Peter Carroll assess why a rematch at 170lbs at UFC 200 between McGregor and Diaz would be a mistake
Outside of Conor McGregor and Dana White, the MMA universe was surprised to hear that Nate Diaz is likely to get a second shot at ‘The Notorious’ after he shocked the world with his second round rear-naked choke win over the Irishman at UFC 196. Even more startling is the fact that the rematch is reportedly taking place at welterweight.
It was McGregor’s leaping up two weight divisions that has been cited as one of the main factors in his first UFC defeat. As his patented left hand exploded out from his body and detonated on contact with Diaz, the Stockton California native did something that only Max Holloway has achieved before him when meeting the SBG frontrunner in the Octagon–he did not go down.
Two and a half minutes later, the first of three stunning jab-cross combinations landed, and soon after McGregor had succumbed to the outspoken cult hero.
Having covered McGregor’s career since 2010, the most frustrating thing about the defeat was the fact that the bout with Diaz wasn’t even necessary. We’ve seen countless fighters stepping away from events due their opponents’ withdrawals.
As a champion and the biggest draw on the UFC’s books, McGregor has every right to refuse a new opponent on two weeks notice. However, as he proved back in July against Chad Mendes, he’s probably one of the gamest active fighters participating in the sport.
When it was announced that lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos had suffered a broken toe and that Diaz was the favourite to take his place on March 5th, the majority of people believed the fight would still take place at lightweight. It would later be revealed that they would meet at 170 lbs and McGregor remained a steady favourite for the clash. The fact that UFC would risk him at such a high weight class ahead of their marquee show, UFC 200, even strengthened the idea of McGregor being victorious.
Image: ©INPHO/Raymond Spencer
A promoter protecting their fighters is nothing new, and when you think of how important McGregor is to UFC’s pay-per-view projections for their massive July 9th event, it’s surprising that they didn’t rein their superstar in.
McGregor believes he is capable of beating anyone, and the fact that he wants this rematch underlines that. As a champion and a competitor, his self-belief and confidence are even more important to him than the straight left hand that has rendered many of his top-flight opposition unconscious.
He cannot fathom the roof of his capabilities, and as important as that is, doing something as unprecedented as moving up two weight classes deserves more than a quick decision made two weeks before a fight. It was the job of the UFC, or someone other than McGregor, to advise him against that decision.
Plenty have dismissed the idea that there was any significant gulf in mass between McGregor and Diaz. Despite the obvious difference in height and the fact that Diaz endured a weight cut while McGregor was famously eating two breakfasts to meet him at the welterweight mark, people don’t believe it played a part in the outcome.
Having seen McGregor looking so drawn out on the scales to hit the featherweight limit, and knowing that Diaz usually competes at the next weight class up at lightweight, many believe the duo to be around the same size. However, George Lockhart, a man who was hired to help McGregor get down to the featherweight limit for Jose Aldo in December, claimed that it was a lack of expertise that was making his first UFC cuts down to featherweight so difficult in the past.
He said: "I just kept looking at the numbers and I kept saying to Coach Kavanagh, 'I just don’t see how this is going to be a hard cut'. I know that he had hard cuts in the past, but the numbers just weren’t adding up. Sure enough, we got to the end and everything went according to plan.
"I don't want to say it was 'easy' because that would be taking away from what the fighters do, but relatively speaking, it was an easy cut."
One of the most celebrated experts in his field, Lockhart wasn't surprised that McGregor had plans to move to welterweight even back in January, but insisted he would "suggest that they put on a little more muscle and take a little more time to work up to the weight" – something that obviously didn’t happen.
McGregor's knockout power has always been the great decider between him and his opponents, but Diaz weathered his storm with relative ease on March 5th.
Unlikely to be able to match the American in the grappling exchanges, should they announce the rematch, it’s hard to see 'The Notorious' adopting a different strategy. And that can only be worrying for his loyal fans.