Diaz vs. McGregor 2 Breakdown - Learn, Redefine, Win


Without a shadow of a doubt, UFC 202 delivered the high-octane action we were supposed to see at 200. Saturday's Pay-Per-View truly highlighted some of the key components in Mixed Martial Arts: technique, violence and unpredictability. With 9 different finishes, it's among the most memorable events I've had the privilege to cover. The main event saw one of the most popular fighters in the history of the sport, Conor McGregor, get the win back over rival Nate Diaz. It was a jaw-dropping, back-and-forth scrap that exceeded expectations. There's a lot to talk about, so let's get to it.

You've heard this numerous times, but going back to the first bout at UFC 196, The Notorious didn't really have a gameplan. He was looking for the early flashy knock out, throwing many haymakers in the first round. After that, he was exhausted. Diaz took over and ultimately made him tap.

The funny thing is, some of the bombs Conor landed that night would have dropped most featherweights and lightweights. That's another aspect I loved about the fight going in: the clash of styles. In many ways, Nate is Conor's perfect archenemy. The MMA Gods handed him the right set of tools to negate Mystic Mac's strongest assets. McGregor's game is highlighted by powerful hands, effective mental games, and a great understanding of distance. But Diaz has an iron chin, a complete 'no f*cks given' attitude that keeps him from being broken, and an even more impressive utilization of range


If he wanted to come out on top, Conor needed to redefine his modus operandi. To many people's surprise, he did. The McGregor that showed up at 202 was a changed man. From the walk-out, you could tell he was an individual on a mission. The fun and distraction was over. He was focused.

Let's start with his strategy. To put it bluntly, it was brilliant. Coach Kavanagh and the SBG team made sure Conor improved on the areas that required work for this specific opponent. First off, leg kicks. During the post-fight presser, McGregor confirmed how much he dislikes using them. Nevertheless, they were crucial. Peppering Nate's lower limb with fantastic timing had two purposes: it disrupted his rhythm while removing some of the power in his shots (Diaz puts a ton of pressure on the lead leg).


Moving on, The Notorious also diversified his striking variety. The utilization of the jab saved Conor later in the bout, but it was also useful early on. It allowed him to cleverly close distance without big, explosive movements. A particular strike that really impressed me were the elbows. In my opinion, they've always been heavily underutilized. The Irish King landed numerous razor-sharp elbows while angling out of the clinch.

Finally, his fight IQ was through the roof. In my pre-fight analysis, I mentioned that he had to check his ego at the door. Diaz would try to turn this into a dirty brawl (an area in which he thrives), constantly provoking Conor to exchange with him. Once again, he did the right thing. From bell to bell, he remained patient and composed. Keeping a cool head was key to defending most of the takedown attempts and escaping the clinch exchanges with technique.


Putting all of this together resulted in a surgical first-round performance. He dominated every distance, rocking Diaz twice and dropping him once. The same could be said for the majority of the second round. McGregor seemed unstoppable and Nate had no answer.

That's when we were reminded that regardless of how great your gameplan is, you're in for a rough night when you step into the octagon with a Diaz brother. After eating an insane amount of left counter overhands, leanbacks and slips, Nate came into the third round ready for war. As Conor slowed down, he finally got comfortable, landing a barrage of punches that nearly finished The Notorious. Going into the fourth, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. For a second, it seemed like things were about to play out exactly the same way as 196. Nate is a facial mess, but he's still good to go. Conor is breathing heavy and looks dazed.


As the sixty seconds before the start of the fourth quickly transpired, McGregor found something within himself. A special 'it' you can't recreate or suddenly obtain. World champions are born with it. In the moment of truth, he dug deep and found the motivation to pull a comeback and get his hand raised. Back to the bout, he intelligently used the jab to buy the time he needed to recover. Plus, he repeatedly connected on Nate's body, which caused him to slow down. SBG's philosophy turns around the phrase 'Win or Learn'. Conor proved it's not just a catchy slogan. In their last contest, he failed to overcome the adversity that was presented in the cage. After learning from defeat, he returned and prevailed over the nightmare. In a few words, he not only conquered the 4th round and went on to win a majority decision. He won a mental war withing himself. One only the best mixed martial artists can vanquish.


Following the fight, the two gladiators shared a friendly embrace. For a second, we nearly forgot they had tried to kill each other for 25 minutes in an all-time classic. Two legendary fighters, they left us with the biggest fight in UFC history. The biggest until the next time they meet, that is.

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