UFC 202 is just a few days away, and I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty excited to see how that main event plays out.
Both guys have a full camp behind them this time, and both have something to prove. Conor needs to show the world that he’s as good as the hype behind him, and Nate has to end the speculation that he only won because he was the bigger guy or because McGregor’s cardio was shot.
I think with a full fight camp, Nate Diaz should do even better than he did the last time. Conor obviously has some idea of what to expect now, so he’s going to come into this one in much better shape than the first fight. The last thing he wants is to tire out in the early rounds against a guy who’s been competing in triathlons for the last several years and has cardio for days.
Nate’s a very well-rounded MMA fighter. Conor’s a guy that’s really good on his feet and moves well. He can try and defend the takedowns, but he’s not quite there yet. He’s not the complete package, he’s not a full mixed martial artist and he’s not that well-rounded. I think he showed that in the first fight, and I’m actually thinking this one will be worse on him because Nate will be coming in prepared.
That’s not to say that Conor won’t be prepared too, but Nate’s already got the complete set of tools at his disposal—an entire arsenal of weapons. Conor has great striking, flashy footwork and decent takedown defense, but then what?
Nate’s got excellent striking and a pretty big size advantage (3 inches in height, 2 inches in reach). He uses his jab well and he has power. He’s got a good chin on him, as we all saw that Conor’s best punches may have cut him, but they didn’t stop him. He’s a durable guy that doesn’t panic under pressure and over the last couple years, seems to have really fine-tuned his skill set into a well-oiled machine.
I’m not underestimating McGregor’s ability to win. He absolutely has a chance to win here. He’s got legitimate power and very dynamic striking. He uses angles well, and he’s great at baiting guys to charge him. His kicks are flashy, but they’re really just an instrument he uses to set up his good countering when someone ends up taking the bait (side note: Nate did not take the bait in the first fight).
This fight is going to come down to a few different factors:
Nate’s superior ground game. When you spend 20 years grappling, you tend to be great at squeezing the consciousness out of mouthy Irishmen.
Height and length advantages aren’t necessarily a boon to every fighter’s skillset, but in Diaz’s case, it is, because he uses it effectively.
Granite chins are not a regular phenomenon in this sport. When you’ve fought at the highest level 30 times, eaten the best shots from guys like dos Anjos, Cerrone, Maynard, Guillard and a bunch of other names that escape me at the moment, and only one of those resulted in a TKO stoppage, it’s safe to say that Diaz has a great chin on him. Don’t forget, he had no problems with Conor’s big punches in the first fight.
If I had to pick a round, I’d say the third, and I think it will end up with Nate finishing the fight with some nasty ground and pound. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, in this sport, anyone can win on any given day.
I just have a feeling that Saturday won’t be Conor McGregor’s day.