UFC 202 takes place on 20th August at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, where the highly anticipated rematch will be held between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor.
McGregor, the Irishman who has evolved into the superstar of the MMA world, suffered his first UFC loss to Diaz back at UFC 196 on March 2016. Ending a 15-fight winning streak, Diaz caused an upset when he landed a series of crisp combinations, before sealing the deal in a rear naked choke in the second round to submit a dazed and exhausted McGregor. This has been an unexpected obstacle in the journey of McGregor, who was originally slated to face the Brazilian, Rafael Dos Anjos at 155 lbs (lightweight). However, Dos Anjos – the lightweight title holder at the time – broke his foot during training, and as a result the superfight fell through. With an empty slot in the main event and McGregor eager for a new opponent, the slugger from Stockton stepped up to the plate with only 10 days notice. They agreed to fight at welterweight (170 lbs), one weight class higher than Diaz’s natural weight and unchartered territory for McGregor who had fought all his UFC bouts at 145 lbs.
Prior to UFC 196, the McGregor hype train was in full motion. His unassailable confidence was backed up by hugely impressive performances on his way to dispatching the most dominant fighter in Featherweight history – Jose Aldo. However, during the pre-fight press conferences, Diaz seemed undeterred by the articulate McGregor’s humorous insults and audacious claims. The heavier, longer and vastly more experienced Stockton native went on to pull off an upset in vintage Diaz fashion. He was a significant underdog, with the majority of fans and media tipping McGregor for an impressive win. The train was derailed.
So what can we expect for the rematch? Will McGregor deliver on his prediction of a second round KO or will Diaz go about his stubborn unforgiving style and wear McGregor down again? What does history suggest?
We have investigated every rematch that has taken place in the UFC to identify how many repeat winners there have been, along with how many fighters avenged their loss and won the rematch. We have also broken down how each rematch was finished to give an idea of what we can expect at UFC 202.
Historic UFC rematches: Chuck Liddell on his way to a second round KO victory over Tito Ortiz (left). Georges St. Pierre dominating Matt Serra and avenging his loss (right).
So the stats suggest another win for Diaz is most likely, with 58% of all rematches resulting in a repeat winner. That figure includes rubber matches where the winner of the first bout went on to be victorious in the third. Excitingly, the stats also suggest that this rematch is more likely to be finished via a knockout. Now, you can argue that this would be unexpected considering McGregor has never suffered a KO and Diaz only once in his long career. However, we simply cannot rule this out. McGregor’s strength is his accurate and powerful striking – attributes he used well early on in the first fight as he inflicted heavy damage upon Diaz, only to succumb to the American’s counter. When predicting how this rematch will conclude, there are various factors and stats to consider.
So let’s have a detailed look at the tape:
Diaz’s strengths lie in his boxing and ground game as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt along with an experience of fighting top level fighters. McGregor’s strengths also lie in his boxing, complemented by fluid movement and an array of kicking techniques. He has the confidence to pick opponents apart with an unrelenting flow of clinical striking. A theme of McGregor’s fighting style landing 5.74 significant strikes per minute – the 7th highest in the UFC. Diaz clearly has a superior ground game however, he rarely attempts takedowns either to show these skills off and what makes this fight so compelling is that he also prefers the fight on the feet. He relies on his boxing ability with a unique style of throwing a continual onslaught of strikes to wear is opponent down. Although he does not possess the movement of McGregor, he backs his technique and chin to stand in front of fighters breaking them down, punch after punch demonstrated by holding the record of landing the 4th most significant strikes out of any UFC fighter in history. This all came into fruition in their first bout. McGregor was successful in the first round, sniping Diaz with laser like punches. However Diaz responded in kind with his own boxing, absorbing McGregor’s shots until he tagged him clean on the jaw before wrapping up a submission. See below for a statistical breakdown of the fight:
As you can see, the fight was relatively even. Diaz landed slightly more strikes but the fate of the bout came with a couple of significant strikes from Diaz, leading to a desperate failed takedown attempt by McGregor, allowing Diaz to finish him on the ground. It is fair to say McGregor was complacent in his performance.
McGregor: "I felt I took him in the first round, but I was inefficient with my energy. He was efficient, I wasn't efficient... I took a chance, came up weight, and it didn't work out."
McGregor expected to win comfortably but underestimated the bigger and hugely talented Diaz, but this was more than a loss for him. He is on a journey fuelled by his belief to be one of the most successful fighters in UFC history. After conquering the Featherweight division after just seven fights, his eyes turned to big names in higher weight classes, believing he could steamroll them as well – not just for big money and superstardom but to affirm his legacy. This is why McGregor was so adamant that he fights Nate Diaz again under the exact same circumstances as their first bout, to avenge his loss and recapture his credibility.
McGregor: "It makes sense for me to have the contest at 170 to right the wrong, to leave no questions....what kind of fighter would I be if I lost a contest and then said, well I’ll cut a load of weight and get you next time. It makes a lot of sense to do it at 170, to right the wrong.”
This is the most important fight of his career. When he came to the UFC, he had a whole country of fans behind him making a lot of noise. His brash and cocky persona got everyone’s attention, not necessarily for the right reasons as he was yet to prove himself on the biggest stage. However, he has backed up his bold claims with a series of impressive knockouts, successfully honeydicking masses of fans to board his hype train (even including fans from USA). Diaz could destroy all of this hype and kill McGregor’s legacy. However, an impressive, prepared performance and a finish can get the McGregor train back on the tracks and reignite his dominance. He simply cannot afford to make any mistakes in this rematch.
McGregor : “I will come in correct, prepared, sharp and I will take this man out. This time I'm preparing for a tall, lengthy, ugly, Mexican southpaw. I'm going to go in and put this man away, and that's it."
This rematch is so compelling. These chilling claims from McGregor are not just hype, trying to build up the fight. He means every word and has carried out a more prepared and meticulous training camp than he has ever done before.
But then we have Diaz, who has every reason to be full of confidence. Will Diaz be naive and expect the same McGregor? Will McGregor be able to keep the fight on the feet and find a way to break Diaz? All we do know is that the anticipation of this rematch is absolutely simmering.