When UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos made a last-minute withdrawal from his scheduled title defense against featherweight king Conor McGregor, UFC 196 looked like it could be doomed. The card had lost its history-making main event less than two weeks out from fight night, and it was difficult to say whether the UFC would be able to find a suitable replacement on such short notice. Thankfully, the organization came through by bringing in Stockton’s Nate Diaz for a last-minute showdown with McGregor—at welterweight.
This wild main event topped a card that featured action in six of the UFC’s most popular divisions, including a women’s bantamweight title fight between Holly Holm and Miesha Tate in the co-main event. And though the UFC 196 we ended up with was far from the UFC 196 we initially expected, the card’s many wild stoppages, back-and-forth battles, and surprise shakeups rendered it an unforgettable night of fighting all the same.
Here’s a recap of the action for those who missed it!
The Main Card:
Diaz Chokes McGregor in Game-Changing Shakeup
Though an injury to Rafael Dos Anjos meant that featherweight king Conor McGregor would not be contending for the lightweight crown at UFC 196, he would ultimately find himself in the cage with Nate Diaz in an unexpected welterweight bout that, in many ways, was more intriguing than the main event we originally expected. McGregor entered the bout having swiped the featherweight title from Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds in December, with the goal of working his way to the title in a second division. Diaz, meanwhile, walked onto the canvas having blown through Michael Johnson in December, on the hunt for the biggest win of his career.
Against all odds, the Stockton hero got that win.
Of course, McGregor did not make it easy for him. The first frame saw the Irish superstar bloody his back-peddling foe and even the score with a takedown. The second, however, was a different story. Diaz found his range as if it was as simple as flicking a switch, and began to rock McGregor with snappy combinations to the dome. From there, McGregor shot for a takedown in a telltale sign of desperation—landing right in Diaz’s wheel house. The largely unheralded American threatened first with a guillotine, before rolling into position for a rear-naked choke. Then came the tap.
With this shocking win, McGregor-Mania comes to a skittering halt. Of course, the Irishman can take solace in his ground-breaking million-dollar payday, and can also look forward to returning to featherweight to defend his title, yet the reality is that his mystique took a real blow in Vegas. He’s now 19-3 overall, with all of his losses coming by way of submission.
Diaz, meanwhile, leaves Sin City with the biggest win of his career, and a fat, disclosed payday of $500,000. He’s now 19-10-1 overall, and continues to emerge as one of MMA’s most beloved figures.
Tate Sleeps Holm with Late Rear-Naked Choke
Though it was the first UFC title fight to co-headline under a non-title fight since UFC 51, UFC 196’s co-main event was a big one. In one corner, we had bantamweight queen Holly Holm, who looked to make her first defense after shocking the world with a title-synching destruction of Ronda Rousey. In the other, we had long-time contender Miesha Tate, who looked to capitalize on Rousey’s division-shaking loss and swipe the crown for herself.
It was a truly dramatic affair.
Round one was razor-close, as challenger and champion circled, scanning for openings. Round two, meanwhile, resided lopsidedly in the corner of Tate, who scored an early takedown and very nearly ended things with a rear-naked choke. Rounds three and four, on the other hand, saw Holm find her range, shrugging off all of her challenger’s takedowns, and punishing her with kicks to the legs and body. Round five, finally, is where we got our definitive end.
Evidently sensing she was down on the cards, Tate made a desperate dive for a takedown, and after a short struggle, found success. From there, she jumped to Holm’s back, locked up a rear-naked choke, and sung the champ to sleep with a squeeze. In a twist that few could have expected during the Ronda Rousey era, Miesha Tate is now the women’s bantamweight champion.
With this unforgettable title-swiping performance, which marks the first time we’ve seen the championship rounds in a UFC women’s bantamweight title fight, Tate moves to 18-5 overall. Holm, meanwhile, experiences her first MMA loss. She’s now 10-1 in sum.
Latifi Decisions Villante in Tepid Affair
The second of the main card’s two light heavyweight showdowns saw Chris Weidman stablemate Gian Villante mix it up with long-time Alexander Gustafsson training partner Ilir Latifi. Both fighters looked to build on the momentum of first-round knockout wins, as Villante recently smoked Anthony Perosh, and Latifi scored a 30-second dusting of Sean O’Connell in January.
