Nate Diaz (18-10) is stepping in to fight featherweight champion Conor McGregor (19-2) in a welterweight bout at UFC 196 on Saturday night.
Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos (25-7) was originally slated to defend his belt against McGregor, who was looking to become the first UFC fighter to hold two championships. Diaz was called upon by the UFC to step into the Octagon against McGregor after dos Anjos broke his foot in training a couple of weeks ago.. While the original fight could have been historic for the sport, fans are arguably getting a more enticing bout now.
Diaz, after his unanimous decision victory over Michael Johnson (16-10) at UFC on Fox 17, sounded off during a profanity-laced tirade, calling for a fight with McGregor, who was “taking everything I work for,” forcing Fox to mute most of the interview. Diaz got his wish, albeit on a very limited training camp.
McGregor is known for getting into fighters’ heads prior to fights, which was showcased against the likes of Dustin Poirier (19-4), Chad Mendes (17-4) and former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (25-2), all of whom he knocked out.
T Diaz appears to let trash talk get under his skin and humorously dishes it right back out. Some of the highlights of a recent press conference between the two included the fighters telling each other that they “don’t give a fu**,” McGregor calling Diaz a “cholo gangster from the hood,” and Diaz nonchalantly claiming that McGregor is on steroids.
Fox is probably glad that this is a pay-per-view card because McGregor and Diaz are heavily anticipated to flip each other off during the fight. McGregor threw a slap at Diaz during a staredown on Thursday, which led to a brief scuffle where UFC security had to step in to prevent Diaz from retaliating.
The fight itself will be interesting. McGregor is a striker all the way. He relies on deceptive movement and powerful punches that consistently get him first or second round knockouts.
The main question mark regarding McGregor in this fight is that he hasn’t fought at welterweight while Diaz fluctuates between lightweight and welterweight. McGregor, a big featherweight at 5’9”, usually has a size advantage which he won’t have against the 6’0” Diaz. The other question regarding McGregor is whether his power will translate up 25 pounds.
Diaz is the better technical boxer but doesn’t have the power that McGregor possesses. If the fight hits the ground, Diaz has a huge advantage with his background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Cesar Gracie and could potentially submit McGregor.
When the dust settles, McGregor will likely emerge victorious but anything can happen in mixed martial arts. Diaz is being severely underrated in this fight by the Las Vegas Oddsmakers, who currently have McGregor as the heavy -425 favorite.
The UFC has a lot at stake in this fight. If McGregor wins he will likely fight at UFC 200. There he will either defend his featherweight belt against Frankie Edgar (20-4), fight dos Anjos for the lightweight belt, or even challenge welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (27-10) for his belt.
However, if McGregor loses to Diaz, it’s likely that he would fight Edgar because fans may not be as intrigued to see him get a title shot against dos Anjos. Dos Anjos walked through Diaz at UFC on Fox 13 with a unanimous decision victory. McGregor will still undoubtedly sell fights with his mouth and skill, but his current aura of invincibility could evaporate for a while with a loss to Diaz.
If Diaz beats McGregor, it would be hard for UFC President Dana White to deny him a title shot against dos Anjos or Lawler.
Whatever happens, fans are in for a treat during the build-up, fight and aftermath. McGregor and Diaz will meet at the weigh-ins Friday night, on the eve of their duel.