For the first time since 2005 a UFC champion will take a back seat, as Conor Mcgregor’s non-title bout with Nate Diaz headlines UFC 196 on March 5.
McGregor originally scheduled to face lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, but an injury to the Brazilian 11 days out from the fight saw him pull out.
The Irishman was aiming to be the first in the sport’s history to hold two world titles at the same time, but his aspirations will be put on hold as Nate Diaz steps in to replace Dos Anjos.
The brash-talking featherweight champion will make the jump to welterweight, 2 weight divisions above his last contest. Diaz who took the fight on 11 days notice was unable to make the lightweight limit in time.
A lot has been made of McGregor’s decision to move up in weight, but it’s something he has been teasing for a while. He spoke of his desire prior to the Dos Anjos fight, to challenge for the welterweight title next – so he obviously backs his skillset against bigger, stronger opponents.
Syles makes fights, and this one is no exception. Two standup fighters, with excellent boxing skills, McGregor will likely be given a stern welcoming a heavier weight division.
Diaz, who has competed at lightweight for most of his career is one who will unlikely be fazed by McGregor’s trash-talking antics. One half of the Diaz brothers, Nate has been known to play mind games – attempting throwing his opponent of his game.
We saw that briefly during a UFC 196 press conference last week where the pair exchanged words. Diaz accused McGregor of being of taking performance enhancing drugs. He said: “You’re on steroids.” to which McGregor responded: “Sure I am. I’m just an animal. I’m just an animal.”
The lack of preparation to cost Diaz, preparing for McGregor on less than 2 weeks notice is no easy feat – just ask Chad Mendes, But he will test McGregor. His height and reach advantage coupled with an in-you-face style might be problematic for McGregor.
The Stockton native also possesses outstanding Brazilian jujitsu skills, and is equally as dangerous of his back as he is from a top position. We saw McGregor’s shoddy takedown defence at UFC 189, and he has been submitted in the past. But given he was preparing for a likely wrestling onslaught from Dos Anjos, he may be ready for what Diaz throws at him.
McGregor’s fast and accurate hands will likely be too much for Diaz to deal with, but expect him to take his time finding his rhythm against the longer, rangier heavier fighter
The Notorious will march towards the Summer’s big event UFC 200 with a plethora of options. He will likely be given the choice of who he wants to fight, with one of Jose Aldo, Rafael Dos Anjos, Robbie Lawler and Frankie Edgar his most likely opponent.
The evening’s co-main event is just an intriguing as the main, with Holly Holm defending her bantamweight title against Meisha Tate.
Build up has been low-key for this one, with Holm keen to build on her stunning KO victory over the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in Melbourne.
Holm doesn’t seem bothered by the fact she will be the first UFC champion since UFC 51 in Februrary 2005 to feature a non-title fight headline over a championship fight.
On the issue, the defending bantamweight champion said that: I’ve never had preference if I main event, co-main event, first fight of the night or second fight of the night. The sooner you get in there and get it over with, the more you’re going to be able to enjoy your evening.”
After a fight, I love to be able to sit down and watch the main event. I think that’s just awesome. For me, that’s just selfish reasons. I hate fight night. I hate it, sitting in your locker room and just letting your nerves eat you away, I’m happy to be co-main event,” she added.
Before Roussey fell to the hands of Holly Holm, Meisha Tate was the only fighter to ever take her out of the first round. With 6 career victories by submission she will likely look to test the bantamweight champions ground game.
But Holm’s pedigree is her stand-up – and the 18 time world boxing champion demonstrated this against Rousey. The natural southpaw also showed good takedown defence in that fight, and has looked better everywhere than Tate in her UFC career. A Victory for the champion will set up an eagerly awaited grudge match with Ronda Rousey.
UFC 196 is already shaping up to be the McGregor show once again, as the Irishman continues on his path to greatness – a victory over a highly ranked lightweight contender will show that he can compete with the bigger stronger fighters.