Despite the abruptness of both men’s recent wins, however, this one turned out to be a fairly tepid affair. Though both fighters landed a handful of meaningful strikes, there seemed to be a reluctance to engage on both their parts. Despite the lack of action, however, the judges sided unanimously with Latifi—probably on the strength of the 3 takedowns he landed in the bout’s second half.
The victory, which is Latifi’s third in a row, moves him to 12-4 overall. The hulking Swede, who now sharpens his tools American Top Team, is slowly emerging as a real contender at 205 lbs. Villante, on the other hand, returns to the loss column with an overall record of 14-7, and a 4-4 mark in the UFC.
Anderson Scores Debatable Decision Over Lawlor
The first of the main card’s back-to-back light heavyweight bouts paired former middleweight Tom Lawlor with TUF 19 winner Corey Anderson. Lawlor entered the bout with the intention of making it 2-0 in his return to light heavyweight, while Anderson looked to build on the momentum of decision triumphs over Jan Blachowicz and Fabio Maldonado.
It was a very close fight. Lawlor was able to rock his foe in the first, and carried that momentum into the first half of the second. Anderson, meanwhile, stole the momentum in the latter half of the second round, and scored big with 2:47 of control time in the third. In the end, it was Anderson who would leave Las Vegas with the intended result—though his being awarded a 30-27 by two judges is downright laughable.
With this win, Anderson continues his rise of the light heavyweight ranks. He now owns a strong 8-1 overall record, and sits at 5-1 in the UFC. Lawlor, meanwhile, clearly had a hard time swallowing the judges’ verdict. Nonetheless, he’ll return to the drawing board with a 10-6 overall record, and 1-1 mark in his second stint at 205 lbs.
Nunes Weathers Tough Third Round for Unanimous Nod
The main card began in the women’s bantamweight division, as Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko met in a bout that, were it not for the looming return of Ronda Rousey, would probably produce the division’s next title challenger. Nunes entered the bout on the heels of back-to-back stoppages of Shayna Baszler and Sara McMann, while Shevchenko stepped onto the canvas with a successful debut over Sarah Kaufman in the rear-view.
Though she absorbed some stinging knees, elbows, and punches in the third, this one ultimately came down to Nunes’ efforts in the first and second, where she landed two takedowns, threatened with three submissions, and more than quadrupled Shevchenko’s striking output.
With the unanimous decision win, Nunes extends her streak to three, and emerges as the bantamweight division’s most deserving contender not named Ronda Rousey. She’s now 12-4 overall, and 5-1 in 6 UFC bouts. Shevchenko, meanwhile, loses for just the second time. She’s now 12-2 overall, and 1-1 on the sport’s biggest stage.
Bahadurzada Scores Late Sub over Thatch
UFC 196’s stacked preliminary card was wrapped up by a compelling clash of welterweight strikers. In one corner, stood the towering Brandon Thatch, who looked to bounce back from a duo of losses to Benson Henderson and Gunnar Nelson. In the other was Afghanistan’s Siyar Bahadurzada, who who was returning to action for the first time since a pair of losses in 2013.
Just like it was in his last two bouts, the story of this one was Thatch’s deficit in the grappling department. Over the course of the fight, Bahadurzada—who is not known for his wrestling—succeeded on all four of his attempted takedowns, which he used to batter his foe with ground-and-pound and ultimately lock up a third-round arm-triangle choke.
The win is Bahadurzada’s first since a 2012 knockout of Paulo Thiago. The brick-fisted welterweight is now 22-6-1 overall, and 2-2 as a UFC fighter. Thatch, on the other hand, experiences his third consecutive loss—all of which came by way of submission. He’s now 11-4 overall.
Taleb Scores Highlight Reel Knockout Over Silva
The second last bout of the prelims went down at welterweight, as Canada’s Nordine Taleb mixed it up with Brazil’s Erick Silva, a former prospect who looked to reinvent himself under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. Unfortunately for Silva, the camp change didn’t yield the intended results.
After a fairly competitive first round, Taleb found an opening for a highlight reel KO, planting an explosive straight right on his opponent’s forehead to send him twirling into a face-plant on the canvas.
