Last March, a heavy-hitting Irishman took on a lanky BJJ black belter armed with crisp boxing. The end result: A 2nd-round submission for the grappler/ boxer. This weekend at UFC 202, the same characters will step inside the cage against each other, but the result could be very different.
But really—here’s why.
McGregor knows what he’s up against
In their rematch, Conor McGregor knows that taking on a well-rounded veteran with a height, weight, and reach advantage is no easy task. He also knows that his power punches, which have folded many featherweights in the past, won’t have the same effect on the bigger man.
In light of this, the Irishman has made many adjustments in his preparations. He’s put in a lot more time on the mat training his Jiu-jitsu, and he’s even brought in 6-foot southpaw boxing champions to help him in his camp. Unlike in the first fight, McGregor has trained specifically for Nate Diaz, and that could help him win this weekend.
McGregor will get his conditioning right
McGregor had a great first round against Diaz at UFC 196, but he clearly slowed down in the second, which ultimately cost him the fight. This time around, McGregor knows that he can’t just pack on weight by eating steak and rice and expect it to not have an effect on how he fights.
He also knows that he can’t go headhunting against Diaz, going for the knockout punch and flashy wheel kick whenever he feels like it. He has to conserve his energy, and he knows it. And the fact that his trainer John Kavanagh is predicting that McGregor will win in the 4th round shows that they’re confident he has the gas tank to last into the latter rounds.
Diaz has done more media this time
Another factor that could change the complexion of this rematch is the fact that Diaz has been doing plenty of media going into this event—guesting on TMZ, Conan, and a whole lot more. Unlike in their last fight, it is Diaz this time who has plenty of media obligations while McGregor is off doing his own thing.
In May, McGregor refused to do media for UFC 200, which is why his rematch with Diaz was pushed to UFC 202, because he felt that his media and promotional obligations were taking away from his training. If that was truly a factor in McGregor’s loss, then will it be a factor in Diaz’s performance come UFC 202? We’ll see.
Diaz will have a full camp
While all these new circumstances seem to point in McGregor’s favor, let's not forget one thing: Nate Diaz will have a full training camp this time.
In the last fight, Diaz came in on 11 days, notice. In his own words, he “wasn’t in fighting shape.” He had zero sparring leading up to this fight, and he still won, decisively. What more now that he’s had a full camp?
Diaz also attributes his “slow start” in the first round at UFC 196 to his lack of sparring in camp. That’s the round McGregor is claiming to be the true display of how effectively he can put a beating on Diaz. But that round, McGregor’s best round, was a round where Diaz wasn’t even at full tilt yet.
Despite seeing both men fight just a few months ago, and despite their bout ending in such decisive fashion, these factors give us enough reason to believe that McGregor vs. Diaz 2 will play out differently from their first encounter. Will it also have a different result? There’s only one way to find out.
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Gab Pangalangan is an MMA columnist for Spin.ph. Read more MMA news and analyses from his website DojoDrifter.com.