After all the hype and all the bottle-throwing, UFC 202 delivered.
Conor McGregor not only beat Nate Diaz on Saturday night, he might have killed boxing as well. Because that was the kind of fight boxing used to give you.
Two dudes, standing in the middle of the cage, throwing and landing haymakers; a back and forth battle that had you coming off your couch time and time again. Two guys trading shots, taking turns dominating the rounds, battered, and bleeding. Nothing ever lives up to the hype. McGregor-Diaz II did.
In fact it smashed it. That will probably be your fight of the year; and when it’s said and done, an all-time great.
And huge ups to Conor, who wanted this fight at 170. I thought it was crazy to do that. Dana White said on this show, he thought it was crazy. But Conor wanted to run it back exactly as it was when he lost to Nate back in March.
He went to school on that loss, threw himself into an insanely intense camp and came back a different fighter.
His coach, John Kavanagh, told the MMA Hour last week that he and McGregor spent the last 17 to 18 weeks working on cardio, “Upgrading Conor’s engine. Now it’s a super-charged, 800 horsepower, five-liter American muscle car type engine.”
And that engine started strong, dominating from the start, keeping Nate at bay with leg strikes, knocked him down three times, and when he did, he didn’t take the bait and jump on Diaz, which is exactly what Diaz wanted. McGregor let him get back up each time and kept working his plan.
He was way more tactical, strategic and composed than he was in the first fight; when he had Diaz hurt, he didn’t rush in for the kill; the very thing that hurt him so badly the first time they fought.
You knew Conor would start quickly and that Nate would take some serious punishment in the beginning. Just as you knew, Nate would weather the storm. And that he wouldn’t fold. And he didn’t. He never does. He’s only been stopped twice in his career. And he came storming back late in the second round and into the third. Conor was tiring. That muscle car engine looked like it was out of gas, leaking oil and dropping engine parts.
Talk about running it back; it looked like the same exact fight as the first, where Conor dominates early, Nate survives the early battering, Conor gasses, Nate chokes him out and Conor loses to the same guy, at the same weight, two times in a row and is never seen the same way ever again: the dude’s entire rep, brand and career were circling the drain in those moments. Except this time, Nate couldn’t finish him. Despite being in serious, serious trouble, Conor dug deep, something he hasn’t had to do; survived the third round and came back in the fourth with the round of his life.
And then, in the fifth, it was a matter of whether Nate could get Conor down. And he did. But by then, it was way too little, way too late.
Props to The Notorious.