With UFC 196 in the books what did we learn?
In the co-main event, Las Vegas underdog Miesha Tate defeated Holly Holm to become the new Women’s Bantamweight Champion. In the main event, it was also Vegas underdog Nate Diaz who backed up a week-plus of heated back and forth trash talk to choke out the Notorious Conor McGregor.
Not only were both of the winners respective underdogs, but they showed unfathomable heart.
I would argue that Miesha was down 39-36 heading into the fifth round. To her credit, she nearly put Holm away in the second round with a takedown and with ensuing submission attempts. Holm’s face may have been blue, but she found a way to hold on in the second round.
Up until the fateful submission finale, Holm was dictating the pace of the fight. She stuffed 6 of Tate’s 7 takedown attempts. Her oblique kicks and the ever-present threat of her haymakers kept Tate at bay.
In the fifth and final round, Tate found a way. With only 2 minutes left in the fight, Tate boldly chose to absorb a left punch from Holm just so she could attempt a takedown.
She snuck behind Holm, grabbed a hold of her and never let go. The will and fight in Meisha’s eyes were indescribable. Even with all her might, Holm could not shake Miesha loose.
This was Miesha’s last chance. She knew she was behind on the scorecard. Her entire life’s work had led to this moment and the clock was ticking.
Tate meticulously placed her right arm under Holm’s chin and the beginning of the end was near. With a body triangle and Rear Naked Choke fully locked in, Holly Holm was momentarily knocked unconscious in the 4th latest submission in UFC-history. Holm certainly deserves credit for not tapping.
In the main event it was perhaps the two best trash-talkers in the industry: Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor fighting at 170 pounds on 10-days notice.
The fight was a bloodbath. McGregor looked just as fearsome at 170-pounds as he has in the 145-pound Featherweight Division, where he is the Champion. Conor connected with both power and precision. He opened a large laceration over Nate’s right eyebrow.
Aside from that, McGregor was connecting with punches of all types, including furious uppercuts. He continued decimating Diaz well into the second round. So what went wrong for Ireland’s proudest son?
I think there were 4 areas that changed the fight for better or worse for McGregor:
He approached the fight like he would a drunken brawl (in my opinion). Sure, if you have a match lined up with Diaz it may sound like a fun idea to treat it like a boxing match, but it’s not smart. Attempting more leg kicks for the purpose of taking out Diaz’s front leg would have been an ideal strategy, just as Rafael dos Anjos exhibited in 2014.
Perhaps a more calculated, measured approach accounting for a 5 round fight would have been more in line. Conor’s gas tank noticeably started dwindling in the second round, likely due to his added mass. He may have also been going for the kill much too early in Round 1. One must take into account that Diaz has an inhuman chin. The man simply doesn’t go down. Of his 10 career MMA losses, only 2 have been stoppages (a TKO in 2013 and an armbar submission back in 2006).
Conor dropped his hands too much. I understand he wanted to have a rock-em sock-em brawl, but you still need to defend yourself. Conor took several unprotected shots throughout the fight. I felt the beginning of the end was about 2:29 into the 2nd round. Diaz hit McGregor with a right-left combo that shook the Featherweight Champion. After trading back and forth on blows, Conor attempted a desperation shoot 3:47 into the second, but Nate’s Jiu-Jitsu took over. Speaking of which…
Conor McGregor will need to tune up his ground game, especially if he has further ambitions to fight outside the 145-pound weight class. Diaz tactfully manipulated him the way he wanted on the ground and put the match away with a Rear Naked Choke.
Credit has to go to Nate Diaz as well. He’s one of the toughest fighters the UFC has ever seen. The man was put on this planet to fight. Diaz may have been rocking the crimson mask and he sure looked like he was taking a beating, but that’s when Diaz is at his best.
Once he’s done celebrating this win and done partying on the yacht he presumably buys with his payday, I wouldn’t be opposed to Diaz-Rafael dos Anjos 2.
If there’s one takeaway from all of this, it’s this: In his post-match interview with Joe Rogan, Diaz said, “We should always be ready to fight anybody, even on our worst day.”
by Kevin D’Hooge