WHAT. A. FIGHT. Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz with the fight of the year, hands down. Both fighters treated us to an all out war, 5 rounds of back and forth action with 330 significant strikes (2nd most in UFC history). Of course, the drama leading up to this fight, with all the trash talking and water bottle throwing made this fight that much better, but these two came into the octagon and entertained better than any two fighters since Lawler vs. McDonald at UFC 189. The hype was immense leading up to the bout, and the difference came from “Notorious” Conor McGregor making the right adjustments from the last fight between the two where he was ultimately submitted by Nate. The only real way to break this fight down is round by round because each one tells a different story and gives us a look into how the judges came out with a 48-47, 47-47, 48-47 decision in favor of McGregor over Nate Diaz.
Round One: 10-9 (McGregor), 10-9 (McGregor), 10-9 (McGregor)
To open up the fight we saw a much more calculated and relaxed Conor McGregor, he had a game plan in mind to attack the lead leg of Nick Diaz and he executed it to perfection. By the mid point of the round you could start to see the bruising on Diaz’s lead leg, which he tends to put a lot of weight on normally but eventually had to switch up in order to start checking the heavy leg kicks Conor was bringing at him. McGregor controlled the octagon for what seemed like the entire round and scored on a big knockdown of Stockton’s own. In addition, looking back I don’t see Nate landing a single significant strike to Conor who looked like he was ready to finish the fight come the second round.
Round Two: 10-9 (McGregor), 10-9 (McGregor), 10-9 (McGregor)
Once again to open up the round we saw a well-calculated, relentless “Notorious”, as he went on to attack the lead leg more and drop Diaz once again. Many people saw this as Conor’s chance to finish the fight but instead of continuing his attack on the ground once he had dropped Diaz for the second time, he decided to hang back. Nate is very aware that Conor may have been a beat weary to go to the ground after the first fight and was egging Conor on to get into his guard but McGregor played it safe and motioned right back for Diaz to stand up with him. At first this seemed like a smart move by McGregor, until fatigue seemed to show as Conor who normally fights at 145 may still not be used to carrying around the 168 pound frame that he was fighting at. Nate Diaz sensed this and the tides started to turn in his favor. Towards the end of round two, Diaz attacked Conor against the cage, hitting him with a few combos that sent McGregor back pedaling against the cage.
Round Three: 10-8 (Diaz), 10-9 (Diaz), 10-9 (Diaz)
Momentum and fatigue. In the third round of the main event Diaz absolutely controlled the action, found his rhythm and made the Featherweight champ uncomfortable. It doesn’t take a fight expert to see McGregor start to fade in this round as he was continuously pushed against the cage and hit with a flurry of kicks, and punch combos. Throughout the fight it seemed that Conor McGregor was okay with getting in close with Nate along the cage and wait for his time to counter and move out of the position, but with fatigue an issue this was a difficult task for him and Diaz made him pay. Fans of the Irish fighter started to see flashbacks of the first fight but surprisingly enough, the man fighting out of Dublin, Ireland survived the punishment of the third round that was all Diaz.
Round Four: 10-9 (McGregor), 10-9 (McGregor), 10-9 (McGregor)
With his newly found momentum it seemed inevitable that Nick Diaz was going to finish McGregor in this round one way or another, especially seeing Conor in his corner gasping for air and coming out in the beginning of the round breathing heavy still. However, Conor McGregor stuck to his game plan of being the more patient fighter, and the two exchanged heavy blows with each other. It was obvious that Diaz was looking to finish the fight here and that Conor was looking to conserve energy and take this one into the 5th and final round. Regardless, this round was just as entertaining as the last, an onslaught of combos from both fighters and a fight fans dream. There were no lulls in the action here and the two were ready to take their chances as they presented themselves, whether they were on an opening with a jab or a counter strike.
Round Five: 10-9 (Diaz), 10-9 (Diaz), 10-9 (Diaz)
At this point of the fight we saw an exhausted Conor McGregor and a bloodied up Nate Diaz. At this point it seemed that Conor was up 3-1 in the judges scorebook and all the Featherweight champ had to do was survive. There were a couple of great exchanges, stuffed takedowns by Conor and an eventual late takedown by Diaz to secure the round for Nate. We saw more of the same from Diaz in this round, pushing Conor against the cage and wearing him out, looking for connections in close and takedowns to try to finish the fight from the ground similar to the first fight. This round definitely went to Nate Diaz but as predicted, Conor McGregor was up in the fight 3-1 and losing the round would be okay, as long as he wasn’t dominated like he was in the third and wasn’t knocked out or submitted by Diaz.
Final Scorecard: 48-47 (McGregor), 47-47, 48-47 (McGregor)
At the end of the night, no one watching this fight went away disappointed because it was an absolute war. The difference being Conor McGregor made the necessary adjustments from their first fight, attacking the leg of Nate Diaz, which has been exposed in the past by a few fighters, and Nate had trouble adjusting to the leg kicks and checking them accordingly. Both men seem to come out winners at the end of this, and I’m more than positive that Dana White had a smile ear to ear at the end of it. Now the question that everyone wants to be answered is, will there be a third fight? Yes, both fighters sounded more than enthusiastic about the possibility and many fans would love to see that. However, if this does occur, do not expect into until another 2 years or so. The UFC is not going to take their chance with their “money maker” Conor McGregor and it’s more than likely we will see him drop back down to 145 to continue to tear apart that division. Not many people would survive two knockdowns like that from the “Notorious”, like Diaz did and I do not see any 145 pounder take those strikes as well as he did. This is a testament to just how strong and powerful McGregor is, but also how tough Diaz is and the incredible stamina showed from him as well. Now from Nate Diaz’s side of the coin, it seems like at this point in his career, Conor is his ticket to a payday. If Nate wants to stay relevant his next fights need to include Donald Cerrone or Conor McGregor. My prediction for the two fighters is that Conor will have a rematch against José Aldo (who he knocked out in 13 seconds) at 145 or at the 155 division against Eddie Alvarez. In the case of Nate Diaz, fully expect a rematch between him and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who looked very impressive just a couple of fights before the main event between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.