After UFC 196 in Las Vegas, many people were talking about who lost which is a very simple perspective. Sure, Conor McGregor and Holly Holm lost their bouts, perhaps even the UFC took an L in seeing their poster-boy McGregor get choked out by Nate Diaz but after pondering UFC 196, it's hard to really point and laugh at McGregor, Holm or the UFC.
Some fans would have taken great joy in seeing McGregor lose, although this only reminds me of Floyd Mayweather, a man who built his career and fortune off of the hatred from fans. Like with Mayweather, people tuned in and will continue to tune in to see McGregor meet his match while everyone involved floats on beds of cash. McGregor moved up to 170lbs to fight Diaz and came off second best as his shots that had knocked out smaller men, didn't do the same damage to Diaz who is not only bigger but also has a long history of taking punishment, absorbing shots and powering through.
McGregor worked his left hook, landed a few solid blows and kept hacking away at Diaz's front leg as he had predicted. It was McGregor who controlled the early stages of the fight, however Diaz still managed to sneak a few shots in and then pounced, using his jiu-jitsu to take McGregor down before choking McGregor out. This is a mark of Diaz the fighter, for all the hooplah about Diaz the person or gangster, Diaz has boxing and jiu-jitsu capable of winning fights and possibly beating anyone put in front of him.
Diaz offered something that McGregor hadn't had to deal with before as he took punishment and then tested McGregor's defence on the canvas. McGregor hadn't been there too often before and was swiftly out of his depth as Diaz showcased just how slick he is in the octagon.
The winner was Diaz, he was better than McGregor but both now await further opportunities that have huge upside. Diaz has suddenly emerged as a possible contender for Rafael dos Anjos' lightweight belt, which is an awesome match up for the UFC to make the most of. McGregor fought a bigger man and will likely return down 145lbs to fight either Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar, with both options as exciting as the other.
A McGregor vs Aldo rematch write its own story while Edgar has been impatiently waiting for his chance to fight McGregor. The only thing that is a near certainty is that McGregor will drop back down to featherweight before he takes on any super fights that ignore weight classes.
With Miesha Tate snatching the belt off Holly Holm, also via a choke, the women's bantamweight division now offers great excitement. In a bit of foreshadowing of the McGregor vs Diaz bout, Tate used her superior ground skills to grab the victory, however this came after Holm dominated Tate for much of the fight. Holm kept Tate at a safe distance, piercing Tate's defences with potent jabs and the odd kick. Holm absorbed an early take-down and sustained ground and pound from Tate early on and then went on to rather easily defend all of Tate's subsequent take-down attempts and it looked as though Holm would cruise to victory.
Tate however waited patiently and when Holm presented an opportunity, Tate struck, taking Holm down and relentlessly pursuing her until she locked in a choke.
One would suspect that the UFC is now licking their lips at the prospect of yet another Tate vs Ronda Rousey fight and with Holm lurking, there's now a trio of fighters who are all in contention to compete for the belt. Rousey had previously owned Tate, Holm beat Rousey and now Tate beat Holm so there's no lack of options, nor does anyone of these three really stand head and shoulders above the others as the best. Tate has the belt and is the champ right now, however the intrigue lies in what happens from this point on, there's many roads to roll down, fights to make and water to go under the bridge before we settle on the dominant force.
Throw in the likes of Cat Zingano and Amanda Nunes and the women's bantamweight division is equally as exciting/interesting as any other UFC division.
Go too far in loving/hating a single fighter and you'd miss the bigger picture as the UFC continues to its take over of the international sporting market. The UFC's biggest stars are Rousey and McGregor and they have both lost their last fight which many view as a negative for the UFC, but when you ponder all the doors that these results open/ed and all the possibilities available to the UFC to set up fights that will rake in the cash, it's hard to find fault with the UFC's future.
Every two weeks or so for the next few months, the UFC will dish up entertaining and important fight cards. Next up is Mark Hunt vs Frank Mir, on March 20 and we as kiwis will be frothing at the mouth to see Hunt fight again and while there's other good events coming our way, I can't overstate how epic UFC 197 will be on April 23. Daniel Cormier defends his belt against Jon Jones, Demtrious Johnson defends his belt against Henry Cejudo, Anthony Pettis is on the comeback trail and will fight Edson Barboza and we have Robert Whittaker taking on Rafael Natal which signals Whittaker's arrival on the big stage (Whittaker is listed on the UFC website as coming from New Zealand, yoza).
Another epic UFC event, more drama, more great fights and more intrigue. Keep in mind that McGregor vs Diaz was a back up option, it was Plan B after dos Anjos pulled out of fighting McGregor thanks to injury. Take it as a mark of the UFC's strength, that they were able to deliver a fairly enticing Plan B, at the last minute they brought in Diaz and here we are.