The most pertinent question that came out of Conor McGregor’s first meeting with Nate Diaz was whether he could rally from behind to secure a win when the chips were down.
We had seen McGregor lose fights before, but never quite in the fashion that Nate Diaz defeated him.
Having watched McGregor fight for over six years, I have never seen him hurt from an exchange and undoubtedly, when Diaz found him on the end of his jab-cross combination in the second round back in March, ‘The Notorious’ diving in for a takedown was proof enough that he had been rattled by his opponent.
A few short transitions later, Diaz was eliciting the tap heard around the world from the Irishman.
Granted, McGregor was competing 25 lbs heavier than he was used to, but a fighter’s failure to survive in a firefight is something that can be held against them for their entire career.
In the third round of the rematch last weekend, McGregor found himself in a very similar situation. With his back against the fence, Diaz threw damaging combos at the featherweight champion who did his best to evade the shots, but due to the volume they came at, he was being hit quite regularly.
John McCarthy was closing in on McGregor, keeping a very close eye on him as he continued to eat blows. Just when it seemed the veteran referee had seen enough, the bell sounded for the end of the round.
Turning the Tables
McGregor’s reaction to his worsening situation in the fourth round was nothing short of fantastic.
He came out strong. Knowing that he couldn’t let himself get forced up against the fence where Diaz always does damage, he reeled off some flurries before attacking his foe’s torso. Diaz folded at the midriff from the stinging body shots, and unable to launch any significant offense in such a vulnerable position, McGregor was able to take the round and shake some of the cloudiness from the third round.
Just like he was after suffering his first loss under the UFC banner, ‘The Notorious’ was very honest when describing the situation in his press conference.
“I knew I was going to have that moment where he was going to be in my face and under my chin and unloading. I caught shots and deflected shots and then hit him to the body a couple of times and turned the momentum in my favor. But it was a hell of a fight. He's a hell of a competitor. The whole lot of it brought out the best in me, forced me to look at myself truly.”
Bye, Bye Welterweight
McGregor needs to be patted on the back for his two outings at welterweight. Taking the initial fight with Diaz on eleven days notice was really a move he made to indulge the Irish fans that traveled across for the fight. The second time around, nobody even wanted to see the Irishman back in the higher weight class, but he did it just to get the win back against Diaz.
The second trip to 170 lbs definitely worked out in his favor, but McGregor took more damage in two fights at welterweight that he had probably accumulated in all of his professional tests to date before moving up to 170.
The reasons he gave for moving back down were a bit more superficial than that, though:
“I want to get my abs back,” he said as some of the gathered media broke into laughter. “I don’t have abs at this weight. I can’t get abs even though I’m eating good. Sometimes I feel I have a fat belly.
“I’m going to go down in weight. I’m the 145 champion. The 155-pound [championship] is there. When I fight Nate again, it will be at 155 lbs. It will be on my terms this time. I came up, I didn't make any excuses or stipulations to try and get this win back.”
The sensational fight also proved that McGregor still has the hunger to exist at the top of the food chain in the UFC.
A lot of people correlated his overconfidence and devil-may-care attitude to taking on Diaz as a clear sign that he felt invincible.
During their last fight McGregor tried to talk to Diaz and go headhunting, yet, when that didn’t work, he seemed to run out of ideas and energy completely before being submitted in the second round.
This time, the fact that McGregor had a clear game plan proved that he was hungry to get his revenge. He stayed composed when Diaz goaded him in, utilized leg kicks to stifle his attacks and obviously spent a lot of time working on his conditioning having been able to last the distance.
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