment. McGregor did not appreciate or respect that the first time around, and it cost him dearly.
As impressive as Diaz continues to be, we saw a matured fighter when McGregor took it to the Octagon at UFC 202. He was clearly much more aware of what Diaz could do and had a distinct approach to get the win.
We see this very clearly two times, when McGregor knocked Diaz to the ground and instead of mounting and striking to finish the fight off, he opted for patience and control. Diaz wanted the fight to go to the ground, or to at least get McGregor gassed our somewhat out of his comfort zone. Instead, McGregor dictated this match completely and rightfully earned the Decision in his favor.
It was very interesting to see McGregor evolve to cater to Diaz’s strengths in this fight, as his previous three losses were largely due to recklessness and not surprisingly were all by submission.
When Notorious can keep the fight off the ground, he’s been very tough to beat. The fact that he has added patience and has even worked to improve his ground game could make him virtually unbeatable going forward.
McGregor vs. Diaz 3 Prediction
The running theme in both fights has been patience. McGregor had none in the first meeting and lost and looked way more prepared and decisive in the second meeting and won.
McGregor is going to be the favorite in the third meeting, simply because he really is the better fighter. Had he not gotten careless in the first matchup and been more accepting of a full 5-round fight, instead of hunting for a fast win, it’s possible he’s up 2-0 and we’re not talking about a rubber match.
He needs to keep that same mind-set, continue to respect Diaz’s strong points and maintain control of the third meeting. That’s not exactly a given, as Diaz also can strike very well and easily could notch a KO if McGregor isn’t careful.
All that being said, McGregor is the bigger star for a reason. If he works his game and stays within himself, very few fighters can beat him. He also seems like he has much more to accomplish, and beating Diaz for the first time was a “getting the monkey off the back” situation. Beating Diaz a second time will officially close the book on this tantalizing series, and set McGregor forth on a new, possibly even crazier adventure in the UFC.
As for an exact McGregor vs. Diaz prediction, we’re guessing the third meeting will switch things up, just like the first two meetings. McGregor is known best for his gruesome KO/TKO’s, so instead of a submission or a Decision, we’re banking on Diaz’s shelf life of not getting knocked out finally coming to an end. It’s really hard for a guy to battle Notorious three times and not hit the mat for good, plus it’d be quite compelling for the third meeting to end with Diaz’s first ever MMA knockout loss.