Instant classic was the feeling after UFC 202's headline bout. Conor McGregor and Nate Niaz went toe-to-toe in the main-event and put on a show that will go down in history, while also setting things up nicely for an interesting future. Also at 202, we saw Anthony Johnson roll Glover Teixeira which puts 'Rumble' in the frame for another shot at Daniel Cormier.
Up until the press-conference a few days before this fight went down, it felt as though 202 was creeping under the radar a wee bit. Of course, McGregor vs Diaz II was meant to take place on the UFC 200 card but we all know what happened there and while many folks troubled themselves with Jon Jones or Brock Lesnar, the rematch between McGregor and Diaz was slowly brewing. Definitely slowly, as there was little hype even a week out from the fight, then Diaz and McGregor both brought the ruckus and a few bottles were thrown at that press-conference, reminding us all of what was to come.
Everything that happens outside of the octagon with regards to McGregor and Diaz, is awesome. Mundane folk would view the bottle-throwing as a bad look for the UFC, those same people would cringe when F-bombs are being hurled with more regularity than those bottles. McGregor and Diaz aren't just masters of their craft inside the octagon, they know what needs to be done to drum up hype for a fight and while there's already a natural rivalry there, the antics leading up to this fight only served as the perfect lead-in to the actual fight.
Inside the octagon, we were treated to a pretty damn extraordinary fight. McGregor again started strong and landed some heavy shots on Diaz, with the notable addition to his plan being leg kicks to Diaz's lead leg. McGregor kept pumping the kicks and kept hitting Diaz flush in the face with punches, making this feel like the first fight but the difference here was that McGregor didn't try too hard to go in for the kill.
Luckily McGregor didn't because Diaz kept on coming, even late in the fight when he was bloodied and battered. It was quite a sight to see Diaz continuing to walk forward, continuing to throw heavy shots and show super-human grit to keep playing his part in an epic fight, while blood was flowing all over his face.
While McGregor spent the first two rounds emulating what he did in the first fight, Diaz came back strongly and at the end of the third round it looked as though McGregor was up shit's creek. McGregor was up against the fence, taking a flurry of quick punches as well as some slick elbows from Diaz, basically waiting for the end of the round. That both fighters spent much of this fight on the offensive, made this fight so fun to watch and while McGregor knocked Diaz down and rocked him a few times, Diaz certainly showed what he's capable of.
Diaz got a takedown late in the fight, however McGregor's ability to snuff out previous takedown attempts form Diaz was a low key highlight. McGregor got submitted last time and then showed that he could defend himself against one of Diaz's key weapons.
The implications of this fight are as interesting as the fight was entertaining. First of all, the UFC has a legit rivalry that looks certain to become a trilogy with a third fight likely to go down. This rivalry currently exists without a belt, so for the UFC to have a rivalry that draws in big audiences without a belt kinda shows you just how strong the UFC is. This fight was at 170lbs which is welterweight, meaning that McGregor had jumped up two divisions to fight Diaz and what must be a comfortable weight for Diaz.
Diaz is the champion at featherweight (145lbs) and will likely have to defend his title in that division at some stage soon. Jose Aldo is the interim champion and deserves another crack at McGregor, whether McGregor is keen to defend that belt or not will be interesting as he kept saying after this fight that the McGregor vs Diaz III will be at 155lbs (lightweight). Diaz is a natural lightweight so that makes sense and it wouldn't be such a big jump for McGregor, however with Eddie Alvarez holding the belt, they would need to wait for some water to flow under the bridge (Alvarez vs McGregor?) before Diaz and McGregor fight for the lightweight belt.
So, basically we have no idea what will happen now with Diaz and McGregor. Diaz doesn't seem overly bothered about fighting anyone else and fair play to him as he's already made big money fighting McGregor and will only make more money in fighting McGregor a third and maybe a fourth time. Diaz exists on his own level and thoroughly deserves to chill out and wait for McGregor, while trying to decipher McGregor's plans are isn't easy when he's leaving us with "shit's about to hit the fan".
All we know for certain is that this will become a trilogy and the third fight will be must-watch viewing.
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