As the UFC said, it’s on.
Nate Diaz will be stepping in to face Conor McGregor at the main event of UFC 196 after UFC Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos suffered a foot injury that will sideline him from the event.
Not A Title Fight
The Stockton fighter took the fight on an 11-day notice but McGregor agreed to fight Diaz at a weight of 170 pounds to level the playing field. The bout will remain a five rounder, but it won’t be for a world title, which was the very reason why Conor McGregor is here in the first place.
After winning the featherweight title in December, McGregor chose to move up in weight and challenge Dos Anjos for the 155 title, in the hopes of becoming the first fighter in UFC history to hold two world titles simultaneously. But with Dos Anjos out of commission, McGregor not only will miss that opportunity, he will also be facing a different challenge in Nate Diaz.
The Right Choice?
One half of the UFC’s popular Diaz brothers, Nate was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 5. Although ranked #5 in the UFC Lightweight rankings, Diaz fought at welterweight in his last bout. He’s just 2-3 in his last five fights but was impressive in his most recent outing where he defeated Michael Johnson by unanimous decision. Although he’s not as polished as a fighter Dos Anjos is, Nate Diaz is as tough as they come.
Critics questioned the decision to give the fight to Diaz as Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis and even Urijah Faber offered their services to fight McGregor. But given Diaz’s marketability and his natural trash talking skills, he was the correct business choice and perhaps the safest one to keep McGregor’s train going.
Who Takes This?
McGregor opened as a big -390 favorite in many sports books with Diaz a +350. Those numbers may seem too overstated considering that McGregor is fighting two weight classes above his division.
However, not only is Diaz taking the fight on short notice, he’s taking on one of the best stand-up fighters in the game today. The 25-pound weight jump may look too huge for Conor McGregor but Diaz himself fought at 155 for most of his career. He isn’t too big for McGregor to handle so size won’t be much of a factor here.
On their feet, McGregor is the better and smarter striker. Diaz though is tough as nails and won’t back down from anybody so it’s interesting to see what gives here. Diaz has good submission skills and is a jiu jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie while McGregor’s ground game is still considered suspect. The question here is if Diaz can take McGregor to the ground. That’s always easier said than done. Having said those, Conor predicted a first round KO of Diaz. Given Nate’s reputation as a tough guy, it won’t be easy. However, we still expect McGregor to finish Diaz in three rounds.