With this blistering knockout win, Taleb rebounds from an August submission loss to Warlley Alves. The 34-year-old Tristar rep is now 12-3 overall, and 4-1 since joining the UFC in early 2014. Silva, meanwhile, falls to 18-7 and now sits at .500 in the UFC with a 6-6 promotional record. His days as the division’s most hyped prospect have all but vanished in the rear-view.
Miranda Snuffs Guimaraes with Head Kick and Punches
The lone middleweight bout of the night paired rival Brazilians Marcelo Guimaraes and Vitor Miranda. The encounter marked Miranda’s attempt to turn a two-fight streak into three, while Guimaraes returned to the Octagon for the first time since a mid-2014 defeat of Andy Enz.
While the first round of this one was close, Miranda found his way to an impressive stoppage in the second. It began with a series of elbows, as Guimaraes pursued a takedown. Moments later, it ended with a head kick and three-punch combination against the cage.
The TKO win is Miranda’s third in a row. The 36-year-old Muay Thai specialist is now 12-4 overall, and 3-1 in the UFC. Guimaraes, on the other hand, falls to 9-2-1 in sum, and 2-2 in the UFC.
Elkins Batters Skelly to Unanimous Decision
The first televised bout of the night occurred in the featherweight division. In one corner, we had Texas native Chas Skelly, who has been sneaking his way up the divisional rankings for some time. In the other, we had gritty veteran Darren Elkins, who seems to have found new life as a member of Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male.
Despite a trio of first-round leg lock attempts from Skelly, this one turned out to be a blowout for Elkins. Over the course of the bout’s three rounds, the Indiana native embodied pressure, succeeding on 6 of 7 takedown attempts and unleashing a whopping 144 total strikes to Skelly’s 45—more than enough to earn a sound, unanimous decision.
With the win, Elkins builds on the momentum of an October defeat of Robert Whiteford. He’s now 20-5 overall, and with 9 wins as a UFC featherweight, is now the second winningest fighter in the division. Skelly, meanwhile, loses for just the second time. He’s now 15-2 overall and 4-2 inside the Octagon.
Sanchez Edges Miller in Competitive Scrap
The Fight Pass Prelims were wrapped up by grizzled lightweight veterans Jim Miller and Diego Sanchez, who touched down in Vegas with a combined 45 UFC bouts.
As many expected, it was a fun fight. The first round clearly belonged to Sanchez, who spent the majority of the round raining down strikes from top position. Round two, in contrast, was stolen by Miller, who landed the better strikes and controlled things on the mat. Round three, finally, was as close as they come, culminating with an unenviable task for the ring-side judges.
In the end, those judges sided unanimously with Sanchez, who tastes victory for the first time since June of 2014 as a result. The Jackson-Wink staple is now 26-8 overall, and a 2-3 in his last 5. In defeat, Miller falls onto a two fight skid, and loses for the fourth time in his last five endeavors. He’s now 25-8 overall.
Saggo Smashes Salas in One
The second bout of the evening came courtesy of the lightweight division, as Canada’s Jason Saggo and Grudge Training Center’s Justin Salas looked to rebound from 2014 losses to Paul Felder and Joe Proctor respectively.
This one was all Saggo. Relying on the slick grappling for which he’s become known, the PEI native quickly locked up back mount, before pouring on the ground-and-pound for a lopsided, first-round triumph.
Saggo, who has scored the stoppage in all of his pro wins, is now 11-2 overall, and will head back to The Great White North with his first victory since thrashing Josh Shockley in June of 2014. Salas, meanwhile, falls to a tough 12-7 overall and now owns a 3-4 UFC record.
Ishihara Thumps Erosa in the Second
UFC 196 was kicked off by Washington’s Julian Erosa and Team Alpha Male Japan rep Teruto Ishihara, who met in an exciting featherweight duel.
This one came down to the power of Ishihara, who forced an abrupt halt to the action in the second round with a thudding left hook and a series of follow-up hammer-fists.
With the win, the 24-year-old moves to 8-2-2 overall, and will return to Japan with his first UFC triumph. Erosa, meanwhile, experiences his first knockout loss, and will leave Las Vegas with a 15-3 overall record.
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